Three Stars from Day 5 of WWHC: Knight inches closer to record

United States' Hilary Knight (Joshua Bessex/AP)

On the second last day of the preliminary round at the IIHF’s Women’s World Hockey Championship a flurry of games saw Finland earn their first win of the tournament, Czechia and USA keep their undefeated streaks alive, and Sweden get their second shootout win. 

In their first-time meeting at the women’s worlds since 2006, Finland took down Japan 9-3. Both teams went into the contest looking for their first win of the preliminary round, with Finland ultimately earning the three points up for grabs. The game saw three goals in the first period, five in the second, and four in the third – with Japan scoring one per period. Miyu Masuhara spent the entire game in net for Japan, facing 51 shots on goal. 

After finishing their four games in group play, Japan goes 0-4 to sit in fifth place in Group A. The Finns however still have one more matchup against Switzerland on Tuesday.

Czechia extended their undefeated streak to three games after shutting out Germany 6-0. Opening the scoring with the assistance of two German penalties, Czechia took a 2-0 lead in the first and added three more to the scoreboard in the second. After both teams changed their goaltenders for the third period, Czechia scored one final goal to seal Germany’s fate. Czechia faced just nine shots on goal throughout the game. In the second period, Germany was especially struggling to maintain puck possession, and failed to record a single shot on goal. 

Both teams left the game in the same position in Group B rankings that they entered with — Czechia at the top leading, and Germany at the bottom with just one point. The Czechs meet next with Sweden on Tuesday to close out the preliminary round, while the Germans are set to take on Denmark.

Similar to the preceding game, USA also extended their undefeated streak to three games via shutout, hammering Switzerland with a 9-0 loss. It marked the USA’s second blowout win of the competition so far, after they opened the preliminary round with a 10-0 victory over Japan. With four USA goals in the first, one in the second, and four in the third, the Swiss had little time to catch their breath — and it showed. With their team only recording four shots on goal all game, Swiss goalkeepers Andrea Braendli and Saskia Maurer did all they could to guard the net against an unrelenting USA team who recorded 57. 

The United States will face Canada on Tuesday to determine who will earn the first-place spot in Group A, and exit the preliminary round unbeaten. Switzerland’s game against Finland will decide the third and fourth-place spots.

Last up on Monday’s slate of games was Hungary and Sweden, which the latter ultimately won in a shootout 3-2. Scoring was opened by 17-year-old Mira Jungaker for Sweden but was later tied up 1-1 by Hungary. Going into the second period, Sweden once again took the lead but Hungary was able to answer with a second goal almost midway through the third. Tied up with two apiece, the game went to overtime. It marked Sweden’s second contest in a row that required extra time following their shootout win over Germany. While there were several close calls on either side, Sweden eventually took the win, leaving Hungary to grab just one point. 

Hungary has officially finished the preliminary round with four points. While they sit in third place in Group B as of now, a win by Denmark in their final game could rob them of that spot. Sweden will finish on Tuesday after taking on Czechia. With one regulation win and two overtime wins, Sweden is also still technically unbeaten. 

3rd Star: Hungary’s and Sweden’s goaltenders

Both of the goalies from the matchup between Hungary and Sweden put up a valiant effort. From regulation to overtime to a shootout, both Ida Bowman and Aniko Nemeth gave their respective team a fighting chance to win. While each goalie allowed a singular goal in the first period, Bowman shut out Hungary in the second and Nemeth shut out Sweden for the third. Neither allowed a goal in overtime either, which prolonged the game to a lengthy shootout competition. It took eight rounds until one finally broke, with Nemeth being the one to do so on a shot from Sweden’s Hannah Olsson. 

Across all periods and extras, Hungary faced 40 shots on goal with Nemeth earning 37 saves. On the other side, Sweden faced 42 shots on goal, 40 of which 19-year-old Bowman was able to save. 

Honourable mention: Katerina Mrazova, Czechia 

In a game that saw the Czechs score six goals from six different skaters, Mrazova was the only player to record three points. All three came in the form of assists, two primary and one secondary. The forward now sits third in the IIHF’s scoring leaders. 

2nd Star: Hilary Knight, USA

Recording two goals in USA’s win over Switzerland has put Hilary Knight just four points away from breaking Hayley Wickenheiser’s all-time record of 86 at the Women’s Worlds. At 83 points currently, she sits tied at second with Jayna Hefford. Monday’s goals also marked Knight’s first of this year’s tournament, and the all-time leading 48th and 49th of her career.  

Knight netted the lone goal in the second period to increase USA’s lead to 5-0 on the powerplay. Finding open space off the right hashmark, Knight successfully converted a quick pass into a one-timer that found its way between the legs of the Swiss netminder. Her second goal made it 7-0 after she jammed in a loose puck through a crowded Swiss crease. 

The IIHF’s scoring leaders list has Knight ranked at 22nd (with Elisa Halopainen and Viivi Vainikka of Finland). Before Monday Knight had recorded just one assist in the tournament so far. 

Honourable mentions: Taylor Heise and Alex Carpenter, USA

Two other U.S. forwards who put on impressive performances were Taylor Heise, who netted two goals back-to-back in the first period and Alex Carpenter, who recorded three primary assists. 

 1st Star: Akane Shiga, Japan 

After scoring four of Japan’s 12 goals during the 2021 Women’s Worlds, Akane Shiga is having another strong year with her national squad. Earning two goals and an assist in Monday’s game, Shiga had the most impressive offensive performance for Japan, having a hand in all three of the team’s tallies against Finland. 

The 21-year-old opened Japan’s scoring over halfway through the first period, tieing up the game 1-1. Discretely slipping into corner coverage, Shiga was able to fire the puck into the back of the net off a perfect pass from teammate Makoto Ito. Her second goal came after she attempted to make a shot off a three-on-two opportunity. When Finland’s Meeri Raisanen made the save, Shiga was able to convert her own rebound with an opening on the short side. 

Shiga also had the secondary assist on a goal by Aoi Shiga, her sister, in the final minutes of the third. According to the IIHF’s ranking, she now sits 13th overall in the competition for scoring leaders with four points. Shiga netted Japan’s only other goal during the preliminary round — against Switzerland in her team’s 3-1 loss. 

Honourable mentions: Elisa Halopainen and Viivi Vainikka, Finland 

The two Finnish forwards also collected two goals and an assist each in their win over Japan. They sit tied for 22nd on the scoring list with Knight of the U.S.

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