Canada confident, ready for challenge ahead in semifinals of women’s hockey worlds
Despite some close calls, Canada’s confidence hasn’t wavered in its quest for a third straight world title.
The hosts are entering the semifinals of the women’s world hockey championship coming off two tightly-contested wins. Canada earned a 4-3 shootout win over the U.S. in the final preliminary game on Monday, then a 3-2 overtime victory over Sweden in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
“I think we have a lot of confidence in each other as a group and we understand there are going to be ups and downs during games,” star forward Sarah Nurse told The Canadian Press.
“I think that we’ve done an excellent job of managing it and just staying pretty even keel, not getting too high or too low, not letting emotions get the best of us and understanding that there are ebbs and flows of hockey games. And so we want to definitely control the narrative and control how the games play out for us.”
Canada is set to face Switzerland on Saturday in a rematch of the tournament opener, which Canada won 4-0 at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ont.
“The plan was to get through the preliminaries and quarters and get to a semifinal game, so I think the mood’s pretty good,” Canada head coach Troy Ryan said. “Obviously the path is not necessarily the way we planned it, going to overtime in both of those games (U.S. and Sweden).
“I think the one thing that this group is really good at is just putting things into perspective. And I think when you look back at that game (against Sweden), you look at a lot of positives, a lot of good things to build on.”
As far as improvements go heading into Saturday, Ryan pointed to starting the game right and setting up the offensive game better with physical play.
“It’s our mentality on how we approach the game and how we set it up to set ourselves up for success later in the games,” he said. “That Sweden game, we had possession in the majority of the game but we took penalties.
“So generally when you have possession and you’re not drawing penalties, it’s because you’re staying on the perimeter and not getting inside the dots to force teams to take penalties on you. So little things like that.”
Canada’s dominance has been evident most of the way but it hasn’t exactly had the same feel. While Canada has outshot its opponents 242-81, it’s outscored teams 21-6 across six games, having not scored more than five times in an outing to date.
Nurse, however, said external expectations are not aligned with those of the team.
“I don’t think that we came in expecting we were going to dominate the tournament,” she said. “I think that is something that, you know, the media tries to spin on our group, … we understand that there is a journey and there’s a process and there’s a plan that we have to execute.”
Ryan finds the comparisons of where the current group is to that of the 2022 Olympic gold-medal winning team that scored a single-tournament record 57 goals in seven contests to be “funny.”
“A, that’s not realistic, you know? It’s a record for a reason and B, you get that as an end result of being centralized as a group,” he said. “Our group moved to Calgary, you practice every day together, you play 50-plus games together, … so the habits and the details are at a high, they’re at their peak.”
“That’s not completely letting them off the hook and letting us off the hook as a staff, we know, even under the situation that the group is in, we can still be better. … You’re bringing together the group for, you know, four or five days for a pre-comp trying to get them up to speed at the international level the best you can.”
The pressure of getting the job done on home ice, however, is something that the team is taking in stride.
“I think that’s something that as a group is really in our control,” Nurse said. “Obviously being in Canada, it is a bigger deal right now.
“We have a full house of fans every time we play and so we want to put on a show for them every single night. I definitely think it’s a different kind of pressure. We just want to make our country proud and we’re so excited to have the opportunity to do that.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press