Women’s worlds 2023 cheat sheet: Breaking down Canada, USA and every other country

BRAMPTON, Ontario — It’s only been seven months since Team Canada won its second-straight world championship in Herning, Denmark. Now, Canada will attempt a title defense — and the Americans will be looking for revenge — as the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship kicks off on Wednesday.

Finland and France will open the tournament at 11 a.m. Eastern, the first of 31 games between April 5 and 16 at the CAA Centre in Brampton.

The Athletic began its tournament coverage with our first-ever women’s hockey anonymous player poll, diving into how the top players in the world feel about the state of the game. And with the tournament about to begin, it’s time for a deep dive into everything you need to know about Team Canada, Team USA and the rest of the 10-team field.

Let’s get into it.

The Groups

Group AGroup B



United States








The Schedule 

Each team will play four round-robin matches within their group before the knockout stages begin on April 13 with the quarterfinals. Team Canada and Team USA will open the tournament on Wednesday, April 5 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively. (Note that all Canada games during group play will start at 7 p.m. Eastern). 

The top two teams in the world will face off in a Canada-USA rivalry game on Monday, April 10 to close out each team’s preliminary round. All four quarterfinal games are scheduled for April 13. The two semifinals are set for April 15. The tournament will finish with the bronze and gold medal games on April 16. The full schedule can be found here.

All 31 games will be broadcast on TSN in Canada. NHL Network will carry all U.S. games in the tournament.


World ranking: 1

Canada is going to be hard to beat.

They have an experienced roster that has largely remained intact through the last few golden years (2021 worlds, 2022 Olympics and 2022 worlds) and the kind of depth of talent that no team can match up against on paper. Here’s one example: Each line on Team Canada has two natural centers — one that can shoot left, and another that can shoot right. Everyone on the team has won a gold medal at this level, except for Danielle Serdachny, who will make her senior international debut.

“They have an understanding of what it takes to win and they’ve been part of the build of our success here over the last couple years so there is an incredible desire to continue to move forward and improve,” Gina Kingsbury said in an interview with The Athletic. “We’re confident with the group that we have.”

Marie-Philip Poulin is still the best player in the world and (somehow) continues to get better. Other core pieces like Sarah Nurse, Brianne Jenner, Sarah Fillier and Renata Fast remain at the top of their game. Rebecca Johnston and Claire Thompson are back after missing last year’s tournament. So is Natalie Spooner — who gave birth on Dec. 6 and made a quick comeback to the elite level. They have a ton of depth, experience and some good young players as well.

And they’re working at improving their style of play to combine the record-breaking offense from Beijing with their gritty defensive style from Denmark.

“We’ve looked at what it would look like if we merged that. If we could be offensive but still physical and still stingy,” said head coach Troy Ryan. “If we can get a bit of both, we’d be pretty dangerous.”

Player(s) to watch: Blayre Turnbull, Laura Stacey and Emily Clark

Instead of one player, we’re going to feature Canada’s “third line” of Clark, Turnbull and Stacey. They’ve been one of the most consistently impactful lines for Team Canada throughout the season and are going to be a critical piece of the team’s gold medal push.

This trio is physical, they have great chemistry, and they can match up against any line in the world — and they’ve recently added more of an offensive touch, making them really hard to play against.

“They’re awesome,” said Ryan. “If things aren’t going well with us, the first thing I ask myself as a coach is: Have we established a forecheck? If we don’t, I know what line to put out. And If I put that line out we know they’re going to play a certain way no matter who they’re playing against or what the game is.

“The way our team is trying to go, that line thrives because they’re naturally physical, they’re naturally defensive, but now they’re opening up a bit to think offensively.”

Turnbull has long been a valuable player for Canada. Erin Ambrose described her as “every coach’s dream” on an episode of The Athletic Hockey Show. She also added that Stacey is playing the best hockey of her career: “She was a pain in the ass to play against all year,” Ambrose said. Clark, meanwhile, is coming off an excellent season in the PWHPA where she scored 23 points in 20 games. Only Poulin had more.

