Quarter-finals preview
by Lucas Aykroyd|10 JUN 2022
The Czechs downed Sweden 3-1 the last time they met at the U18 Women's Worlds in 2020 in Bratislava (pictured). Who will win in the 2022 quarter-finals?
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
The quarter-finals of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship are here. At Madison’s LaBahn Arena, it’s time to go big or go home.

And frankly, you can’t take the result of either Canada-Slovakia or Sweden-Czechia for granted.

Not after a wild and wacky Thursday that saw the biggest U.S. win over Canada ever (7-0), a Swedish rally to defeat Finland with two late goals with the goalie pulled for a sixth attacker (4-3), and Slovakia’s offensive outburst versus Germany (6-2) after it totalled just one goal in the previous two games.

Upsets are not unheard of in U18 Women’s Worlds quarter-finals.

For instance, in 2010, the first year quarter-finals became part of the format, future 2014 Olympian Manuela Anwander’s overtime goal gave Germany a 2-1 win over a Finnish team featuring Susanna Tapani and Tanja Niskanen. In 2013, the Czechs rallied from a two-goal first-period deficit to beat Finland 5-3, scoring three times in the third on goalie Eveliina Suonpaa (now Makinen).

So fans, players, coaches, and media around the hockey world are eagerly waiting to see what quarter-final surprises may emerge on Thursday. Let’s take a closer look at our two games.

Canada-Slovakia (16:00 local time)

It’s the first U18 Women's Worlds meeting ever between these nations. Canada should be the prohibitive favourite. No, it won’t be 18-0 like when Canada faced Slovakia to open the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. But the Slovaks will have a hard time in this game, and not just in terms of sagging emotionally after their upset against Germany.

Still, there’s no room for Canadian complacency here. Their pride has been stung after getting shut out twice in three games. They only lit the red lamp in their 3-1 win over Sweden. Offensively, the nation that earned the 2020 silver medal just hasn’t been cohesive. The Canadians are clearly trying hard, but squeezing their sticks.

Perhaps even more worrisome is that Canada leads the tournament in penalties (40 PIM) by a long shot. Many are avoidable stick fouls.

“I think we just have to move our feet and get on the D side of their bodies rather than reaching,” said Canadian coach Howie Draper. “So we get into trouble there. We've got to do a better job angling through the neutral zone. Sometimes I just think we're a little bit careless with our stick. We've gotta get our sticks on the puck rather than kind of in the feet.”

If Slovakia has any hope of upsetting Canada, it might be on the power play. Canada has surrendered five goals on 18 disadvantages. And Slovakia generated its first two PP goals of these U18 Women’s Worlds in the win over Germany.

Canada will need to keep an eye on Slovak forwards Barbora Kapicakova and Hana Fancovicova, both of whom heated up against the Germans with their first two goals of the tournament.

With that said, Canada has a lot of untapped offensive potential that needs to materialize. Forward Jordan Baxter leads the team with 17 shots and will find the range if she keeps shooting. Defender Sara Swiderski has a bomb from the blue line. Madison Chantler has also looked dangerous at points.

A full-force, two-way Canadian effort should result in victory. Anything else... well, Finland’s 2-0 win over Canada would look like small potatoes in comparison.

Sweden-Czechia (20:00 local time)

It’s a good thing that none of the Swedish U18 women remember the men’s hockey tournament in the 2002 Olympics. It’s also safe to say they don’t sit around watching videos of it.

In Salt Lake City, Tre Kronor started off on a high with a 5-2 win over Canada. But in the quarter-finals, Mats Sundin and Company fell 4-3 to Belarus in a monumental upset.

Conversely, coach Madeleine Ostling’s group has gone from getting pounded 6-1 by the defending champion Americans to fighting back to beat traditional rival Finland 4-3. That’s a much better progression. Even the 3-1 loss to Canada was no disgrace.

”We've come together for every game and become stronger,” said 2020 returnee Ida Karlsson, who scored her first U18 Women’s Worlds goal against Finland on a nice rush. “This builds our self-confidence up. So we're excited.”

“These girls haven't played against the U.S. or Canada ever before,” said assistant coach Pernilla Winberg, a 2006 Olympic silver medalist. “So they're good skaters, but we're also good skaters. For those girls who believe in it, we can beat any team here.”

Sweden has plenty of threats from the back end. Playmaking defender Tuva Kandell leads the team with four points (1+3=4), and while Mira Jungaker didn’t score in her tournament debut, the 16-year-old had a breakout season with 21 points in 35 games for HV71. And at forward, Mira Markstrom showed some fantastic hands to score her first goal of the tournament versus the Finns.

If the Czechs are to surprise Sweden, it’s going to take stellar goaltending. And fortunately, they match up well in that department, thanks to Michaela Hesova. The 16-year-old Hovorcovice native’s 0.36 GAA and 97.9 save percentage lead the tournament. The one caveat is that she achieved those numbers against Group B competition, and the Swedes will be a different animal.

Czech forwards Adela Sapovalivova (2+4=6) and Tereza Plosova (1+4=5) have stepped up offensively and are vying for the tournament scoring lead. Special teams-wise, the Czechs are strong on the power play (2-for-9, 22.2 percent) and have yet to surrender a power play goal.

If the Swedes are still a little too giddy about knocking off Finland in the group stage, Czechia might be able to advance with an exceptionally focused effort and quest for another medal to add to its two bronze medals (2008, 2014).

Nonetheless, Sweden – with one silver medal and five bronze medals – looks more likely to win this quarter-final based on history, both distant and recent. The Swedes hold an all-time edge with seven wins and four losses against Czechia.