The day starts with a Slovakia-Austria tilt. On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss Slovakia (0-4) because they have already been relegated. But Arto Sieppi’s team has much to play for. First, there is the experience of another game at this level, a level they hope to return to after having to play in I-B next year. Sieppi might also use this opportunity to give goalie Nikola Zimkova some ice time. So far, Andrea Risianova has shouldered the load on her own, and the 20-year-old Zimkova could certainly benefit from facing some rubber.
There are other details to work on, like power play and penalty killing, and for the many young players on the team, every international tournament game is a welcome chance to learn. They also need to find a way to get more pucks in the net, having scored a tournament-low three goals in four games so far.
They will be facing an Austrian team that will go all out to win, so a push from the Slovaks would be an extra challenge. But for Austria (2-2) the goal is a higher placing only as their promotion dreams are over. They have lost two in a row now, but a regulation win on Saturday would give them 9 points, tying Netherlands for second place. But the head-to head game was 2-1 for the Dutch, so Austria can't go up on that situation.
If Denmark wins, it would create a three-way tie for second, but the mini-standings among the three teams would put Denmark into second. Austria has played at the lower level Women’s Worlds since it started playing women's hockey in 2004, but it has never qualified for the top pool and has never played at the Olympics.
Still, they have had a great tournament so far. Goalie Selma Luggin has been sensational, surrendering only three goals in four games and boasting a tournament-best GAA of 0.76. Captain Anna Meixner leads the team in goals (3) and points (4), but they could use some secondary scoring.
The middle game sees Denmark (2-2) play Norway (1-3), in another game in which one team seems to have way more to gain than the other. In this case, a Danish win in regulation would do the same as an Austrian win, give them 9 points in the standings to tie Netherlands. The Danes scored the most lop-sided win of the tournament against the Dutch, 6-1, in the first game of the tournament, so a simple two-team tie would favour them. They are the I-A team to play most recently at the top level, in both 2021 and 2022, but their fate is in their hands only up to a point as they need Netherlands to lose to China in the late game.
Captain Nicoline Jensen leads the team with three goals and is tied for the team in points (4) with Josefine Jakobsen. But goalie Emma-Sofie Nordstrom is a player who can be a difference-maker. The 20-year-old was the third goalie in Beijing last year but is the team’s goalie of the future behind Cassandra Repstock-Romme, so every game she plays is an important part of her development.
Norway has nothing to lose, but something to gain. They can’t be relegated, but a regulation win could would give them 6 points, tied with the Danes. But they’d get superior placement because of the win, meaning they’d finish fourth instead of fifth. The Norwegians have two of the top scorers in the tournament. Both Millie Sirum (4+2) and Mathea Fischer (1+5) have six points, and the pair have ignited an offence that has scored ten goals, tied for third-best in Shenzen.
And then the finale, which will be a real showdown between the two top-scoring teams, pits undefeated China (4-0) against Netherlands (3-1) which lost its first game before rattling off three wins in a row. Technically, the game means nothing to China and everything (possibly) to the Dutch, but you know the hosts will want to play well in front of their home fans and finish with that perfect record heading to the top pool. But the bottom line is simple--if Netherlands wins in regulation, they earn promotion (assuming Austria and Denmark win their earlier games).
Goalie Tiya Chen (Tiya Chan) has been great, and the team has had a balanced attack in front of her. Their 12 goals (tied for most, with Netherlands) have come from eight skaters. Minghui Kong leads the way with three, while Baozhen Hu (Maddie Woo) is tied for second in assists among all teams with four. Coach Scott Spencer has the team playing with confidence, moving the puck well, and playing panic-free defence inside their blue line.
The Dutch have five of their 12 goals courtesy of the power play and have surrendered only one goal while short-handed. China, meanwhile, has lacked “power” on the power play, going only 2-for-12, but they have a perfect record short-handed. The Dutch also have two of the top scorers in Bieke van Nes (4+2) and Savine Wielenga (3+3), so if China can shut down this pair, that 5-0 record is attainable. But a Dutch win would give them first place, a first-ever promotion to the top level, and real momentum heading into a new season.
All in all, the last day should produce top performances from six motivated teams, one of which will be celebrating promotion.