2024 WW Preview: Semifinals
by Ameeta VOHRA|13 APR 2024
photo: @ International Ice Hockey Federation / Andre Ringuette
Four teams are going to put everything on the line on Saturday at the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York.
Two semifinal games will determine who will battle for gold and who will play for bronze. For these teams, it’s gold or broke.
In the first game, the United States will play Finland.  Canada will square off against Czechia in the second game.
The United States faced their biggest test of the tournament earlier in the week when Finland came out flying against the defending champions.  
While the hosts won the game 5-3, they realized they need to pay close attention to Finland and fine tune their game in the process.
“I think just focusing on the little details, just doubling down,” forward Abbey Murphy says.  “They [Finland] got a couple goals on us from penalties that we had, so I think being disciplined in a way just not giving them any chances, no opportunities, playing our game honestly, focusing about ourselves little things that we can take care of and grinding them down.”
The top line of Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne Schofield and Alex Carpenter have lit it up and are scoring leaders.  Carpenter’s five goals are the most in the tournament to go along with four assists for nine points.  Knight has three goals and six assists for nine points. Coyne Schofield has three goals and five assists for eight points.
Knight and Schofield are on pace to smash the all-time assists record, which sits at 49.
“That top line is inspiring; they're truly such good leaders on and off the ice,” Murphy says of the trio.  “They set the pace and it’s truly so fun watch them and do things that just no one else can show. It's cool for us younger kids, to just learn from them and inspire. It’s so awesome.”
Equally as effective has been the team’s offence anchored by Caroline Harvey.  The defender leads the tournament with assists with seven.  
“They're awesome and they try not to let anything behind them so we trust them with every little bit,” Murphy says of the defensive unit.  “Caroline's honestly awesome to watch fun little. You know what she's going to pull out so it's cool to watch, but especially all them [defence] back there. You have faith in them that they're always going to do the right thing.”
In four starts, Aerin Frankel has amassed four wins, including three shutouts, a 95.24 save percentage and 0.67 goals against average.
The United States will counter a high flying offensive Finnish team who has been dangerous at Women’s Worlds. Leading the way is the top line of Susanna Tapani. Petra Nieminen and Michelle Karvinen.
“We just know each other very well,” Tapani says of the top line, “We have been playing with each other for many years and it helps because you know where everyone is and you know even before they pass or where they are going, so that helps a lot. We trust each other and really like to play with each other.”
Captain Jenni Hiirikoski will be counted upon as she been all tournament to provide steady leadership.  She is the top scorer for Finland with one goal and five assists for six points.
“I think now, it is just to get the next win and then the finals which is two games,” Tapani says of the Finland’s playoff goals.  “We will just go for one game at a time and try to win the next one.”
When the two teams met almost a week ago in the preliminary round, Canada earned a 5-0 shutout on the strength of a three-goal first period effort.
Canada has arguably the best goaltending of the tournament. Ann-Renee Desbiens has earned two wins, including a shutout, 97.37 save percentage and 0.65 goals against average.  In the quarterfinals, Emerance Maschmeyer led Canada to a 5-1 win over Sweden and was a brick wall when it mattered the most.
Czechia will have to find a solution to stopping Kristin O’Neill, who was a huge factor in their loss in the previous contest.  The forward leads Canada in scoring with two goals and three assists for five points. Against the Czechs, O’Neill racked up two goals and an assist.
Canada comes into the semifinals with an effective penalty kill with a 93.75 percentage. Furthermore, winning face-offs can be crucial in tight games and captain Marie-Philip Poulin leads the tournament with 74.60 percentage.
One of the reasons Canada has found success in the tournament is team cohesion and hope to build upon that to further their journey towards gold.
“We've all experienced a lot together and have a really close-knit group,” Maschmeyer says. “We can always rely on our base, structure and our framework that we've put in place beforehand. We don't want to get too high or too low, but we know how to manage each other's emotions and keep each other in check as well. We have a great relationship with one another.”
Building off their game will be their approach as the team heads into their semifinal game against Czechia.
“We've made some really great strides in the last few games, just keep building, adding to our game and that's exactly what we're going to do,” Maschmeyer says.  “We're going to take what we did really well, get rid of what we didn't and move forward.”
Canada has to continue to do one thing they did well against Czechia earlier in the week. That was containing the most explosive, dynamic line of the tournament in Natalie Mlynkova, Klara Hymlarova and Adela Sapovalivova.  Mylnkova is on a tear with four goals and two assists for six points. She is among the top goal scorers in the tournament.
Czechia knows that anything is possible in this tournament. They are coming off the high of defeating Germany 1-0 in the quarter-finals. and is motivated for more.
“We are preparing for every game like any other, so we are focused on our on our game,” Daniela Pejsova says.  “We are building on that, so as our coach says, we need to be better and better every game.”