Czechia wins back-to-back bronze
by Liz Montroy|16 APR 2023
Czechia celebrates their bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF Women's World Championship
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin

For the second year in row, Czechia met Switzerland in the Women’s Worlds bronze-medal game, and for the second year in a row, Czechia came out on top, winning 3-2. This is an impressive feat for the Czechs, who reached the Women's Worlds bronze-medal game for the first time in Czech hockey history just last August.

"It’s thrilling. It’s rewarding. It’s all those kind of words, but not for me, it’s for them. And that’s the thing when you’re a coach. It’s not about you or what you know or how you feel. It’s about them," said Czechia head coach Carla MacLeod. "Today was a massive step in us understanding that we deserve to be here and we can compete. There’s work to be done, but I just sit back and I look at them and I think—I’m watching them walk around now—and they believe. Ted Lasso’s on to something there, because believing is a big piece, but the only way to believe is to cultivate positivity and then find success, and we’ve been really fortunate that way."

The Czech line of Denisa Krizova, Michaela Pejzlova and Tereza Vanisova was the driving force behind Czechia's offence. The trio was hungry for a goal, with prime scoring opportunities through the first 10 minutes that were all stopped by Andrea Braendli. They would eventually combine for two goals in the first period, but the Swiss got one of their own first, led by captain Lara Stalder.

After killing three penalties of their own, Switzerland used their first power play to take the lead. Stalder went forehand to backhand in spectacular fashion to roof the puck top corner—all while falling to her knees as she rushed towards the net, collecting her fourth goal and eleventh point of the tournament.

"A lot of emotions, we were super excited about that," said Stalder. "I thought this could be the turning point against all odds, to get that goal. Then unfortunately we couldn’t hold it defensively and just shut down, like we kind of did against Canada yesterday. Some parts were amazing, some parts we just couldn’t get it out."

Czechia’s response came 31 seconds later, with Krizova pushing through Switzerland’s line of defence with Vanisova and sending the puck five hole. Their line was far from finished; Pejzlova found open space and Krizova and Vanisova battled along the boards to send the puck her way. Pejzlova beat Braendli glove side to give Czechia the 2-1 lead.

"The whole tournament [our line was] just trying to go to the net and we hadn’t had much luck in the previous games," said Pejzlova. "I’m glad it came together in the most important game of the tournament."

The Czechs put on a masterclass in offensive zone puck possession, spending much of the game cycling the puck in Switzerland’s end and outshooting them 33-13.

"We as a team are really good at puck possession and we have always been super good at it, so that was obviously our focus," said Pejzlova. "But now we have a little bit of that North American style hockey, the physicality, so we are trying to combine that together, and I think that’s what has been giving us success."

The Swiss took advantage of any slip-ups by the Czechs however, and tied the game in the second period. Lena Marie Lutz forechecked hard to knock the puck away from Daniela Pejsova behind Czechia’s net, wrapping it around and past Blanka Skodova.

"They came out strong and we had a lot of penalties against us and it gave a lot of energy and momentum to them, but I thought we kept battling," said Stalder. "We were in the game, we tied the game, and they were getting shaky. Then in the end obviously, it’s a one goal game and you try everything. Today I woke up in the morning and I really thought we had it. We've been facing some adversity, but I really thought we could do something today and that’s why it’s so devastating."

Despite the Swiss finding some momentum after Lutz’s goal (Alina Muller forced a breakaway, but her shot pinged off the crossbar), Czechia regained the lead, with Krizova scoring her second of the game.

"After a game like that, you instantly wish you’d have done something else," said Braendli. "I wish I had caught their third goal. We wished we’d have started differently. All in all, we fought to the end and we can be proud of ourselves. We came back and tied the game, but it wasn’t our night. But I’m super proud of how we played."

Neither team managed many shots in the third period, and both goalies stood tall in net to keep their respective teams in the game.

"It was an amazing third period," said Krizova. "It was a lot of penalties of course, but we had players that blocked shots everywhere. We have a great goalie we can always count on. It was a team effort."

About that great goalie—by playing the full 60 minutes, Skodova set a new tournament record for the most minutes played with 390:53.

Switzerland pushed to try to force overtime, but were unable to capitalize on a long 5-on-3 or by adding an extra attacker in the final minute, and the Czechs secured the bronze with the 3-2 win. 

"It’s really good for our team, but it’s also good for the girls at home to see that we are in the top three now and last year wasn’t just about us getting lucky," said Pejzlova. "The world better get used to us being up there."
Czechia vs Switzerland (Bronze) - 2023 IIHF Women's World Championship