Toronto Furies Upset the Boston Blades, Blades lose both games.
Okay, I was cocky about the Blades’ chances when I previewed this past weekend, and apparently it came back to bite me in the ass. The Blades lost both games to the Furies, both 3-2 in the Furies favor. It took Boston until the third period of the second game to get their big name players on the board– depth scoring is all well and good, but as a Minnesota Wild fan, I’m intimately familiar with how much not having those big names score can hurt a team. I’ve got to watch this weekend’s streaming game a couple more times, I think, before I’ve settled on what exactly Toronto has figured out to solve Boston, so I’m going to refrain from more off the cuff analysis right now.
We expect our female coaches to be strong leaders, but not too strong. This means we expect our female coaches not to forget they are women first and leaders second. It means we expect them not to forget they should be ‘mothering’ or ‘nurturing’ our daughters while coaching them. We do not expect any of this from male coaches regardless of whether they coach males or females.
If you’ve been following women’s hockey, or honestly, women’s sports in general, you’ve probably heard about the issues of growing the women’s game, especially in hockey where the NHL is set up as the pinnacle of hockey achievement. However, the Pink Puck recently had a very interesting interview with Hilary Knight on these issues. Of particular interest to me was Knight’s comments about her plans after the Olympics–
I was thinking about retiring. I wasn’t sure where I was. [I knew] traveling across the pond would be very difficult, [because] I could score however many goals, but it really wouldn’t matter because it wouldn’t impact or motivate or inspire anyone else if I wasn’t in North America. It was heartbreaking.
We didn’t stay up to watch the US v Canada Four Nations game, and I’m kind of glad of it. But if you’d like your heart-broken some more (or to gloat), check out TSN’s coverage of the game. (Spoiler: The US lost 4-1).
Today USA whaled on Sweden, and if you follow any hockey writers on Twitter, you probably saw people talking about how uncompetitive and boring it is. Yes: Sweden got beat. After about 6 minutes of being clogged in the neutral zone, USA’s offense broke out and was rarely stifled after that. USA drew the Swedish defenders in, Sweden left passing lanes wide open, and the score ended 6-1. If Kelli Stack hadn’t lost a faceoff, it could’ve been a shutout for Vetter.
As always with women’s hockey (for me), the commentary for this game was somewhat maddening. Yo, did you know the Blackhawks are good at hockey? This apparently warrants discussion during one of a handful of Team USA games that will receive professional commentary in the course of 4 years. What doesn’t warrant professional commentary, apparently, is the fact that there is a North American women’s league – the CWHL – and they are hoping to pay their players within five years.
The short story of that game is that USA took too many penalties and had a disastrous 3rd period. Canada’s power play wasn’t actually that dangerous; they went 1 for 4 (technically 5, but the majority of one was 4-on-4). But it’s hard to get or sustain momentum when you’re on the kill so often. On top of that, for some reason, USA’s strategy going into the offensive zone was to attempt to deke past the likes of Catherine Ward, which didn’t work for obvious reasons. I’m also wondering why they failed to elevate on Labonte so many times; it’s possible the scouting just wasn’t there compared to the work USA’s done on cracking Szabados.
The first period was strong and relatively even, statistically. My personal opinion is that Canada had a bit more jump, their scoring chances were a little better – Vetter for sure had to be sharp. But in the end it was scoreless, and shots/scoring chances were pretty much even.
USA had no momentum until late in the second. The Schleper-to-Knight goal totally changed Team USA’s game, and nearly all the last scoring chances (or all, but I can’t remember; at 23, I’m aged) were for Team USA.
But did they carry that into the third? NAW, SON. NO shots for USA for most of that period, and on top of that, three goals for Canada. First Agosta on the power play from a great Wickenheiser pass, then Wickenheiser, then Agosta again on a breakaway. With barely a minute left, Schleper scored for USA, but by then, it was too late. Canada won this one 3-2.
What I haven’t mentioned was Canada’s controversial second goal, where the whistle went and then the puck trickled past Vetter. The whistle probably shouldn’t have been blown, but it was, so that should’ve been no goal. But even though I’m ragingly for Team USA, I can’t be that mad about it. Bad refereeing happens; the refs also missed 2 blatant too many men on Team Canada. Team USA wouldn’t have pulled ahead anyway with how they were playing, and it’s crucial to not let a goal like that second Canada goal get in your head. Team USA was transparently deflated after that goal, and played completely flatly. The third goal, an Agosta breakaway, was not a surprise.
