From the USA-CAN rivalry to ongoing contract negotiations

Just six months after the 2022 Winter Olympics ended, the top women’s hockey teams return to the ice this week for the 2022 IIHF World Women’s Championship. This is the first time the women’s top division world championship will be held in an Olympic year since the debut of women’s hockey at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano.

The tournament, which runs from August 25 to September 4, takes place in Frederikshavn and Herning, Denmark. Here are some of the biggest stories to follow as the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship kicks off.

Can Canada maintain its momentum?

Canada enters the tournament as the defending world champion and defending Olympic gold medalist. Additionally, the Canadians also won the top prize at the U18 World Championship earlier this summer.

While Canada’s roster includes 18 players who won Olympic gold six months ago – including stars Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Nurse, Brianne Jennerand Sarah Fillier – the team has also seen some turnover since February.

Most notably, Worlds 2021 MVP Melody Daoust did not participate in the selection camp and is not on the list of the world championships. Daoust was injured in Canada’s first game at the Beijing Olympics and did not compete again until the semi-final. Canada also lacks Natalie Spooner (who recently announced her pregnancy), Claire Thompsonand Rebecca Johnson.

Despite missing some notable names, Canada are favorites for the 2022 world title. In a pre-tournament game against the United States on Tuesday, Canada won 3-1 thanks to goals from Fillier , Blayre Turnbulland rookie at the world championships Jessie Eldridge.

USA women’s hockey team looking to get back to the top

The United States, which won five straight world titles before the overtime loss to Canada last year, will be looking to start a new winning streak at the 2022 IIHF World Women’s Championship.

The U.S. roster includes a veteran core led by Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein. Knight, 33, will make his 12th appearance at the world championships this year, a record in American hockey.

Three players will make their USA Hockey Senior National Team debuts in Denmark (Hannah Bilka, Taylor Heiseand Rory Guilday), while two players (Lacey Eden and Aerin Frankel) will return to USA Hockey. Eden (Wisconsin) and Frankel (Northeastern) competed in the World Championship last summer but were not selected for the Olympic team. Eden was cut ahead of Beijing, while Frankel, the 2021 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, was not included in the residency program.

It will be interesting to see how the new United States head coach John Wroblewski uses these new faces – as well as younger players like Caroline Harvey, Jincy Dunneand Grace Zumwinkle. The American bench was underutilized at the Beijing Olympics, which certainly had an impact on the team’s performance.

Can the Finnish women’s hockey team surpass bronze?

Finland is the perennial favorite for the bronze medal, having claimed third place on the podium at last year’s world championships and the previous two Olympic Games.

The Finns will be led to Denmark by Anni Keisala (named best goalkeeper at the 2021 Worlds), four-time Olympian Jenni Hiirikoskiand the most successful threat Petra Nieminen. Finland also has a new coach, Juuso Toivolawho took over at the 2022 Winter Olympics after the team’s former coach, Pasi Mustonenreturned home for a family emergency.

“Obviously (Canadians and Americans) are still the ones to beat, but I’m excited to see if we have something new in our pockets,” the Finnish general manager said. Tuula Puputti told the Associated Press.

USA hockey players balance tournament with ongoing contract negotiations

In 2017, the United States women’s hockey team made headlines when players threatened to boycott that year’s world championship if USA Hockey did not increase player pay and benefits. Five years later, the players are preparing for Worlds while simultaneously negotiating a new contract. The current one-year deal between the American players and USA Hockey is set to expire midway through the tournament on Aug. 31.

“Obviously we would have liked to have a deal done before this world championship to take the distractions out of the conversation and the conversation with the contract, given that the conversation started months ago,” players’ representative Kendall Coyne Schofield said. to On Her Turf during a phone interview.

It remains to be seen how exactly the players and USA Hockey would handle a situation where an agreement is not reached by August 31, but Hilary Knight said last week that she remains optimistic. “I’m really confident in our group and the amount of work, effort and sweat we put in to be the best and play at this level,” she told On Her Turf.

USA Hockey declined to comment on ongoing negotiations.

Can Sweden make the most of their world championship opportunity?

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the team representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) – a designation that is the result of the state-sponsored doping program – is currently suspended by the IIHF. . With Russia banned, Sweden were invited and seeded in Group B.

