Nurse plays OT hero as Canada avoids upset to Sweden in women’s hockey worlds quarters

Canada forward Sarah Nurse (20) and forward Sarah Fillier (10) celebrate Nurse's game winning overtime goal against Sweden in quarterfinal IIHF WomenÕs World Hockey Championship hockey action in Brampton, Ont., Thursday, April 13, 2023. (Frank Gunn/CP)

BRAMPTON, Ont. – For the second game in a row, Team Canada avoided a loss after fumbling a regulation win. And in this one, they avoided making some unfortunate history.  

Instead, Canada improved its perfect record against Sweden at the women’s hockey worlds to 11-0 after Thursday evening’s 3-2 overtime win in the quarterfinal round.

Although they advance on to the semifinals now, Canada came frighteningly close to not doing so for the first time in program history after allowing Sweden to put them in such a precarious position. 

Battling back from a two-goal deficit, Sweden tied themselves up with Canada to send the game to overtime. It was an outstanding performance when compared to this exact game at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship.  

Back then, Sweden was shutout 3-0 by Canada in the quarterfinals – but this time around the two teams looked much more evenly matched. Sweden’s strong defence, paired with an incredibly impressive showing from goaltender Emma Soderberg, saw Canada have a much harder time generating goals in this game than the ones leading up to it.  

“I think (Canada) probably got frustrated because they didn’t get the time that they might be used to. We were on them the whole time, didn’t let them do their passes, do their moves,” said Soderberg about her team’s performance. “I think we were able to rise our intensity and our game a lot, where we’re playing more physical, and we know the effort that goes into it.” 

That’s not to say that Canada wasn’t still dominating overall. By game’s end the shots on goal were 54-14 in the Canadian’s favour. It was Sweden’s reluctance to back down that kept them in it from start to finish. 

And it was a true showing of this tournament’s competitiveness, regardless of results. Although many people expect Canada and USA to blow out every single team they play, that’s beginning to be the case less and less.  

Sarah Nurse explained it best post-game.  

“You know, obviously Canada, USA, we’re here, we play, but the other countries are good,” she said. “They’re developing and that’s something that we’ve been trying to preach for years now. … It’s not like this huge divide anymore between Group A and Group B. Things are getting closer and so I think that really everybody needs to put a little respect on the other countries … and not solely focus on Canada and USA.” 

The scoring between Canada-Sweden was first opened by Blayre Turnbull at 8:20 of the first period. Taking a pass from Renata Fast at the blue line in Canada’s end, Turnbull skated past all five of Sweden’s skaters before getting to the net and scoring backhanded on Soderberg.  

The game’s next goal didn’t come until just over 13 minutes into the second. Sarah Nurse, with help from Erin Ambrose and Brianne Jenner, scored in the dying seconds of the team’s power play. While Canada had just taken three back-to-back penalties, Sweden failed to capitalize on any of the man advantages. After some play at four-on-four while Nurse and Sweden’s Hannah Olsson sat in their respective boxes, the former made quick work putting her team up 2-0.  

But not too long after that, Sweden was successful in scoring on their shorthanded opponents. With Turnbull serving a penalty for an illegal hit, Sweden’s Lina Ljungblom got one past Emerance Maschmeyer to cut the Canadians’ lead in half and keep themselves in play. The goal was a big one for the team as it actually marked the first time Sweden has scored on Canada since the 2004 Women’s Worlds. 

Both teams pushed hard for the final 20 minutes – as Canada attempted to add to their lead and Sweden attempted to tie up the game. And just as it looked like Canada would be taking the win no problem, Sweden’s Hilda Svensson, who is just 16 years old, shook everyone watching by successfully putting the game at 2-2 with only 9.2 seconds remaining. While their first goal may have ended a nine-year long dry spell, the second likely meant a whole lot more for Sweden.  

“Obviously you never want to get scored on with 10 seconds of that third period (left) but being able to just take a breather on the bench and just regroup to keep the momentum in overtime – that’s what we did,” said captain Marie-Philip Poulin. 

Feeling the pressure of not advancing on to the semifinals for the first time ever, Canada came out swinging. After holding Sweden shotless and applying nonstop pressure, Nurse played hero. Scoring bardown for her second of the night, Nurse secured the quarterfinal win for her team almost four and a half minutes into overtime.

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“She’s such a good athlete,” said head coach Troy Ryan, complimenting Nurse’s play. “There are people like her, Poulin, Turnbull and some of our (other) top players, it doesn’t matter what type of team we’re playing and what type of game we’re playing. They just bring it all the time.” 

They – and the rest of the Canadian squad – will need to keep bringing it as they continue their quest for the gold medal three-peat on Saturday.  

Elsewhere at the tournament:  

Czechia 2, Finland  

Meeting for the fourth time straight in the quarterfinal round at the Women’s Worlds, Czechia managed to beat Finland for the second year in a row and advance on to the semifinals. Finland’s Viivi Vainikka opened the scoring in the first period, netting her fifth goal at the tournament. Czechia’s Natalie Mlynkova scored five hole on Finnish goaltender Anni Keisala to tie up the game in the second and just 49 seconds later, Katerina Mrazova netted one of her own to give the Czechs the lead.  

While Finland had plenty of powerplay opportunities throughout the game they could not break the Czech penalty kill, which are the only remaining team at the tournament to not give up a goal while shorthanded. Czechia’s Blanka Skodova was also unbreakable, saving 41-of-42 shots on goal. The loss for Finland comes after the team went undefeated in Group B’s preliminary round.

USA 3, Germany 0  

The U.S. will also be moving onto the semifinals, much less surprisingly, after blanking Germany in the second matchup of the day. Although Germany was unable to get on the board against the Americans, holding their powerhouse opponents to just three goals was genuinely quite the accomplishment. Previously, the least goals the Germans had allowed was seven when facing USA.  

“I didn’t think we came out with our best tonight,” Amanda Kessel told media post-game. “We (hadn’t) faced Germany for a while. They play hard; they play structured. And their goaltending was unbelievable. It was a good learning game for us to know that you have to bring your best every shift.”  

Sandra Abstreiter was extremely solid in net for Germany, stopping 49-of-52 shots on goal. The U.S. scored one goal per period, the first coming from Kessel on the power play, the second from Hannah Bilka off a one-timer and the third from Abbey Murphy while shorthanded. USA’s Aerin Frankel recorded her first shoutout of tournament, making 18 saves.

Switzerland 5, Japan 1 

The Swiss were the last team of the day to book their ticket to the semifinals. After beating Japan 4-3 in the preliminary round, Switzerland earned another win over the team just three days later. Japan’s Haruka Toko was the first to strike, scoring after a two-on-one opportunity at the 8:17 mark of the first period, but Switzerland’s Lara Christen was able to tie it up a little over 10 minutes later. The second period then saw the Swiss really get going as Alina Muller, Lara Stalder and Rahel Enzler each scored against Miyuu Masuhara. 

Japan switched netminders after that fourth goal, putting in Riko Kawaguchi for the remainder of the game. The change didn’t help much as Enzler scored her second of the night to extend Switzerland’s lead with a goal on the power play. With a hand in every Switzerland tally, Stalder led the team’s offensive efforts with five points.

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