Ten Takeaways from Utica
by Andrew PODNIEKS|16 APR 2024
Japan's 3-0 win over Denmark assured the team of a return to the top pool for 2025.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin
Canada has now won gold four times out of five when the Women’s Worlds in hosted by the U.S. And two of the last three Canadian hostings have been won by the Americans. It seems that winning is sweet, but winning in your rivals’ barn is even sweeter.

But Utica provided some great moments for all of the ten competing teams, and all have something to look forward to to prepare for the 2025 tournament.

Canada (gold)

Never discount Canada. Underdogs coming into the gold-medal game, they were led once again by captain Marie-Philip Poulin, who provided two timely goals. The game winner came from 22-year-old Danielle Serdachny, and the supporting cast came up with six goals for the first time all tournament. It’s a veteran roster, and that’s the way coach Troy Ryan likes it. You can see why.

United States (silver)

Dominant all tournament, the U.S. faltered at the end just as Canada had done last year at home. And it was a late penalty that proved the undoing in both cases. The veterans are still incredible—Coyne Schofield, Knight, Carpenter—and newcomer Laila Edwards, tournament MVP, was a breath of fresh air. The team is pointed in the right direction for Milan in two years, and although the Europeans have improved greatly, they still have yet to catch the North Americans.

Finland (bronze)

A 6th-place finish in 2022 was a low point for the Finns, but they moved up to 5th last year, and in Utica they returned to form with an impressive bronze medal. Sanni Ahola was sensational in goal, and Jenni Hiirikoski, at 37 the oldest player in the tournament, co-led the team in scoring with six points. Petra Nieminen played with skill and a physicality that made her a force. The bronze-medal game was one of the best games of the tournament and promises more of the same as teams from across Europe close the gap.

Czechia (4th)

You can say this was a step back after two bronze medals, but that would be wrong. This Czechia team would have beaten the 2022 or ’23 edition for sure. Klara Peslarova was arguably the best goalie in the tournament, and the Czechs played a thrilling bronze-medal game. A bounce here or there and the medal would be theirs. And they did it all without their best player, Katerina Mrazova, who was ill. Coach Carla MacLeod has the team playing like they know they can win, and they’ll be competing for medals for years to come.

Switzerland (5th)

In the end, things turned out alright for the Swiss, although the process wasn’t what they would have hoped for. Playing in Group A, they lost all four preliminary-round games, and then they lost the quarter-finals. But when it mattered the most, with Group A qualification hanging in the balance, their two best players stepped up. Alina Muller delivered a highlight-reel OT winner against Germany, and the Swiss, despite a 1-5 record, will be back in the top group for 2025.

Germany (6th)

Nothing but smiles all around from the Germans on their way out of town. They won all four preliminary-round games for the first time ever, then lost a squeaker to the Czechs in the quarter-finals, 1-0. Sandra Abstreiter was named IIHF Directorate Best Goaltender, while Laura Kluge and Emily Nix were among the tournament’s top scorers. They’ll be back in Group B for 2025, but after this year’s showing they’ll be going to Ceske Budejovice with confidence.

Sweden (7th)

Led by goaltender Emma Soderberg, the Swedes won three of four games to start and put up a good fight against Canada in the quarter-finals. Hilda Svensson, the 17-year-old playing in her second Women’s Worlds, is coming into her own. She scored four goals, as did Josefin Bouveng, who is only 22. It didn’t feel like a 7th-place team, and you can be sure this young core will be able to fight for a higher finish next year.

Japan (8th)

Starting with a disappointing 3-2 loss to China in their first game, the Japanese fought their way back into the top pool next year with a crucial and impressive 3-0 win over Denmark on the final day of the preliminary round. Goalie Riko Kawaguchi, only 19, played her way into the starter’s role and was excellent. Akane Shiga, who plays for PWHL Ottawa, led the team with five points on the team’s eight goals. Clearly her league experience in the PW has translated to better skills at the Women’s Worlds, but she needs help on the offense.

China (9th)

Promoted for 2024, they will be demoted for next year, but they leave with a great experience. They stunned Japan in the opener, 3-2, in a penalty-shot shootout, but struggled scoring goals, only four in as many games. Grace (Jiahui) Zhan is only 18 and developing in an American high school. She is clearly their goalie of the future. The rest of the team included eight teenagers as the program resets for a new generation.

Denmark (10th)

Like China, the Danes came up and now will go back down to Division I-A, but they leave with positives as well. They beat China, 2-1, and had a chance to stay up on the final day, so they know they are not far away. Like so many teams, their best player is their goalie, Emma-Sofie Nordstrom, who was sensational for Denmark in four games, allowing only ten goals and producing a .927 save percentage. And like most Group B teams, their big problem is scoring. They managed only three goals in four games, and that’s just not good enough. But they leave Utica knowing what they need to do to stay up, and if they earn promotion again next year, no one will be surprised.