- What: The 2016 IIHF Women's World Championship
- Where: Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
- Who: USA Hockey and seven other teams (see below)
- When: Today through April 4th, 2016
- How to watch: All USA games will be broadcast on the NHL Network. Today's game against Canada and the gold medal match will be broadcast live. All others, including the Bronze medal match, will be on tape delay.
How to follow without watching: All games will be updated on the IIHF website: http://www.worldwomen2016.com/
en/ There is also an app available for iOS and Android: 2016 IIHF that will be updating games.
Eight teams have qualified: Canada, as the host, USA, defending champions, Finland, Switzerland, Russia, Sweden Czech Republic, and Japan. The championship field can be split into three tiers: Avoiding Relegation, Bronze Medal Contention, and USA/Canada.
The Swedes are an old school hockey power that has fallen on hard times. They are the only team besides the US and Canada to compete in an international championship game for women’s hockey, when they took silver in the 2006 Olympics. However, since then they finished third in the 2007 World Championships but haven’t finished above fourth since. In fact in the past four Worlds they have finished fifth three times and the other time was seventh when they were taken to the relegation series with the Czech Republic. Their age might be their biggest problem with all three of their goalies being at least 25 with their oldest being 30.
Their ties to Boston are slim. The most notable is Quinnipiac’s Erica Uden Johansson, who came to play Harvard once a year. This past season, two of their players Maria Lindh and Michelle Lowenhielm, who play for Minnesota-Duluth, played in Chestnut Hill for a pair of games.
They have a strong chance of playing in the Relegation Round. It will likely depend on the play of Japan’s Nana Fujimoto. Experience will be their biggest ally and biggest problem.
The ‘Smile Japan’ have been the darlings of the women’s hockey world of late. They are the first Asian team to compete in the International Ice Hockey Federation, outdating China in the women’s competition by two years. They might have finished eighth in the Olympics at Sochi but were close to upsets over both Sweden and Russia. Last time out they swept Germany in two overtime games to avoid relegation.
Again Smile Japan smaller ties to Boston. Only three of their players play outside of Japan. One in Sweden, one in Finland, and then Nana Fujimoto who plays for the New York Riveters in the NWHL, she plays Boston six times a year in the regular season, then twice more in the post season.
Their fate rests in the very competent pads of Nana Fujimoto. She was able to steal some games for the outmatched Riveters this season. In the playoffs she missed game one due to the flu and came back for game two clearly still feeling the effects, she then got run over late in the first. She was investigated for a concussion but was allowed to continue, a short while later she gave up an incredibly soft goal to Jillian Dempsey, between her legs looking slightly dazed. She had suffered concussion issues all season so hopefully for Japan she has no lingering effects. If Fujimoto is healthy they should be able to avoid relegation.
The Czechs started moving up in the rankings since 2011 and have been bouncing between the top division and the next level down ever since. They have been gaining a presence in the NCAAs over the last few years which has helped their development and they look to keep that growing.
They currently have one player at Northeastern University, in Denisa Krisova. Krisova had one of the most productive seasons in the country with 59 points good for sixth most in the country. With Northeastern’s star Kendall Coyne graduating, the Huskies will be turning to Krisova to take over the scoring mantle. Also from Northeastern the Czechs dress Lucie Povova who graduated last season after a productive career. There are also rumors of the Huskies recruiting another member of the Czech team. Various other members have played against Boston teams in their college careers.
In all likelihood they will be playing to avoid relegation once again. With the development of Krisova they have a fighting chance to stay alive.
Bronze Medal Contenders
Finland is the consummate bronze medal contender, winning 11 of the 16 that have been awarded. They are the most likely to have a chance to threaten the duopoly of US/Canada. One of the top goalies in the world is Finnish in Noora Raty, unfortunately she retired rather abruptly from international play do to lack of play for women’s players and has not returned. They do have some capable back ups but, as Minnesota Golden Gopher fans can relate, none of them are Raty. They have never participated in the gold medal match of the World Championships, but have taken two silvers in 4 Nations Cups.
They are short on Boston ties as most of their team stays put in their local leagues. A few do venture across the Atlantic for college, one of which plays for the University of New Hampshire. Vilma Vaattovaara.