Women’s worlds 2023 cheat sheet: Breaking down Canada, USA and every other country

Danielle Serdachny. (Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)

Player to meet: Danielle Serdachny

Serdachny is coming off a career year at Colgate, where she led the nation in scoring with 70 points in 29 games and was a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. Serdachny made her senior team debut at the Rivalry Series and scored the OT winner against Team USA in Game 5 for her first goal with the team. She’s a versatile forward and a natural center who has shifted over to the wing with Team Canada. She was used in all situations at Colgate and should have a fine transition to the top level due to her strengths on both sides of the puck.

“You often see a lot of very talented athletes in the college game that struggle making our national team and often it comes because the defensive side of the game isn’t as mature and developed as their offensive abilities,” Kingsbury said. “When you play the Americans you have to be able to play a two-way game to defend them as much as attack and Danielle brings those dimensions.”

Because of her 200-foot game, Serdachny has the ability to scale the lineup, depending on which players are available to play. For example, if Natalie Spooner needs a day off as she works her way back postpartum, Serdachny can slide in beside Sarah Nurse and Sarah Fillier on the second line. If Spooner is in the lineup, Serdachny can easily slide down to the fourth line with Emma Maltais and Kristin O’Neill.

United States

World ranking: 2

Team USA is in an unfamiliar position heading into this tournament. They’ve lost three straight major tournament gold medals to Team Canada, including back-to-back world championships. That hasn’t happened in nearly two decades, not since Canada’s dominant run of eight-straight world titles from 1990 to 2004.

And now their roster has been shaken up, with five players making their world championship debut and five familiar faces — Maddie Rooney, Grace Zumwinkle, Jincy Dunne, Jesse Compher and Hannah Brandt — cut from the team. Kendall Coyne Schofield also won’t be at the tournament after announcing she is pregnant with her first child. Zoom out a little bit more and gone are several reliable players — like Kacey Bellamy, Brianna Decker, and Meghan Duggan — from the Americans’ dominant years.

To be clear, there are still impact players on Team USA. Hilary Knight isn’t going anywhere. Amanda Kessel was one of the best forwards at last year’s tournament. Their blue line is deep with Lee Stecklein, Megan Kellar, Cayla Barnes, Savannah Harmon and Caroline Harvey. Abby Roque and Abbey Murphy are going to be a pain to play against, and Taylor Heise and Hannah Bilka will look to follow up on their excellent debuts last year.

There are also several unknown assets at this level — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“We’re in an evolving stage, and that’s indicated in the roster,” head coach John Wroblewski told The Athletic. “It’s exciting, it gives a lot of hope to a lot of different individuals within the federation and ultimately it’s going to give us a number of options. Each one of those players we selected went out and earned it, whether through their college careers and into the tryout camp or as established veterans that haven’t relinquished roles.”

As for the selection process — and some of the players who were cut — Wroblewski said he and his staff went as deep as they could into analytics, video review and player evaluation before moving on from a veteran player in favor of a younger one. One focal point of the tryout camp was tracking players’ scoring chances and their ability to tilt the ice in their favor and win their matchups.

“These young players came in and had the reputation and then scored in a position to take jobs,” Wroblewski said. “That is what we need as a federation right now, and kudos to the young contingent of players that came in and were ready for that opportunity.”

They were tough decisions for the coaching staff to make — Wroblewski said that selection day “was one of the toughest days that I’ve had in this profession” — but it was a choice between sending out the same roster that wasn’t good enough for the last three tournaments, or making some changes.

Aerin Frankel. (Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)

Player to watch: Aerin Frankel

The goalie position for Team USA is one that needs some solidification. Initially, I wondered if cutting Rooney was a sign that Nicole Hensley was the new No. 1. But why not Aerin Frankel?

It wasn’t long ago that she was the very best goalie in the NCAA, winning the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2020-21 and setting a new collegiate record for the best single-season save percentage (.965 to beat Ann-Renée Desbiens’ previous mark of .963). That year, she only allowed 0.81 goals against per game and lost just two games, including a 2-1 overtime loss in the national championship game.

