Women’s World Championships: USA, Canada will play for gold, Japan to stay in top division

As has been the case in every Women’s World Championship tournament so far, the United States and Canada will meet again for gold. After semifinal losses, Russia and Finland will battle it out for bronze, and in relegation action, Japan claimed a spot in the top division of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championships.

United States 13, Russia 1

After a 9-2 win over the Russians in preliminary round action, the Americans simply picked up where they left off in the day’s first semifinal match-up. It was the strongest offensive performance of the tournament so far.

Russia looked like it was going to make things interesting on the very first shift, as Iya Gavrilova got her team on the board first just 44 seconds into the game. Unfortunately for the Russians, they would not be able to get through Team USA’s defenses again, and couldn’t do much to slow the oncoming offensive outburst.

Brianna Decker scored twice in four minutes after the halfway mark of the period, and the United States never looked back after gaining a 2-1 lead. Decker finished with a hat trick and four points, while defenseman Monique Lamoureux equaled her output with four points of her own.

Some of Team USA’s younger faces got some scoring going, as Zoe Hickel, Dana Trivigno, Megan Keller, Emily Pfalzer, and Haley Skarupa all netted goals. Hannah Brandt, Alex Carpenter, and Hilary Knight all added goals as well, while Knight posted a three-point afternoon.

USA vs. Russia (SF) – 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship from IIHF on Vimeo.

Canada 3, Finland 0

The Finns didn’t let the Canadians get very comfortable with the score for much of this game, but the Canadians didn’t falter, and looked very much in control throughout.

Marie-Philip Poulin got the scoring started early in the first, picking up the rebound of her own shot while entering the zone on the power play. Finland, namely the goaltending of Meeri Raisanen, did not let Canada extend that 1-0 lead through the first two periods.

After a miscue behind the cage that left the net wide open, Natalie Spooner made it a 2-0 game just 25 seconds into the third period. Spooner scored again unassisted halfway through the period on a pretty, pretty move to beat a Finnish defenseman, putting the Canadians up 3-0.

Ann-Renée Desbiens was in net for Canada and picked up her second shutout in two games played at this tournament. Finland came on a bit stronger in the third while facing a bigger deficit, but Desbiens turned away all 10 shots she saw for a game total of 19.

Japan 2, Germany 1 (OT)

In the relegation round, Japan picked up another overtime win to claim the series and keep its spot in the top division for the 2016 World Championships.

Ami Nakamura scored first for the Japanese on the power play just four minutes into the game. They held that lead until late in the second, when Germany tied it up at 1-1 with a power-play goal of its own. Anna-Maria Fiegert got the equalizing goal.

After a scoreless third, the teams headed to overtime, where Kanae Aoki scored on the first shot of the period to lift Japan to the win.

Nana Fujimoto finished the game with 21 saves for Japan, and ends the tournament with a .938 save percentage and 1.52 goals-against average.

What to Watch For Tomorrow

The bronze medal game is up first, with Finland and Russia set to go head-to-head at 6 a.m. (ET). The Finns won the round-robin match-up between the two, though the 3-2 victory came in the shootout.

Iya Gavrilova has certainly been strong for the Russians, as has Olga Sosina, so I would expect both to be involved in the offense tomorrow for Russia. For Finland, the top-line duo of Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani is always dangerous, and so is captain Jenni Hiirikoski from the back-end. Finland’s power play has been effective in this tournament, with three goals on 14 attempts. Both goals they scored against an actual goalie in the quarterfinal win against Switzerland came on the power play; Russia needs to be strong on the penalty kill to take that weapon away from the Finns.

Canada and the U.S. will then face off for gold at 10 a.m. (ET). Universal Sports will have coverage in the United States, and you can sign in with your provider online. In Canada, TSN will have both of these games.

Team USA won the tournament-opening match-up between these two teams, behind one of the most dominating performances it’s had against Canada in recent years. The Americans outshot them 34-11 and carried the play for much of the game.

Canada’s scoring chances were limited in that first game, which was good on the part of Team USA; however, when they were able to break through the American defense, they found the back of the net, as both of their goals showed. Both of those goals also came in transition, an area that the U.S. needs to be wary of. With a fairly young defense that’s not exactly stay-at-home-minded, they don’t want breakdowns going the other way to be an issue.

As Canada showed in that first game, when they create offense, they don’t have much of an issue scoring. The key in this one will be sustaining offense. They will undoubtedly be facing heavy offensive pressure from the Americans, but they need to build an attack of their own. Canada’s go-to line Brianne Jenner, Natalie Spooner, and Jenn Wakefield will play a huge part in that, just as they’ve done all tournament long. Kelly Terry, Sarah Davis, and Jess Campbell had a strong game today against Finland, and if they can help the Canadians win the lower-lines battles, they’ll be in good shape.

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