Weekly News: CWHL & NWHL All-Star Game updates, and more!

If you’re pining for the CWHL All-Star Game, check out highlight’s from last year’s, including the ceremonial face off between Charline Labonté, captain of the Red Team, and Jessica Campbell, captain of the White Team.

Mid-Week Link Roundup: 4 Nations outcomes, Japan qualifies for Women’s World Championship, and an ALL-STAR GAME!!

Mid-Week Link Round-up: 4 Nations outcomes, Japan qualifies for Women’s World Championship, and an ALL-STAR GAME!!

  • Japan beat the Czech Republic in the qualifiers series for a spot in the Women’s World Championship in Malmo! Japan will be in Group B, along with Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden, while Group A will have the US, Canada, Russia, and Finland. Aina Takeuchi of the Calgary Inferno had 1 assist, 2 PIM, and was a +2 after three games in the qualifiers for Team Japan.
  • Well, the Four Nations Cup is over, and Canada walked home with the gold (again). The US took silver, and the Finns took bronze. The Canadian Jennifer Wakefield tied with the Americans Shiann Darkangelo and Dani Cameranesi for points leader, with Wakefield, Rebecca Johnston, and Hilary Knight tying for goals leader. While I didn’t manage to catch all of the games, I’m excited (as a hockey fan) and more than a little concerned (as an American hockey fan) to see Canada starting to play to the strengths of their young players, in a roster bursting with young talent. The US continues to be unable to finish a game strong, and I was incredibly impressed with Sweden’s goaltenders, in Sara Grahn and Kim Marti’n Hasson, who saved 76 of the 80 shots and 67 of 70 shots, respectively, that they faced this tournament. If Sweden could have capitalized at all on their offensive chances, I really feel like they could have been a much more credible threat in this tournament.
  • As we’ve suspected for a while, there will be a CWHL All-Star game come December 13th at the Air Canada Centre! Admission will be free, and there will be a period of skills competitions, followed by two full periods of hockey. 40 players from the CWHL will go, and have already been selected, however fans will be able to vote online for the Captains of each team from November 29th to December 10th. Captains will draft their top five players in a private draft on December 12th, and the rest will be assigned out of a hat. Look for more info on that as we know it!

Mid-Week Link Round-Up: Reflections on the Olympics, looking forward to more women’s hockey!

  • Nicole Haase, of the SB Nation blog Bucky’s 5th Quarter, covering the Wisconsin Badgers in all their forms, wrote an interesting profile piece on Ilana Friedman, a goalie on the UW-Madison women’s hockey team. Friedman has been getting a lot of attention for being an out female athlete, but the more interesting thing I found in Haase’s article was Friedman’s perspective on her role as an agent of change, not only as an out player, but as a Badger and a woman playing college hockey. Also her attitude towards fan engagement with women’s college hockey, even as someone playing at a school with some of the top regular attendance numbers, was a nice bit of perspective for me, someone who is used to the level of engagement Minnesota brings to their Gophers.
  • Another piece on Team Japan, in the wake of the Olympics. Some stuff I hadn’t seen before about their assistant coach, Carla McLeod, and her work with the team. I’m not sure if McLeod is officially part of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey’s outreach work to the non-North American teams to help improve their training, but she may be a demonstration of how a national team can really use those resources to work on closing the gap in women’s hockey.
  • I’ve been seeing some interesting reports about how much the Olympic hockey was streamed this year. The New York Times has an article about the NBC streaming numbers, and the Globe and Mail has an article that touches on the record-setting numbers that the CBC was seeing for streaming hockey as well. This is really heartening to me to see. I’m really hoping that the adoption of the streaming medium can increase interest in more regular season women’s hockey, especially with the CWHL and some colleges already streaming coverage of some of their games.
  • Slllllightly off topic, but March 1st is USA Hockey’s “Try Hockey for Free” day. Part of USA Hockey’s efforts to grow the sport, kids can try hockey for free at a variety of locations– you can find more info here.
  • Many adult leagues ALSO have similar efforts– for example, the AHA, a Minnesota adult rec league local to me, has a try hockey day specifically aimed at women on March 1st. If you’re an adult in the US and at all interested in trying out hockey, I’d encourage you to do some Googling and see if your local league has anything similar.

We are only now having the heart to go read a lot of the gold medal game related articles, but we swear, we’re working on our retro of the Olympics. Our coverage of the CWHL streaming game on Sunday may be a bit spotty; one of us is traveling again on Sunday, and the other is working, but we’ll see what we can do.

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.