USA vs. CzechiaThe History: This will be the first ever meeting between the teams at either the Olympics or Women’s Worlds.
USA: The Americans might be smarting a bit form their 4-2 loss to Canada on Tuesday, but by the time of puck drop for this game their only emotion will be determination and resolve to make it to the gold-medal game. Apart from that score, they have done everything right. Coach Joel Johnson has used all three of his goalies, and they have combined to allow just six goals in four games. Up front, Amanda Kessel leads the team with six points and Alex Carpenter has four goals. Oddly, the U.S. is last in penalties, having taken only nine minors, but they have also surrendered three goals on seven chances. No matter how you slice it, however, the Americans are overwhelming favourites.
Czechia: The Czechs are happy to be here. This is their first Olympics, and they have surprised fans by winning two games, losing to Denmark, 3-2, and losing to Japan in a shootout. They have scored only ten goals in four games and have yet to score even once on the power play. Tereza Vanisova leads the team with five points, but overall the scoring is spread thin. Goalie Klara Peslarova has played in all four games and has a sparkling 1.18 GAA, but her life is about to get a lot busier now that Czechia is playing a Group A nation. It will take a miracle for the Czechs to win this game, but a QF appearance is a very respectable result for the team all the same.
Quotable: “We will put up a good fight. We have never played the U.S., and it will be a good challenge. They are a great team. We have to stick to our playbook to have a chance of success.”—Czech forward Alena Mills
Canada vs. SwedenThe History: Canada has won all five Olympics meetings by a cumulative score of 41-6, including a 4-1 win in the gold-medal game in Turin in 2006 and a 13-1 win in 2010, their most recent Olympics meeting. In World Women’s play, they are 9-0 against Sweden, but amazingly they have not played in WW since 2009.
Canada: What can you say about the current Women’s World gold medallists? They are firing on all cylinders. Their 4-0 record here in Beijing is by a cumulative score of 33-5. Goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens has been fantastic, especially against the United States when she stopped 51 of 53 shots. Up front, Canada boasts the top seven scorers, led by Natalie Spooner with 11 points and Sarah Fillier and Brianne Jenner with five goals each. Their one weakness to date is that they have incurred 24 penalties, second-most in the tournament, but they have allowed only two power-play goals against while scoring six. This is a team that can do it all, and as with the first QF, a loss here would constitute a staggering upset.
Sweden: Never having beaten Canada and most recently having been demoted to Division I-A, the Swedes are also happy to be here. They are a young and emerging team with a bright future. Emma Soderberg is clearly the goalie of the future, as are young stars like 19-year-old Linnea Johansson and 21-year-old Maja Nylen-Persson. The team, however, has scored only seven goals and generated only 109 shots through four games. To the good, they have yet to surrender a power-play goal against. Nevertheless, they will need a “mirakel” to advance further.
Quotable: “It couldn't feel better. I don't think many people would believe we'd stand here in a quarter-final. Now we'll just go for it. I'm so proud of this team. It's a tough game. It is not beautiful, but we made it."—Swedish forward Michelle Lowenhielm.
ROC vs. SwitzerlandThe History: The teams have each won two games of four previous matchups at the Olympics, while ROC/Russia holds a 6-3-1 advantage in Women’s Worlds play. More important, however, Switzerland rallied to beat ROC 3-2 in overtime at the 2021 WW, but a week ago they lost 5-2 at the start of this preliminary round.
ROC: ROC has to feel good about its win over Switzerland on 4 February. They took a 2-2 game and scored three unanswered goals to win in their most offensive game so far. Their goaltending has been spotty, though. It would be unreasonable for coach Yevgeni Bobariko to rely on 17-year-old Daria Gredzen, but the other two—Valeria Merkusheva and Maria Sorokina—have not had strong tournaments to date. But perhaps the biggest concern for ROC is the changeability of their lineup. They have been severely hampered by absent players and have produced a different roster for each game. Who will play in this game? Not even Bobariko knows at this point.
Switzerland: The flip side to the earlier game is that the Swiss rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 down to tie the game early in the second period, only to let it slip away. And they have a top line of captain Lara Stalder, Alina Muller, and Phoebe Stanz that has been playing well. Andrea Brandli has been steady, although busy, in the Swiss goal, but scoring has been their downfall. They had only three goals in their first three games, all losses, and managed to equal that number in an important 3-2 win over Finland last Monday. If they can get an early goal, play solid defence, and be the better team on special teams, they’ll have a great chance of moving on.
Quotable: “Against Switzerland we capitalized on our chances. Against Finland we didn’t manage to score. We have to calm down a bit, and we need to score goals to be able to play a good game.”—ROC captain Anna Shokina.
Finland vs. JapanThe History: The Finns have won the only three meetings between the teams in women’s hockey, starting with an 11-1 thumping at the Nagano Olympics and followed by 1-0 and 6-1 wins at the Women’s Worlds.
Finland: The Finns had a terrible start, losing three in a row before righting the ship with an impressive 5-0 win over the short-handed ROC. They have a great goalie in Anni Keisala, but she has been inconsistent. At the back end, they have Jenni Hiirkoski, who can play half a game at full effectiveness, and up front they have the firepower to put the puck in the net. Their top scorer is Susanna Tapani, with three goals, all on the power play. In all, they have six goals with the extra skater, tied with Canada for most in the tournament. This should be a Finland win, but given their rough start and the good play of Japan, nothing can be taken for granted.
Japan: Japan finished first in Group B with three wins and a shootout loss, the same as at last year’s Women’s Worlds in Calgary, their best preliminary round ever. And they did so with fine goaltending from Nana Fujimoto, who has played almost the entire tournament to date, She has allowed only five goals and has a sparkling 1.25 GAA. Haruka and Ayaka Toko have led the offense, scoring four of the team’s 13 goals. They have also excelled in special teams, being last in penalties taken, and among the best in terms of penalty killing and power play effectiveness.
Quotable: “They will be a tough opponent. They are skillful; they skate well; they seem to have a good team spirit. We have to analyze them. We have two days off now and need to focus on them and our own team and make a plan to beat them.”—Finland coach Juuso Toivola.