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2021 Women’s Worlds: Canada, USA start off with wins

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The two favourites don’t have an easy time, though.

Finland v Canada: Group A - 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

At the end of the day, the standings will show that Canada and the United States both got off to winning starts at the Women’s World Hockey Championships in Calgary, but in the process they showed the potential depth of Group A.

The way that the tournament is formatted is that the top five teams are in Group A. All five will qualify for the quarter finals along with the top three teams from Group B. They will be seeded as follows: A1-B3, A2-B2, A3-B1, A4-A5. No teams will be relegated from Group B this year.

The Group B game of the day saw the Czech Republic beat Denmark.

Recovery for Canada

The Canadians, “fresh” off of a semi-final loss to Finland in 2019, fell behind 2-0 early. Nelli Laitinen’s shot hit off of Jaime Bourbonnais and past Ann-Renée Desbiens to open the scoring. Later in the first period, Minnamari Tuominen’s perfectly placed shot doubled the Finland lead.

The shots were 8-6 Canada after 20 minutes, and they would not be that close for the rest of the game. Canada outshot Finland 31-4 in the final 40 minutes.

They would tie the game in the second period with two goals in 20 seconds. Jamie Lee Rattray battled in the crease and managed to sneak the puck right past the line. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin followed it up with a rocket from the top of the slot and suddenly it was a very different game.

Canada took their first lead 2:41 into the third period when Erin Ambrose defected a Brianne Jenner tip past Anni Keisala, who was great throughout the game and made 39 saves.

Finland fought back to tie the game back at 3-3 when Elisa Holopainen tipped a shot past Desbiens. That tie would be short lived because just 25 seconds later, Sarah Fillier — the youngest player on Team Canada — scored her first senior World Championship goal. Brianne Jenner added an empty net goal to make it the 5-3 final.

“Just standing on the blue line and watching the opening video when they said the world championship is open, to be honest it gave me shivers,” Poulin said. “We have been waiting for that moment for a long time. We’re very excited. It was not the start we wanted, but we responded well. It was true adversity and it showed that this team is resilient and we can go through anything. It’s hard to put into words, but putting on the jersey for an international game was very special.”

“First of all, we played maybe the world’s best team right now,” said Finland head coach Pasi Mustonen. “They are strong when they get the momentum which they got and having the [long change] gave them the momentum totally [...] We have a generation shift, some of our opponents should give second thoughts to what is going to happen in two or three years with Finland because this is a totally new team. I am quite satisfied with how we played.”

Top line leads the US

The line of Brianna Decker, Hilary Knight, and Kendall Coyne Schofield led the way for the United States as Decker and Coyne Schofield both had a goal and an assist. Grace Zumwinkle also scored as the United States defeated Switzerland 3-0. Alex Cavallini had 10 saves in the win.

“It was a great team win,” Decker said. “Long overdue to get back to the tournament and play. As a team, I think we stuck with it. We have some things to clean up obviously but we put one in the win column and that’s what we’re looking for at the start of the tournament.”

Swiss goaltender Andrea Brändli, who plays NCAA hockey at Ohio State, made 55 saves and was tremendous for her team. The score would have been much different without her performance. The United States had 6.73 expected goals according to Mikael Nahabedian’s model, meaning that Brändli saved almost four goals above expected.

“The whole team played a really really good game and they really helped me out. I would have been more tired if they hadn’t helped me out,” Brändli said.

The game was also the closest result for Switzerland against the Americans at the women’s world championship. They have the youngest team on average in the tournament, at 22 years old, tied with Hungary.

“It’s a great result but in the end it’s still a loss. I feel like we’re getting closer,” said Switzerland captain Lara Stalder

Czech Republic start Group B with a win

The Czech Republic are one of the favourites to win Group B, and they got off to a good start defeating Denmark 6-1 on Friday afternoon.

Czech captain Alena Mills had three goals and an assist in the win, including two power play goals. Klara Peslarova made eight saves.

“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” Mills said. “Getting the [power play] advantage helped us understand each other.”

Dominika Laskova, who plays defence, also had a highlight reel goal.

It was Denmark’s first game at the top level of the Women’s Worlds. Josefine Persson scored the team’s first goal, which made the game 2-1 at the time. Lisa Jensen made 28 saves for the Danes.

“It was awesome,” Denmark captain Josefine Jakobsen said about their arrival at the top division. “We’ve been waiting for this moment a long time. We can learn some things this game and we will.”

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

GROUP A
2:00 p.m. EDT — Germany (0-0-0-0, 0 pts) vs Hungary (0-0-0-0, 0 pts) (TSN.ca, ESPN+)
9:30 p.m. EDT — Denmark (0-0-0-1, 0 pts) vs Japan (0-0-0-0, 0 pts) (TSN 3, ESPN+)

GROUP B
6:00 p.m. EDT — Switzerland (0-0-0-1, 0 pts) vs ROC (0-0-0-0, 0 pts) (TSN 3, ESPN+)