Laura Kluge scored the lone goal in the shootout to lift Germany to a 2-1 upset win over Sweden to kick off the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Espoo, Finland.
Kluge deked to the forehand and slid the puck home. It was sweet redemption after the second-time Women's Worlds participant, who plays for the NCAA's St. Cloud State University, took three minor penalties earlier in the game."I thought we played well," said German goalie Jennifer Harss, who was stellar as shots favoured Sweden 41-15. "The Swedes were pretty good. They came out strong and pressured us a lot, but I thought we stuck to our game plan for 60 minutes -- well, 65 minutes -- and in the end it paid off."
In regulation time, Emily Nix scored for Germany, and Sofia Engstrom had the Swedish goal.
This was a rematch of the 2017 opening-day clash between these two nations, where the German women prevailed with a 3-1 upset, and went on to finish a surprising fourth in Plymouth, Michigan. Today the Swedes again fell short against the underdog.
"Definitely we knew we could beat Sweden," Harss said. "That definitely helps."
It was a battle between two experienced netminders. Sweden’s Sara Grahn, who made her Women’s Worlds debut in 2007, played her 28th career game at this tournament at age 30. Harss, who first saw the ice at the 2005 tournament in Sweden, got into her 19th Women’s Worlds game at age 31. Harss was named Germany's Player of the Game.
Sweden is dreaming of its first Women’s Worlds medal since taking bronze in Winnipeg in 2007. It'll be a tough road since only the top three teams in Group B advance to the quarter-finals, while the bottom two are relegated. And this wasn't the start the Swedes wanted.
Swedish head coach Ylva Martinsen made her official IIHF debut behind the bench. The Damkronorna finished seventh at last year’s Olympics, their worst showing in four seasons under Leif Boork, Martinsen’s predecessor. Martinsen brings positive vibes as a former Damkronorna player: she was part of the historic 2006 team that earned silver at the Turin Olympics.
"We need to score," said Martinsen. "We think we have a good power play, but it's up to the players to execute out there. Jennifer Harss is a good goalie, so great for her, but we need to do more to get scoring."
In a fast-paced, physical, but scoreless first period, Harss was the busier of the two goalies, as Sweden outshot rookie German head coach Christian Kunast's team 15-6.
At 9:53 of the second period, Engstrom opened the scoring for Sweden. Harss foiled Hanna Olsson after she split the German defence and Melinda Olsson (no relation) on the first rebound, but she couldn’t stop Engstrom from banging in the second rebound. It was the first career Women's Worlds goal for the 30-year-old Leksands IF blueliner, whose lone previous IIHF experience was at the 2014 Olympics.
Asked how it felt, Engstrom said: "Oh, it's amazing, of course. A rebound, but it doesn't matter. Every goal counts. It was nice."
Germany struck back on the power play to make it 1-1 at 14:09, as Nix tipped Daria Gleissner’s point shot over Grahn's shoulder. Nix, a 21-year-old Women's Worlds rookie, previously shone for the German U18 team at three Division I tournaments.
With the teams at 3-on-3 in overtime after a penalty-laden third period, Sweden got an extra skater for a 4-on-3 power play when Germany's Marie Delarbre was sent off for tripping. Despite prolonged possession in the German end, there was nothing doing. Swedish captain Emma Nordin came calling in the dying seconds of the five-minute extra frame, but Harss shut the door.
"We created a lot of chances today," said Engstrom. "I think we should crash the net more, go in front. We know what to do. It's just the details we have to figure out."
With the loss, Sweden’s all-time Women’s Worlds record against Germany, dating back to 1990, fell to five wins and three losses.
Regardless of the outcome, this 12:30 start at Metro Areena was an historic occasion. It was the first game ever played under the new 10-team format for the Women’s Worlds. Back in July, the IOC also approved this format for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, reflecting an increased commitment to gender equality.
On Saturday, Sweden faces the Czechs, while Germany takes on Japan.
About facing the Japanese, Harss said: "Every team in this group is very good. We just have to play well again. They're a fast, skilled team. We just have to be ready for them."
Of note, referee Anna Wiegand (Switzerland), who shared duties with Jamie Huntley Park (USA) in the opener, became the first woman ever to officiate a men’s pro game in Switzerland's second-tier league on 29 January when EHC Winterthur beat HC La Chaux-de-Fonds 3-2. In that game, Wiegand (nee Eskola) worked with her husband, Marc Wiegand.