IIHF Women's World Championship preview

April 5, 2023
With Canada set to take to the ice to start their three-peat journey against Switzerland at 7 p.m. ET, we have you covered with all the tourney’s need-to-know details.
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🏆 The set up

The highly anticipated annual icy showdown between the world’s best knife shoe wielders is taking place on Canadian soil in Brampton, Ontario.

In terms of the setup, typically, the world’s top 10 teamsranked by the IIHF based on prior World Championship and Olympic performances — are split by skill into two groups of five (the top five teams in group A and the bottom five squads in group B) for the initial round-robin competition.

  • With No. 5 Russia still banned, and last year’s host No. 11 Denmark relegated down a division due to finishing the 2022 tourney in last place, 12th-ranked France is entering the tourney.
  • After the preliminary round (crucial for seeding purposes), every squad in the elite Group A, and the top three from Group B, advance to the single-elimination knockout round.

A key difference between the round robin and knockout stage? If a game is tied after three periods of regulation play, the game moves to three-on-three sudden death overtime (OT).

  • OT is five minutes during the prelims and 10 minutes for the elimination games (outside of the 20-minute gold medal game OT), followed by a shootout. Hello, anxiety.

🏒 The groups

With the format in mind, let’s take a look at the groups. Group A may be stacked with top talent, but with Group B teams facing potential elimination after the round robin, there will be drama to spare.

Group A: In ranking order, Canada, the U.S., Switzerland, Czechia and, for the second year in row, Japan fill out the top tier. The round-robin battle of North America on April 10th will likely be a sneak peek of the gold medal game. That said, keep an eye out for potential upsets by Switzerland or even Czechia — no win is guaranteed.

Group B: Continuing down the list, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Germany and newbie France round out the second tier of competition. Outranking their closest opponent by five places, Finland is the team to beat, and after years of mostly bronze medal finishes, they’re chomping at the bit to improve their hardware.

Now that the big picture’s covered, let’s narrow in on the top three contenders…

🍁 Canada: The defending champs

It feels like just yesterday that storied forward Brianne Jenner notched a pair of beauties to propel Canada to their 12th Women’s World gold with a 2–1 win over the Americans last September. Truly the greatest rivalry. Now, she’ll look to assist her squad to a lucky 13th.

Players to watch: You can’t talk about Canadian hockey without discussing captain Marie-Philip Poulin. She’s netted three Olympic golden goals, recorded countless clutch overtime game-winning goals, and has no intention of slowing down. A hard-working player on and off the ice, the 32-year-old is aging like the finest of wines.

  • Rounding out Canada’s offensive depth are the beloved Sarah Nurse and rising star Sarah Fillier. Their combined play-making ability and scoring prowess make a serious threat.
  • And it’s not just the offensive talent that’s sweet as maple. Goalies Ann-Renée “The Great Wall” Desbiens and Emerance Maschmeyer remain ice cold even in the most heated of situations.

Keys to success: While Canada boasts a stacked roster and has won the last two Worlds titles, the 2022 Olympic gold and the most recent Rivalry Series, they can’t rest on their laurels — Team USA has some serious speed on their side, as well as a growing disdain for silver jewelry.

🦅 Team USA: The runners up

After several years of losing to their arch nemesis, this new-look U.S. squad is refreshed, renewed and ready to change the narrative.

Players to watch: Hilary Knight has been the heart and soul of Team USA for as long as we can remember, with this year marking the forward’s 13th Women’s Worlds appearance — a USA Hockey record. She has dangles for days and never seems to struggle against a Canadian defense. Every team needs a knight in shining sweaty armor.

  • Longtime linemates Amanda Kessel and Alex Carpenter will provide an experienced offensive front, but keep an eye on rising star Taylor Heise (the top player in NCAA D1 women's hockey in 2022), who led the spangled squad in goals at last year’s tourney.
  • As they say, defense wins championships, and the Americans boast one of the world’s best blueliners in Lee Stecklein. With five Worlds golds already hanging on her mantle, she knows what it takes to steer a winning ship.

Keys to success: The biggest challenge for the U.S. will be adjusting to a roster without longtime captain Kendall Coyne Schofield (pregnancy), Hannah Brandt (cut) and 2018 Olympic gold–winning tendy Maddie Rooney (cut). Eek.

  • That said, this new-look squad has one clear advantage: the element of surprise.

🦁 Finland: Always the bronze

Finland’s World Championship story can be summed up as, “Always the consolation game, never the final.”But the team may be ready to build off their controversial 2019 near-success and leapfrog their way to the elusive gold medal and subsequent Group A promotion.

Players to watch: NCAA Minnesota Golden Gopher and two-way threat Nelli Laitinen is poised to dazzle her unassuming competition. In the past year, the 20-year-old defender helped her Lady Lions secure Olympic bronze, and led her Gophers to the Frozen Four. Hear her roar.

  • Also on our radar is formidable longtime tendy Anni Keisala, and forward Emilia Vesa who notched the lone goal in the Finns’ 3–1 pre-tourney loss to Canada last Saturday. Chipping away.

Keys to success: For Finland, this year will only be considered a success if they move beyond the bronze, which likely means usurping either Canada or the U.S. They’ve done it before, but they’ll need to be quick to the puck and consistently firing on all cylinders to get the job done.

📺 How to watch

With support of women’s professional hockey rising, the start of the PWHPA’s new league on the horizon, and the PHF drawing record viewership numbers, this tournament is perfectly timed to #InspireTheNext.

  • Tune in on TSN in Canada and NHL Network in the U.S. and show decision-makers that many people do, in fact, watch the best game you can name.