But anyone who thinks this is the full story of the tournament hasn’t been paying attention to either team. They’re likely to meet again, and hopefully USA will have it together better next time.
Team USA’s biggest weakness was by far defense. There was very little cohesion, especially compared to Canada’s defense; in the third period, Team USA was barely doing better than chasing pucks. Vetter bailed them out several times. That has to change.
Bright spots: Hilary Knight’s play was, obviously, outstanding. Her work to get the puck to Stack on a breakaway alone was stunning, and she and Stack each had 4 SOG. Brianna Decker drove play for Team USA, carrying the puck in quite a bit and keeping it in even through Team USA’s disorganization (though she also took 2 penalties, so that’s a double-edged sword). Jessie Vetter kept the US in the game even through a total lack of momentum. And Anne Schleper, of course, with her shot from the point leading to a Knight tip-in, and her goal late in the third, was the sneaky offense that kept USA in the game.
Again: this isn’t the complete story. These teams are almost guaranteed to meet again in the medal round. They’re both very good, evenly matched teams. The real test will be if Team USA can maintain cool heads next time, and not let a bad goal totally deflate them.
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.
There are only two games to look forward to this weekend, a back to back between the Boston Blades and the Brampton Thunder. Brampton is currently leading the league in penalty minutes, with 232 over 15 games, while Boston has the least, with 92 over 11 games. I’m looking forward to watching this game, as I have a vague feeling it might be a bit rough. Should be fun to watch. 🙂
Brampton hosts the Blades for the Saturday streaming game, starting at 5:45 pm CST. Brampton hosts them again on Sunday, playing at 1:00 pm CST.
Weekend Link Round Up:
Caroline Ouellette is wearing the C for Canada at Sochi, which makes her the first active CWHL player to wear the C at the Olympics. The CWHL has an article about this here, but the CBC Olympics website also has an article by Ouellette about her reaction to being given the captaincy.
This is only loosely related, but the Team USA Yearbook is up on the NBC Olympics website, and some members of the women’s hockey team are notably included. Look especially for Julie Chu and Amanda Kessel. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
Montreal Stars v Boston Blades, Saturday January 4th, 4:30pm CST (Game will be streamed online!)
Toronto Furies v Brampton Thunder, Saturday January 4th, 6:30pm CST
Brampton Thunder v Toronto Furies, Sunday January 5th, 11:40am CST
In case you didn’t know, the CWHL streams (for free!) one game a week on their website! This is a great chance to get to watch some women’s hockey fairly easily. To watch, go to this page and look for the “Live” tab in the video player.
This week’s game is the Montreal Stars versus the Boston Blades, who played against each other last season for the Clarkson Cup. The two teams are currently battling for the top of the league, with Montreal in first with 13 points in 8 games, and Boston in second with 12 points in 8 games. This is despite Boston having lost 8 of their players to US and Canadian Olympic teams, while Montreal lost 5 of their players. It should be an exciting game. 🙂 Look for a recap of this weekend’s games on Monday.
Other Thing of Note:
If you’re in or around Boston, the Boston Blades will be hosting an event where you can meet Meghan Duggan, currently the captain of the US Women’s Olympic Hockey team, and member of the Boston Blades. The event will be January 16th, and you can find more details here.
The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota have released a documentary about the amount and type of media coverage given to women’s sports. Although fascinating in its own right, the documentary also includes extensive interviews with female athletes such as Noora Räty, two-time Olympic goaltender for Finland and two-time National Champion with the Golden Gophers, and Digit Murphy, head coach of the Boston Blades who coached them to the Clarkson Cup last season. Watch it here.
The CWHL did a feature on Sonja van der Bliek, the rookie goaltender playing for the Brampton Thunder, who had to take up the reins after both of Brampton’s previous goaltenders left for other leagues.
The USA Women’s Olympic Hockey roster will be announced tomorrow, Wednesday January 1st, 2014, at the NHL Winter Classic. (The US men’s Olympic roster will also be announced at this time.) The Olympic roster will have only 21 spots, meaning the current national team roster will need to be trimmed by two. (Canada has already announced their women’s Olympic roster.)