WWHC Takeaways: Canada showcases depth in win over Swiss, setting up final with U.S.

Canada's Kristin O'Neill, left, celebrates during the IIHF World Championship Woman's hockey semi-final match between Canada and Switzerland in Herning, Denmark, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

After winning gold at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship, Marie-Philip Poulin and Team Canada are one win away from defending their title.

Canada cruised past Switzerland in Saturday’s semifinal, winning 8-1 to book itsticket to Sunday’s final. Canada also outshot the Swiss 56-6, with Canadian netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens making five saves in the win.

This will be Canada’s second consecutive year playing for gold, and the 19th time in 20 tournament appearances. Every time Canada has suited up in the final, it has faced the same opponent — Team USA — and this year is no different, the rival nations once again on a collision course for gold all tournament long (Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT). The Americans did their part to make this matchup happen, easily handling Czechia earlier on Saturday to book their ticket to the final.

Here’s a collection of takeaways from Canada’s dominant victory against the Swiss on Saturday, setting the stage for another edition of the sport’s best rivalry.

Poulin leads the way (again)

Poulin came away from Saturday’s big win with a pair of goals and a helper, earning a nod as Canada’s player of the game in the process.

Her goals came just four minutes apart early in the third frame– her first markers since Canada’s high-scoring win over Japan in round-robin play. Poulin was held goalless against Team USA in their first meeting and against Sweden on Thursday, too, and while a two-game absence from the goals column can hardly be considered a drought, it’s a good sign for Canada that its clutch captain is certainly looking ready for more.

Ryan’s line-shuffling has Canada’s depth on display

You can’t talk about Team USA’s scoring attack at this year’s tournament without praising its depth. Canada saw what that deep group of goal-scorers is capable of when the rivals went head-to-head to conclude preliminary play last week, and if the Canadians are to leave Denmark with golden hardware, they’ll have to find a way to match it.

With a trio of prominent forwards — Melodie Daoust, Natalie Spooner and Rebecca Johnston — not on this year’s roster, Canadian head coach Troy Ryan has been shuffling his lineup throughout much of the tournament in search of a scoring spark and de did so again Saturday.

Eight goals against the Swiss tells us he may have found the formula. All four forward lines registered at least one goal on Saturday, with the bottom-six — if you can really call them that — getting on the scoresheet first with a pair of first-period goals.

Kristin O’Neill was the first to light the lamp, and in doing so celebrated her first goal at this tournament. O’Neill, Jessie Eldridge, Victoria Bach and Sarah Potomak, most notably, have really proven instrumental to Canada’s success at this tournament having been placed up and down the lineup and rising to their roles each time.

In all, seven Canadians registered goals on Saturday: Poulin (two), Sarah Fillier, Eldridge, O’Neill, Sarah Nurse, Emily Clark and Brianne Jenner.

Potomak makes her mark on top line

Potomak, in particular, has been a great story of this tournament. After making the team for the first time since 2017, the 24-year-old has made the most of her return to the international stage. In the elimination round, she’s been getting better each game.

Potomak started Thursday’s quarterfinal against Sweden as Canada’s 13th forward, but her limited ice time didn’t stop her from scoring on a stunning individual effort. Her performance was rewarded Saturday when she was given top-line billing alongside Poulin and Jenner against Switzerland. There, she brought the perfect combination of grit and playmaking to complement her veteran linemates and assisted on both of Poulin’s goals.

As we’ve seen throughout the tournament, Ryan hasn’t stuck with one lineup for long so it’ll be interesting if this Potomak-Poulin-Jenner trio sticks on Sunday.

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