They will likely play in the Bronze medal match, since they have played in it every iteration of this tournament, after holding both Canada and the US to closer games then they would like, but ultimately falling short. Their weakness is the fact that they sometimes struggle scoring, but that is most likely due to the fact that they regularly play two of their three group games against the world powers.
Russia has been the epitome of go big or go home in previous editions of Worlds. They have taken home two bronze medals in their four bronze medal games, tying them for second most with Sweden. The other times they have struggled, finishing as low as eighth in a non-relegation year.
Like most of the European teams they have their roster stay close to home and play in their local league. They do have a player in the NWHL in Liudmila Belyakova who is also a member of the New York Riveters. Though they too have had a few come play in the NCAA.
The Russians have a strong chance of joining Finland competing for a medal, though it depends on which Swiss team shows up.
The previous world stage darlings until Japan showed up. They stared on the ascendency a decade ago when they were the ones with the hot new goalie in Florence Schelling. In the intermediary years they have taken both a bronze in the Worlds and one in the most recent Olympics, which led to Schelling being awarded the tournament MVP along with top goaltender.
The aforementioned Schelling was a four-year standout fro Northeastern University. The Swiss also have a new wave of young talent up front led by Phoebe Stanz. Recently their captain Julia Marty, also a Northeastern alumnus, retired after being a stalwart defensive presence.
Like was said in the Russian preview the Swiss are the other big contender for a bronze. They have been a bit a Jekyll and Hyde like the Russians. If Schelling comes up big like the 2014 Olympics they should be the favorites for a medal, if not they could slip.
The big dog in the house is Canada. They have won 10 of the 16 World Championships and four of the five Olympics. They have only ever lost 45 times, with five ties, in 303 international games.
Their roster is littered with NCAA talent. Many of these players played for the Beanpot schools, mostly BU. Jennifer Wakefield who was a Terrier and a Wildcat has made a couple of important appearances for Hockey Canada over the years. Tara Watchorn, a fellow Terrier, has been making a name for herself in the CWHL for the Boston Blades. She was one of their best blue liners in their 2105 championship season, and then with the mass exodus to the NWHL she stayed with the CWHL and was their best skater by far, though she was hampered by injuries. In net Harvard Crimson goalie Emerance Maschmeyer looks to get some time on the big stage. Though the biggest name of them all for Canada, with Boston ties, is the American’s personal kryptonite, BU’s Marie-Philip Poulin. She has been the one player who has consistently found a way to make American fans sick. She is clearly one of the best, if not the best, skaters in the world and will make this tournament an interesting one. The biggest snub is goalie Genevieve Lacasse of the Boston Blades. She has just come off one of the best season ever by a goaltender for a Blades team that had been decimated by the exodus to the NWHL, she was also robbed of the best goaltender award from the league. The team is coached by former Northeastern star and head coach Laura Schuler.
They have only ever lost one tournament on home soil, men or women, which was the 2013 edition of this tournament in Ottawa. As such they have to be considered a favorite and as long as Poulin puts on the maple leaf the Americans are going to have trouble.
Winners of the last two Worlds, five of six and six of seven the United States is in prime position to continue their recent dominance at this competition. They play their 300th international game on Monday against Canada. They also have five of the last eight Patty Kazmaier winners on the roster, with a sixth player that was typically on the roster but is no longer playing internationally due to concussions. Compare that to Canada, which has only one on their roster, and another who has mysteriously disappeared. To be fair, USA Hockey has a factor in the award.
This team is just littered with Boston talent, which is either from here, played college hockey here or has played for either the Blades or the Pride. Team USA is headlined by Hilary Knight. Knight has been lighting up the pro leagues since her graduation from the University of Wisconsin and has won championships in three of the last four years, losing in the championship game the other one. Local star Alex Carpenter who just wrapped up her career at BC in tragic form last weekend looks to rebound with a gold medal. Also on the roster is the most recent Patty Kazmaier winner out of Northeastern Kendall Coyne.
They seem to have found Canada’s number in recent World Championship and are the only team to ever win a hockey tournament on Canadian soil that wasn’t Canada. They have big name talent that has been lighting up the pro leagues. They haven't been able to beat Canada in the Olympics the last two times, but as this is not the Olympics they have a great chance.