Sweden were a constant threat in women’s hockey – winning back-to-back Olympic medals in 2002 and 2006, as well as two world bronze medals in 2005 and 2007. But a ninth-place finish in 2019 relegated the Swedes to the lower division world. championship tournament, which was later canceled in 2020 and 2021.

“I think Sweden belongs to the [top] group”, double Olympian Nylen Persson says TSN. “It was a little frustrating not having had the chance to play to give us a chance to go up to the [top] band.”

Japan look to continue the growth of women’s hockey with a spot in Group A

At the 2022 Winter Olympics, Japan’s women’s hockey team claimed first place in Group B with victories over Sweden, Denmark and two thrilling shootout victories over China and Czechia.

Japan will face much stiffer competition at this year’s World Championship. After the IIHF banned Russia from competing, Japan were promoted to Group A. Although wins against powerhouse teams like the United States and Canada are unlikely at best, the experience should be beneficial. for the young team, which will likely be led by the 21-year-old. -former striker Akane Shiga.

Can the United States improve its numerical advantage?

The American power play has struggled lately, including at the Beijing Olympics, where the Americans were only able to score on the power play a quarter of the time (compared to 36% efficiency for Finland and 41% for Canada).

“I don’t think we were at our best in Beijing and I think it showed,” Hilary Knight told On Her Turf last week. “I’m really excited about the group we have…and combine that with all these plans and things that we’re working on, it’s going to be a killer combination for us.”

Which American goalkeeper will take the lead?

For the first time since 2015, the US list does not include Alex Cavallini. Cavallini, who just announced that she is pregnant, started all three knockout games earlier this year. That said, USA still have three very talented goalkeepers on the roster: maddie rooney, Nicole Hensleyand Aerin Frankel.

Rooney, 25, helped the United States win Olympic gold in 2018 and then made two appearances at the Beijing Olympics.

Hensley has the most World Championship experience, having been the goalkeeper for Team USA at Worlds in 2017 and 2021.

Frankel, the 2021 Patty Kazmaier winner for Northeastern, will be looking to record her first international minutes. She was on the world championship roster last year, but didn’t hit the ice.

Meaghan Mikkelson back to competition

After suffering a serious knee injury in May 2021, the three-time Olympic medalist Meaghan Mikkelson tried to rehabilitate in time for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The mother-of-two started skating again in October 2021 and played her first game with the Canadian team two months later. But in the end, the schedule was too tight and Mikkelson was one of the last cuts from Canada’s roster before Beijing.

But Mikkelson, 37, was not ready to give up. She showed up at the Canadian camp this summer and was named to the world championship roster of 23 players.

“I just couldn’t leave him where he was,” she said. told the Canadian Press. “I had trouble sleeping at night thinking ‘should I go to camp?’ and I just felt like I could show up here, my whole heart would be here, and I thought I could contribute.

Which team will shine in Group B?

Similar to recent world championships, the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship will feature two weighted pools. Although often overlooked due to the rivalry between the United States and Canada in Pool A, Pool B teams represent the international growth of women’s hockey. This year, Group B will consist of Czechia, Sweden, Germany, Hungary and host country Denmark.

Czechia have marked international play for the past 12 months, including in the country’s Olympic debut in February. In the team’s quarter-final game against the United States, Czechia scored first and managed to keep the game tied at 1–1 until the third period.

“We’ve never played in the United States or Canada, so it’s like, ‘Oh my god, they play so well.’ And it was a bit intimidating for us,” said the Czech captain. Mills of Alena says TSN. “But now that we’ve played against them, it’s like, ‘Oh, we can take the puck away from them. We can push them onto the boards. We can score the first goal. So I think it’s been huge in our development of Czech hockey and helped us to have maybe a bit more of a championship mentality.

Group B also features plenty of current NCAA talent, from Swedish goalie Emma Soderberg (Minnesota Duluth) to Czech striker Noemi Neubauerova (Providence) to the Hungarian striker Mira Sergely (Maine). The Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) is also represented by five players in Group B teams and one in Group A (Evelina Raselli, Swiss). A full list of player affiliations with professional leagues and colleges can be found here.

As well as trying to qualify for the Worlds quarter-finals, the five teams in Group B will also try to avoid relegation. The lowest ranked team at the end of the pool will be relegated to the lower division tournament for next year’s world championship.

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

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