With the national team, though, Frankel has mostly been the No. 3 goalie behind Hensley and Rooney. Hensley’s numbers at the Rivalry Series were just OK, while Frankel looked solid in the games she got in and posted the best save percentage and goals-against average among starters in the PWHPA this season.

Frankel has been a commodity that Team USA hasn’t really tapped into yet, and I wonder if that changes this year.

Player to meet: Tessa Janecke

It’s easy to be excited about what Janecke can bring to Team USA.

She broke every freshman program record at Penn State this season including single-season points (47), assists (25) and goals (22). Janecke is a natural center, but given the depth up the middle on Team USA, was moved to the wing to have an easier path at cracking the roster — and she did just that.

From Day 1 of training camp, Janecke was all over the puck. She has excellent breakaway speed, can facilitate on the wall, has a great shot and is an “exceptional playmaker,” according to Wroblewski.

“There’s a lot of versatility there,” he said. “I’m very optimistic for her future.”

What you need to know about the rest of the field


World ranking: 3

Finland will play in Group B at this year’s tournament after finishing sixth at the worlds last year, which means they will have a tough path back to the podium.

To get to a quarterfinal matchup, Finland will need to finish in the top two of Group B, and will face one of the top-seeded teams in the tournament. The team looks much improved from last year though, and played a very good tune-up game against Canada on Saturday.

“Canada is the best team and we played them really well and only lost 3-1,” said Petra Nieminen after the game. “We know we can score more and now we have really good confidence heading into our group B games.”

Finland’s roster is young, with 18 players under 25, and there will be some changes at the top of the lineup without Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani. But they had an excellent season in Europe, racking up 12 wins against Czechia, Germany and Sweden and winning the Five Nations tournament in Germany. The team still has plenty of depth and talent, too.

Jenni Hiirikoski will play in her 15th world championship. Nelli Laitinen is a breakout candidate after a strong freshman year at the University of Minnesota. Nieminen is scoring at a consistent clip. Noora Tulus and Ronja Savolienen have been solid. And goalie Anni Keisala can steal games.

“No matter what happened last (year), this team is ready to go and eager to fight for the team,” said coach Juuso Toivola.  “I don’t have to motivate them to play our way back to pool A. It’s crystal clear.”

Player to watch: Petra Nieminen

Nieminen is a dangerous goal scorer and just led the Swedish women’s hockey league with 30 goals in 32 games en route to another SDHL championship with Luleå. She’s only 23 but has already been to two Olympics and six world championships. Nieminen is growing into a leader — on and off the ice — and will be the new engine for Finland’s offense without Karvinen and Tapani.


World ranking: 4

Switzerland has been a top-five team for the last five years, but they haven’t been able to reach the podium at the worlds since 2012. Is this the year they finally get over the hump?

They made it to the bronze medal game at the last Olympics and worlds in 2021 and 2022. Last year against Czechia, the Swiss only dressed 17 players in the bronze medal game due to COVID and injuries to key players. Switzerland has no shortage of talent on its roster, with forwards like Lara Stadler, Alina Müller and goalie Andrea Brändli. If they can stay healthy, Switzerland should have another chance at winning a medal.

Player to watch: Alina Müller

Müller has had a difficult few years at the international level. She was injured against the Russian Olympic Committee at the 2021 worlds, looked excellent during the Olympics, and then got COVID during the 2022 tournament, only playing in three games.

She’s healthy now and coming off another stellar NCAA season with 27 goals and 60 points in 38 games at Northeastern. She was named a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, was a top-10 finalist in all five of her seasons and led her team to the Final Four for the third straight year.

She’s highly skilled with great hands, and a quick shot and is likely motivated by her disappointing 2022 tournament. If Switzerland is going to pull off an upset, it will be Müller leading the way.


World ranking: 6

This team has been a lot of fun to watch over the last few years. They have a ton of speed and offensive talent at the top of the lineup and have torn up Group B. The team broke through last year with a bronze medal finish — their first-ever medal at a women’s worlds — and will now play in Group A for the first time. This will be a new test for Czechia. Can they continue to improve and stay on the podium? I’m not 100 percent certain. Klára Peslarová, Czechia’s No. 1 goalie, was not named to the tournament roster, which could be an issue. The fight for the No. 3, 4 and 5 spots in the world has been highly entertaining, and this year should be no different.

