Women look ahead
by Andrew Podnieks|18 FEB 2022
USA’s Kendall Coyne Schofield and Finland’s Elisa Holopainen wait for a face-off.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
The women’s competition is over in Beijing, and all ten teams fly home with a different sense of accomplishment and purpose which they can put to good use in August when, for the first time ever, a top-level IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will take place in an Olympic year.

Here is a look at how the teams performed and what they are thinking heading to a spring and summer of preparation.

Canada – gold
Marie-Philip Poulin is at the height of her powers. Sarah Fillier is right behind. Ann-Renee Desbiens is the clear number-one goalie. Defender Claire Thompson has arrived. And then there is Sarah Nurse, Brianne Jenner, and Natalie Spooner. Canada just has to keep going and doing more of the same.

United States – silver
The Americans can’t panic, but at the same time they are the clear number two right now. Time for a changing of the guard? That’s tough when the best two players in Beijing were veterans Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield. Coach Joel Johnson struggled to find ice time for two of his emerging stars, Caroline Harvey and Jincy Dunne. Management needs to re-group and reassess. All options on the table.

Finland – bronze
Plenty of younger talent on a team that survived a slow start to win bronze again. They remain the clear European champions. Jenni Hiirikoski continues to be herself, and Susanna Tapani is a world-class player. Is the Noora Raty era truly over? Is Anni Keisala the goalie of the future? The Finns have plenty of talent to create a core that can beat the North Americans. They need time and opportunity now to gain valuable experience and enrich their confidence. 

Switzerland – 4th
They have a great goalie in Andrea Braendli and a first line that can compete with any – Muller-Stalder-Staenz. But they need a second line that can score, and a third line that can shut down the best players on the other team. On the back end, Lara Christen has been a standout, but she also needs a mini-me. The Swiss have distanced themselves from teams below them but have yet to prove to be a consistent adversary to the Finns.

ROC – 5th
There are some talented players here, but they have lost to Switzerland the last two elimination games. Polina Bolgareva and Fanuza Kadirova are two bright young stars, and Maria Sorokina has shown flashes of brilliance in goal. ROC and Switzerland have a great rivalry in that slot one below Finland, but the Swiss have had the upper hand lately thanks to better preparedness for the big games and a greater fighting spirit. 

Japan – 6th
It used to be Japan would come to a tournament and would be lucky to score a goal or two. In their first five Women’s World appearances they won two games and lost 20. And in three previous Olympics they won two and lost 13. But at the 2021 WW they won four games and finished 6th, and in Beijing they won three of their first four games (to go with a loss in a shootout). This program has come a very long way, and proves development is very much possible – but it takes time. The Japanese are getting to the point where they can compete night in, night out, with the Europeans.

Czechia – 7th
Klara Peslarova in goal is a good starting point for Czechia. At 25, she is in the prime of her career and can give her team a chance to win every night. Tereza Vanisova had a great Olympics, scoring twice and finishing with six points. The 26-year-old has plenty of international experience, and with teammates like Alena Mills and Denisa Krizova, there is a core there for a promising future. But like all emerging countries, the problem is the same – they need more core. 

Sweden – 8th
The Swedes qualified the hard way for participation because they aren’t in the top division of the Women’s Worlds anymore, and an 11-0 loss to Canada in the quarter-finals didn’t help their morale. But there are many excellent young players on this team – think Sofie Lundin, Maja Nylen-Persson, Mina Waxin – and with some time they’ll be back in the top competing for a medal once again. Often their greatest rivals were Finland, but the Finns have turned over one generation to the next a little faster and more successfully than Sweden so far. That might well change in the next year or two. The next focus will be earning promotion back to the top-level Women’s Worlds. They will play the Division IA tournament in Angers, France in April.

China – 9th
With an IIHF Women’s World Ranking of 20, they won’t be at the Women’s Worlds, but if they ever want to qualify for the top level in the future, they have to grow the game. The world’s most populous country is building arenas, but they need to get equipment, playing time, local programs and appropriate coaching for thousands more girls than currently play the game at home. The Olympics can be a stimulus for growth. In the meantime the club team KRS Vanke Rays, which competes in Russia, can continue to form the top players and help earn promotion. China will play in the Division IB in Katowice, Poland in April.

Denmark – 10th
The Danes made it back to the top pool of the Women’s Worlds last year, and this was their first ever Olympics. These are significant milestones in what will be a long journey if they hope to be competitive and remain in the top pool on an ongoing basis. They have a quality goalie in Cassandra Repstock-Romme, but, like China, they need more players to get involved in the game at the youth level, out of which will emerge a group of stars for the international stage. Every tournament is valuable experience, as will the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which they are hosting.

The tournament is scheduled from 26 August to 4 September in Herning and Fredrikshavn.