June 24th, 2024

Canada wary of quarterfinal opponent Sweden at world women’s hockey championship

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on April 10, 2024.

Canada's Blayre Turnbull (40) speaks with teammates Laura Stacey (7) and Emily Clark (26) during practice at the IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship in Utica, N.Y., Wednesday, April 10, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

UTICA, N.Y. – Canada’s women intend to be on their toes against a quarterfinal opponent that took them to the brink of elimination in last year’s world hockey championship.

A Sarah Nurse overtime goal was required in Brampton, Ont., to beat Sweden 3-2 in that quarterfinal.

“We all remember that game last year and we’ve got something to prove,” Canadian forward Blayre Turnbull said Wednesday.

The Canadians and Swedes clash again in Thursday’s four-game slate at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Finland meets Switzerland at 10 a.m. ET, followed by Czechia versus Germany at 1:30, Canada and Sweden at 5 p.m. and the United States against Japan at 8:30 p.m.

The semifinals are Saturday and the medal games Sunday. China and Denmark will be relegated to the Division 1 world championship after finishing fourth and fifth respectively in Group B.

Canada led 2-0 on goals by Nurse and Turnbull in Brampton, but the Swedes scored a power-play goal late in the second period and struck even strength with just under 10 seconds remaining in regulation.

“They gave me some of the grey hairs I have right now,” Canadian head coach Troy Ryan said.

“There’s a lot of talent, a lot of skill, good goaltending. Last year, they probably gained a little bit of confidence, so we’re going to have to do what we can to take that away as quick as we can.”

The Canadians lost 1-0 in overtime to defending champion United States to cap the preliminary round Monday with a 3-0-1-0 record.

“There wasn’t any panic or anything like that,” Nurse said. “We lost one-nothing in overtime and they ended up getting the last goal. We know we can get the next one.”

It took Canada a period to start generating offensive chances in a fast and physical clash with the Americans. Canada spent time Wednesday working on offensive-zone entries.

“Those improvements that we need to happen aren’t just improvements against the States, they’re improvements against every team we play,” Turnbull said.

“Try to get some o-zone plays and possession time going. We’ve got a good plan in place to do that moving forward, so we’re hoping to execute that more in our game against Sweden coming up.”

Canadian penalty killers have yet to give up a power-play goal in the tournament. Canada’s power play was a middling 1-for-10 after the preliminary round.

“We’ve had a good talk. It’s way too stagnant right now,” Ryan said. “There’s not a lot of movement. I’ve encouraged them to just get a little bit more freedom, a little bit more creativity.

“Usually you’re fighting them to be more structured. I think our group right now just needs to play a little bit more free get some switches, get some motion.”

Ryan has incrementally increased the minutes of captain Marie-Philip Poulin, who missed three PWHL Montreal games before the championship with an undisclosed injury, to a high of 18 against the Americans.

Ryan hadn’t locked in his quarterfinal starting goalie by the end of Wednesday’s skate.

In a similar scenario to Brampton, Emerance Maschmeyer could get the nod to save Ann-Renee Desbiens for potential back-to-back games on the weekend.

Maschmeyer stopped 12 of 14 shots in last year’s quarterfinal win. Swedish counterpart Emma Soderberg made 51 saves against Canada.

“We were close last year, but that’s not enough for us. We want to beat them now too,” Soderberg said. “Last year helps because we know we’re close.”

She and Hilda Svensson, who scored the late equalizer in Brampton, were among 15 returning players to Sweden’s lineup in Utica.

Soderberg is Sweden’s lone PWHL player. She’s Boston’s backup behind Aerin Frankel, who posted a 26-save shutout Monday for the United States.

Soderberg is 3-3 with a 2.81 goals-against average and a save percentage of .884 in the new league’s first season.

“It helps push my pace in every day practice because now I get to compete against the U.S. and Canadian players that we would only face maybe in worlds,” she said.

“Now I get to compete with those types of players on an everyday basis.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2024.

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