Olympics Women’s Hockey Recap – Feb 8th & Feb 9th

USA gettin' it done.
USA gettin’ it done.

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.

CWHL Weekend Preview: Calgary v Brampton, Montreal v Boston

CWHL Weekend Preview:

This weekend’s CWHL streaming game is Calgary vs Brampton, at 5:45 pm CST, on Saturday January 18th! It’s their second meeting of the season, with their last game, early in November, ending 3-2 for Brampton in a shoot out. Imp will have a write-up of that on Monday. (Check out her post on Where to Watch Women’s Hockey if you need help figuring out how to stream the game, or at-reply us on twitter @watchthishockey

The other Saturday game is the Montreal Stars vs the Boston Blades, 6:35 pm CST. Montreal won their last meeting, 5-2, but Boston won their only other game against Montreal yet this season, 2-1. With both teams working hard to fill the gaps left by their players lost to Olympic rosters, and a rivalry built on multiple Clarkson Cup finals appearances, it should be an interesting game.

On Sunday, January 18th,  we have the Montreal Stars taking on the Boston Blades again in a back-to-back game, at 12:15 pm CST. Then it’s Calgary vs Brampton again, at 1:00 pm CST. Remember, Calgary streams an audio feed of all their home games, so check that out to listen to their games.

Link Round-up:

  • The US Olympic team has been scrimmaging with several New England high school boy’s teams, in order to get some more practice in before the Olympics. They’ve won two of the three games. Take a look at this article to find out some more, and make sure to check out the video of interviews with both some of the women and some of the boys that they’ve been playing.

  • The US Olympic team also got a chance to practice at Fenway Park, which was flooded and frozen for the Frozen Fenway events, including several outdoor college hockey games. See a nice round-up of the women’s practice, including a round-up of pics, here.

  • Several more women’s national teams announced their Olympic rosters this week, including Germany and Sweden.

  • It’s a little hard to track down, complicated by the fact that we’re both only really fluent in English, but we’re pretty sure the only nation who hasn’t officially announced their women’s roster for Sochi yet is Russia. Once all the women’s rosters have been announced, we’ll be doing an overview of the non-US or Canadian players, so look forward to that! (If only I had known in high school, I would have applied myself to my German better; alas, my second best language after English is Latin, and that’s not really applicable to much of anything.)

  • Tessa Bonhomme went on Calgary’s Breakfast Television to talk about how to support the Canadian Women’s team, and about how important it is for the players to get support of their country. It’s specifically to support an event the Canadian team did in partnership with Proctor & Gamble, but I had A Strong Feeling listening to her talk about her experience of getting the gold medal in Vancouver, even as a dirty American.