Women’s Worlds: Group A Preview
by Andrew PODNIEKS |01 APR 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
The 23rd IIHF Women’s World Championship gets underway in Utica, New York on Wednesday, and the co-favourites United States and Canada will have perhaps their toughest time ever repeating as gold and silver-medal winners. They are playing in Group A, which also includes Czechia, Finland, and Switzerland. All three nations have been inching closer and closer to that elusive final-game appearance. Each team has brought back a core of veterans, but with the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in mind, coaches are also auditioning younger talent to see how they might fit into longer range plans. Herewith is an overview of the five teams in Group A.

There is one huge difference between the Canada roster and the U.S. roster. Canada draws all of its players from the PWHL with four exceptions while the American roster has eleven PW players and 14 from the NCAA. Coach Troy Ryan is back for a fourth Women’s Worlds, and he has elected to bring back most of the players from the last few years as well. In goal, the PWHL-seasoned trio of Ann-Renee Desbiens, Emerance Maschmeyer, and Kristen Campbell will once again be relied on, the biggest question being if Campbell will see some game action for the first time. On defence, Ryan will lean heavily on his PW Toronto star Renata Fast, who has logged some serious minutes for him in the new league. Up front, captain Marie-Philip Poulin will lead a veteran roster that also includes PWHL leading scorer Natalie Spooner and linemate Sarah Nurse. The only new faces are Nicole Gosling and cousin Julie, who are both making their senior debuts. Ryan hopes they will have enough of a positive effect to stay with the team through the 2026 Olympics in Milan. In all, Ryan’s conservative approach to the roster is the big story with the Games only two years away. Canada won consecutive gold in 2021 and 2022 but settled for silver last year. Can the experienced players rebound and continue through 2026? We’re about to find out.


These are exciting times for Czechia’s women’s program. After winning back-to-back bronze medals, their first ever at the Women’s Worlds, Carla MacLeod’s Czechia team must be considered favourites to three-peat in Utica. Forwards Tereza Vanisova and Katerina Mrazova and defender Aneta Tejralova have all been with MacLeod on the PWHL Ottawa team and are key returning players.

MacLeod will also have goalie Klara Peslarova back in the fold. She is one of the best goalies in the world and will be an important part of any team success. But MacLeod is also bringing up Anezka Cabelova, Tereza Plosova, and Adela Sapovalivova, three players who helped the Czechs win an historic silver medal at the 2024 U18 event less than three months ago.

Sapovalivova finished second in tournament scoring and is still only 17, while Plosova finished second in assists. Other notable names from the 2023 WW bronze team include Denisa Krizova and Klara Hymlarova. The Czechs are probably a ways away from challenging the North Americans for gold, but they have separated themselves from the pack in the chase for the bronze.

© International Ice Hockey Federation


The Finns finished fifth last year after a disappointing 6th-place finish in 2022, and Jussi Toivala’s roster is also laden with experience in the hopes of getting back to the podium. They have never gone three WW’s without a medal, so this is a true test for the program. Leading the way, of course, is Jenni Hiirikoski, the brilliant defender who is now in her record 15th Women’s Worlds. She has also been captain since 2013, and any Finland success will depend on her contributions.

The other names on the blue line are familiar—Ronja Savolainen, Nelli Laitinen, Eve Savander. One newcomer is 20-year-old Oona Koukkula, who played at the 2020 WW18 and has been developing with Hameenlinna in the Finnish league. Up front, Petra Nieminen is back and will lead the offence. She had a team-best 13 points last year and will be joined by Susanna Tapani, who has been playing with Boston in the PWHL. Michelle Karvinen and Noora Tulus are also back, and Toivola is incorporating 18-year-old Julia Schalin into the lineup. She has played the last two WW18 tournaments and is one of the country’s bright young stars.
© International Ice Hockey Federation


The last Swiss medal in women’s play was way back in 2014 Sochi, but it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. In all of the last four major tournaments the Swiss made it to the bronze-medal game—only to lose (twice to Finland and the last two Women’s Worlds to Czechia). Coach Colin Muller has his two best goalies back, 26-year-old Andrea Brandli, the number-one ‘tender, and 22-year-old Saskia Maurer, most often the backup. Up front, Muller leads with his two stars again in Alina Muller and Lara Stalder. Muller is having an impressive season with PWHL Boston, the only PW player on the team, while Stalder has been playing with Zug in the Swiss league. As they go, so goes Switzerland’s offence, but coach Muller is hoping to get more from other returnees, including Zug teammate Noemi Ryhner and Zurich’s Alina Marti.

The coach is going big on youth as well.  Only five of 25 players were born in the 1990s, and he’s bringing three players who appeared at this year’s Women’s U18 event—Naemi Herzig, Alena Rossel, and Ivana Wey. Two other players are appearing in a Swiss sweater for the first time—goalie Alexandra Lehmann and Vanessa Schaefer, who turned 19 only a couple of weeks ago. Clearly Muller is trying to shake things up a bit and also doing some early prep for the Milan Olympics.
© International Ice Hockey Federation

United States

Although the U.S. have lost three of four Women’s Worlds they’ve hosted, they won the last time, in 2017, and they won last year, in Canada. John Wroblewski is back as coach, and he brings with him a roster loaded with talent and experience as well as a few new faces to the WW lineup. In the former, longtime captain Kendall Coyne Schofield is back after taking a year off to start a family. She has anchored the PWHL Minnesota team, so rust is not a factor, and she will be key to the team’s success in Utica. As well, Hilary Knight will be back, vying for a record 14th Women’s Worlds medal.

The one-two punch of Aerin Frankel and Nicole Hensley in goal brings star power to the crease, and the defence is loaded—Caroline Harvey, Megan Keller, Cayla Barnes. But Wroblewski is also bringing along some new talent. Three players who starred at the WW18 level are in Utica making their senior debuts—18-year-old Joy Dunne (2023 WW18), 19-year-old Kristen Simms (gold at 2020 WW18, silver 2022 WW18), and 20-year-old Laila Edwards (MVP at the 2022 WW18). All three have just finished their NCAA season as well, Dunne playing on the champion Ohio State University team with Barnes and Hannah Bilka.
© International Ice Hockey Federation