HÄMEENLINNA, Finland – Can anybody beat Canada and the United States for gold at the 2009 IIHF World Women’s Championship? That is the question on the tip of everyone’s tongues as the event prepares to kick off tomorrow in Hameenlinna, Finland.
If pre-tournament action is any indication, it could be another all North American final as the two top challengers, Sweden and Finland struggled in their final tune-ups for the championship. Finland struggled against China, a nation that narrowly avoided relegation last year, winning 3-0, in the Hameenlinna rink. Meanwhile, about an hour away in Vierumaki, the U.S. crushed Sweden, 9-0, in the last exhibition game.
Most teams arrived in Finland last week for training camps in various cities, but now all will converge on Hameenlinna, a city of 60,000 people about an hour north of Helsinki, on the eve of the championship.
Games will be played in the Patria Arena, home of the Finnish League’s HPK Hameenlinna. Patria has two ice sheets, one that has seating for 5,500 and another that is an auxiliary rink with seating for around 500.
The United States is the defending champion, but in the eleven previous Women’s Worlds, Canada has grabbed the gold medal nine times, with the United States winning the other two; in 2005 and last year in Harbin, China.
The U.S. opens the quest for its first back-to-back gold, against Japan on Saturday. Russia is the third team in Group A.
Canada is the top seed in Group B with Sweden and China, while host Finland heads Group C, with Switzerland and Kazakhstan. The Gold medal game is on Sunday, April 12.
Almost as important as the race for the gold medal this year will be the battle to avoid relegation, as two teams will be sent down to Division I next season. The change was made to allow the tournament to return to a format of eight teams. The decision means that only one nation will survive the three-team relegation round.
In terms to the IIHF World Ranking, the United States is in a position to take over the top spot. The Americans are only 10 points behind Canada, if the U.S. finished just one position higher than Canada at this year’s championship, they will be the new number one.
The women’s Pre-Championship ranking going into the 2009 event in Finland is:
1. Canada 1770, 2. USA 1760, 3. Finland 1665, 4. Sweden 1645, 5. Switzerland 1610, 6. Russia 1550, 7. China 1505, 8. Germany 1500, 9. Japan 1465, 10. Kazakhstan 1435.
A gold medal finish earns 1200 points, the second placed team gets 1160 points, while the bronze squad can add 1120 points to the ranking score shown above. The IIHF World Ranking system takes into account the results in IIHF events from the last four years.
NOTE: Any changes in the women’s World Ranking will have no bearing on the seeding in the women’s Olympic tournament in Vancouver 2010. The seeding for the Olympics was based on the World Ranking which was established following the 2008 World Women’s Championship in Harbin, China.
To follow all the action from the World Women’s Championship visit IIHF.com daily and click on the logo for the World Women’s Championship on the left side of the home page.