Japan, Switzerland, the United States, and Finland all picked up wins on the first day of action at the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championship.
Japan 4, Sweden 3 (SO)
Japan earned perhaps its biggest result ever, forcing the Swedes to a shootout and taking the extra point there. Japan and Sweden met in the opening game of last February’s Winter Olympics, and the Swedes earned a hard-fought 1-0 win then. This was another close one that saw the Japanese stick with it all the way through.
Erika Grahm put Sweden up early, just 4:30 into the contest, but Japan responded with just over a minute left in the first period, with a goal from Miho Shishiuchi. At the halfway mark of the game, Grahm scored again to give Sweden another lead, but the Japanese would find a way back in the third.
With only five minutes gone in the final period of regulation, Ami Nakamura netted the tying goal. Less than two minutes later, Chiho Osawa gave the Japanese a 3-2 lead, which was a shock for many.
Grahm’s hat-trick goal knotted things up for the Swedes with about 10 minutes left in regulation, and neither team could pull ahead again throughout the rest of regulation and the five-minute overtime period.
In the shootout, goaltender Nana Fujimoto stopped both Swedish shooters she faced, and Osawa and Hanae Kubo each made their shots to give Japan the victory in the shootout.
Fujimoto finished the game with 31 saves, while Sara Grahn had 17 at the other end.
Switzerland 5, Germany 2
A strong offensive performance from its top players powered Switzerland to the win over Germany in the opening game.
Stefanie Marty scored late in the first for a 1-0 Swiss lead, but Anna-Maria Fiegert would tie it up for the Germans later on in the second. With only about a minute and a half left in the second period, Julia Marty would score to put the Swiss ahead again.
Phoebe Staenz then extended Switzerland’s lead to 3-1 within the first three minutes of the third, and Stefanie Marty scored her second of the game to make it 4-1 about halfway through the final period. Marty’s goal was Switzerland’s third-straight tally on the power play.
Andrea Lanzl closed it to a two-goal deficit for Germany with under three minutes to go, but the Germans were unable to find another one to completely close the gap. Lara Stalder scored an empty-netter for the Swiss to seal the 5-2 win.
Stefanie Marty finished the afternoon with two goals and three points, while Stalder also notched a three-point game in the victory. Florence Schelling made 28 saves in net for Switzerland, and Jennifer Harss stopped 19 for Germany.
United States 4, Canada 2
Team USA picked up the win in the biggest game on opening day, a rematch of pretty much every gold medal game in women’s hockey tournaments to date. This was a very convincing performance for the United States, who outshot the Canadians 34-11.
Jocelyne Lamoureux made it 1-0 right off the bat, scoring on an early 5-on-3 power-play opportunity for the Americans. Brianne Jenner evened it up about three minutes later for the Canadians, catching a great pass from Spooner to move in alone and slide it past U.S. goaltender Jessie Vetter.
Hannah Brandt regained the lead for Team USA with a power-play goal over halfway through the opening period, tipping in Kacey Bellamy’s shot from the point. Kendall Coyne scored another on the power play to give the Americans a 3-1 lead going into the first intermission.
Jennifer Wakefield made it a 3-2 game, scoring on another breakaway for Canada just 57 seconds into the second period. After a first period that was dominated by the United States, the second was much more even, and the Canadians held Team USA off the board for the full duration of it.
Midway through the third, Hilary Knight increased the U.S. lead to 4-2, and Canada was unable to pull any closer than that. The line of Wakefield, Spooner, and Jenner was easily Canada’s best throughout the whole game, as each recorded two-point afternoons, but it’s clear that the Canadians have some things work on over the coming week.
For Team USA, it was a much better showing over their most recent performances against Canada, back in November at the 4 Nations Cup. The power play got off to a great start, and the Canadians didn’t have much of an answer for their movement with the player-advantage. It was the most dominating performance in quite a bit for the Americans, but I would expect a much different Canadian squad the next time these two meet.
Finland 3, Russia 2 (SO)
The Finns had to play catch-up a couple of times to get the win in the shootout to close out the first day of action.
After a scoreless first period, Valeria Pavlova got Russia on the board first 3:31 into the second period. Finnish defenseman Anna Kilponen quickly answered for her team, tying the score up at 1-1 exactly a minute later.
Olga Sosina then put the Russians ahead again with about five minutes left in the frame, but Finland again found an answer, this time from Rosa Lindstedt. The teams entered the third period locked in a 2-2 tie, but neither team would score again before the end of regulation.
Overtime also solved nothing, so the two squads headed to a shootout, where Meeri Raisanen stopped all three Russian shooters she faced and Minttu Tuominen converted on her attempt to give the Finns the victory in the shootout.