WW: Playoff picture complete

USA, Canada and Finland win Women's preliminary round groups


Host Finland celebrates first place in its World Women's preliminary round group. Photo: HHoF/IIHF Images

United States – Russia 8-0 (1-0, 5-0, 2-0)
HAMEENLINNA, Finland – Paced by five goals in the second period, the United States took first place in Group A with an 8-0 win over Russia.
Molly Engstrom’s penalty in the second period turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for the Americans, as they scored two shorthanded goals in a 29-second span to spark to life. Jenny Potter and Angela Ruggiero scored the key goals that allowed the U.S. pull ahead.
Before the surge, the U.S. was having problems beating Russian goaltender Nadezda Alexandrova. Only Meghan Duggan could get past the Russian wall in the first period, scoring 7:16 into action. Despite spending most of the period in front of the Russian net, the U.S. had to settle for the slim lead until the floodgates opened in the second period.
Ruggiero’s goal seemed to signal things to come as she scored from in front of her own net, firing the puck down ice. After the quirky goal, Kelli Stack and Lisa Chesson added another pair of goals 37 seconds apart to make it a 5-0 lead. Alexandrova was pulled after the fifth goal, but her replacement Irina Gashennikova didn’t fare much better, surrendering the 6-0 goal on the first shot she faced.
The third period was much of the same as the U.S. continued to steadily put in goals.  Gigi Marvin netted a power-play goal and Julie Chu put in her second of the game to bring the final to 8-0.
Chu was the only U.S. player to score twice in the win. U.S. goaltender Molly Schaus earned the shutout, making 13 saves in her first start. The Americans out-scored their opponents 16-0 in their two preliminary round games.
The U.S. now enters the playoff round as the top seed from Group A. The win guarantees the Americans a spot in at least the bronze medal game, and also gives the team two days off before they resume action on April 9. The loss gives Russia a second-place finish in the group. The Russians will also have two days off to prepare for the next round. Canada – Sweden 7-0 (2-0, 1-0, 4-0)
HAMEENLINNA, Finland – Canada took first place in its World Women’s preliminary round group after beating Sweden 7-0 in a highly-anticipated game that didn’t exactly live up to its hype. Canada controlled the pace of the chippy game, out-shooting the Swedes more than two to one.
It was just in November that Sweden earned its first-ever win against Canada at the Four Nations tournament with a 2-1 overtime decision. But Canada eliminated any thoughts of a repeat, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and never looking back.
Caroline Ouellette scored the opening goal 2:22 into action and Carla MacLeod followed with bouncing shot that trickled past Swedish goaltender Sara Grahn. The only offense of the second period came from Colleen Sostorics, who fired in a slap shot from the point on the power-play, giving Canada a 3-0 lead midway through the game.
A pair of Canadians goal coming in the first 3:14 of the third period killed any thoughts Sweden had of staging a comeback. Marie-Philip Poulin scored on a backhander, while Hayley Wickenheiser followed with a shorthanded goal to build a solid 5-0 lead. The Canadians put in another pair of goals to bring the final to 7-0.
While today’s result might be disappointing for Sweden, the nation is icing one of the youngest teams at this year’s championship. Sweden has an entire line, Tina Enstrom, Cecilia Ostberg and Klara Myren, made up of players that were at this year’s World U18 Women’s Championship. In total, the Swedes have six players born 1990 or later. In contrast, Canada’s youngest player at this year’s Worlds was born in 1989.
The three top finishers from the preliminary round will play a round robin, with the top two playing for the gold medal and the third-place finisher going for bronze. Meanwhile, the second-tier group of three will also play a round robin with the winner of the trio skating for the bronze medal.
The playoff round will begin on April 8th after a day off for the entire championship tomorrow. