As you might have noticed if you’ve checked your calendar lately, there are no CWHL games this weekend. This is not a mistake! The Four Nations cup is coming up, and players have already left their teams for national camps.
So, we thought we’d do a quick and dirty primer on the Four Nations Cup Tournament, instead of previewing the CWHL games.
Mid-Week Link Round Up: Still mostly people being upset about women’s hockey.
I know, I know, very surprising.
The Pink Puck did an article about what Noora Räty’s retirement from women’s hockey means for the sport. Now, either you’ve already read this, because it’s been linked from hell and back again, or you skipped it because you went “oh, another annoying article that will either enrage me or make me otherwise upset.If you’re in the later category like I was, I’d encourage you to give it a shot and read it. It’s probably not going to have anything new per se in it, but it does have an attitude I find generally lacking around discussions like this, and that is that women’s hockey is not men’s hockey and shouldn’t ever have to be.Look, I’ve done it too, I’ve joked about how the Wild should get Räty a try-out, because after all we have A Goalie Situation and we love our Gophers– but that doesn’t solve the actual issue, which is that women shouldn’t have to play in men’s leagues to be respected as good players.
The Globe and Mail did a profile piece about Shannon Szabados and Carey Price, the starting goaltenders for the Canadian women’s team and the Canadian men’s team respectively, and how they both started out as teenagers trying out for the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. It’s not a rare story, but it had some background I hadn’t heard before, including the following from Bob Tory, the Tri-City GM who was responsible for her WHL tryout.
“I’ve had players on my team, boys, named Shannon, so I didn’t know I was watching a girl – and she was outstanding,” Tory recalled. “It was only after the game, when she got selected game star, I knew it was a girl.
Clare over at the Puckologist talked about women as invisible sports fans. That’s not just an issue in men’s sports, like the NHL, but is, as Clare points out, generally the first stumbling block to discussing seriously how to market women’s sports.
“I’m not sure whether it was a back forward or backward, but at least we managed to reshape the team so it can play offensively. We did a step for the future, and we managed to close the gap against teams like Finland and Sweden.”
I found this interesting because Russia has been the team that, so far, has had the best Corsi besides Canada and the US. We’ve got some plans to run the numbers after the Olympics, see what pops out with more data and analysis and ideally having run some numbers from Worlds, but that in itself is interesting. (How many more times can I say “interesting”, WHO KNOWS)
Raise your hand if you’re surprised that Canada and the US have been dominating the women’s hockey tournament so far! Just kidding, literally no one is surprised by this. The games kicked off February 8th, with USA getting a 3-1 win over Finland and Canada sending Switzerland packing, 5-0.
Switzerland has very little support for women’s hockey, and oh, does it show. Canada had 69 shots to Switzerland’s 14. That tells a pretty clear story on its own (though after the Olympics, we’ll be doing some statistical breakdowns of games), but it’s worth noting that Switzerland’s biggest problems were very clearly connected to their lack of practice as a cohesive team. In the defensive zone, they collapsed around whoever had the puck, leaving lanes wide open for Canada to pass in – and then score. In the offensive zone, Canada almost never had trouble clearing the puck; Switzerland just didn’t look like they knew what to do. The only bright spot for Switzerland so far has been goaltending Florence Schelling, who posted a .928 SV% for the CAN-SUI game. Not bad, Schelling. Sorry your name lends itself to the obvious, unfortunate pun.
Finland, in contrast, held the US to only 3 goals. Mind you, that first goal game at 0:53 in the first, from Hilary Knight – but overall, Noora Raty had a .930 SV%, and Finland in general had it together more than Switzerland. Finland is a legitimate contender in the sense that they are becoming competitive with the best teams in women’s hockey. Hopefully they’ll continue to develop and serve up an interesting game for the bronze – or even silver.
February 9th was Group B’s turn. Sweden won against Japan 1-0. Nana Fujimoto, the Japanese goaltender, put up an amazing performance against Sweden. Japan actually had a number of decent scoring chances, despite being shut out. They play an organized game that manages quite a bit of possession, considering what a new program they are. Mind, this will probably change once they play Canada or the USA, both of whom are more physical teams than Sweden, but it’s good to see two teams play such a tight game.
Russia – which has thrown support behind women’s hockey, boasting a professional hockey league of largely Russian players – shelled Germany 4-1. Russia has the elusive home ice advantage, if you believe in that kind of thing; at the very least, Russians turned out to support their women’s team in impressive numbers.
Players to watch: countries with less developed women’s hockey programs are bringing it in the goaltending department this tournament. Keep an especially close eye on Noora Raty, who’s playing behind a team that might actually help her carry them beyond bronze.
Hilary Knight has been a dominant presence for the US. On Canada’s side, Wickenheiser doesn’t appear to have rust on her, and Poulin is actually getting minutes, to the surprise of everyone familiar with Dineen. And, finally, Molly Schaus and Jessie Vetter are battling it out for the starting position in the medal games, with US coach Stone not naming a starter yet. That will be interesting to continue to watch.
So, we did separate overviews of the US roster here, and the Canadian roster here, but we thought you might like some info on the other national rosters. They’ve all been announced (FINALLY) so here we go!
This post is the rest of Group A, which consists of the US, Canada, Finland, and Switzerland.