Player to watch: Tereza Vanišová

Vanišová was the overtime hero for the Toronto Six in the Isobel Cup finals in March, with an excellent defensive effort to pick the puck off an opponent and the hands to finish it off.

She’s been an important piece of the team for years and led the team in scoring at the Beijing Olympics. She scored two goals in two games during Czechia’s pre-tournament games in February and looks to be in solid form heading into the tournament.


World ranking: 7

Japan played in Group A for the first time at last year’s tournament and struggled against higher-octane offenses. They lost all four games and were outscored 31-4. Despite their issues in pool play, Japan beat Finland in the fifth-place game. Since they’re in Group A, Japan will automatically qualify for the quarterfinals, so the goal will be to stay competitive and try to stick in the top group for 2023.

Player to watch: Akane Shiga

Shiga either scored or assisted all four goals Japan scored during pool play last year. She also became the first Japanese player ever to score against Team USA during the 2021 worlds in Calgary.


World ranking: 8

It’s been nice to see Sweden back in the mix at the elite level after a massive backslide from their silver medal at the 2006 Olympics ended in relegation. The women’s game is better when teams like Sweden and Finland are pushing Canada and the U.S. They’re still working their way up, but young faces like Hilda Svensson and Mira Jungåker from the silver-medal-winning U18 team should give Sweden a boost in the short and long term.

Player to watch: Hanna Olsson

Initially, I was going to highlight Svensson after her impressive display at U18 worlds, but it’s hard to deny Olsson. The 24-year-old forward scored five goals at worlds last year — only two fewer than the tournament leader Taylor Heise — and was named a Top 3 player on the Swedish team. With Frölunda HC, her pro team in Sweden, Olsson scored 37 goals and 106 points in 19 games, ranking second league-wide. Olsson has a knack for scoring, and Sweden will need it if they want to move back into the top group.


World ranking: 9

The Hungarian team has been on the rise over the last five years, making its way out of the lower divisions at worlds and into the top tier for three straight years. The team is coming off its best-ever performance at the worlds in 2022 — an eighth-place finish — and a second-place finish at the Five Nations tournament in Budapest.

Player to watch: Fanni Garát Gasparics

Garát Gasparics is the most talented scorer on the Hungarian team. She had a bit of a down tournament at the 2022 worlds but is coming off a strong season in the Premier Hockey Federation with the Metropolitan Riveters, where she represented Team World at the All-Star Game. She’s a strong skater with a quick release and led her team in scoring during pre-tournament games with five goals in five games.


World ranking: 10

Germany had a difficult Five Nations Tournament in February, finishing fifth with zero wins while getting outscored 14-3. They narrowly avoided relegation at last year’s tournament but were saved by a goal from Tanja Eisenschmid with 0.1 seconds left in their final game against Denmark, and could be in tough without Eisenschmid’s production on the backend.

Player to watch: Nina Jobst-Smith

Jobst-Smith is a Canadian-German defender who is coming off a career year with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. There is going to be a major hole on the blue line with Eisenschmid not on the roster. Look for a young player like Jobst-Smith to try to step up in her absence.


World ranking: 12

France will play in the top division of the worlds for just the second time after winning the Division 1A tournament last year. The first time France played at the top level was in 2019, finishing last. The goal will be to stick around at the top level for more than one tournament.

Player to watch: Chloé Aurard

Aurard had a career year as a senior at Northeastern with 54 points to finish third in scoring on the No. 4 team in the NCAA. She’s been on the French national team since 2014 and was its top scorer in 2019. She was a critical piece in the team’s promotion, too, scoring four goals and eight points in four games to win Division 1A in 2022.

(Photo of Hannah Bilka, Micah Zandee-Hart and Marie-Philip Poulin during the 2022 women’s worlds gold medal match: Bo AMSTRUP / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP via Getty Images)

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *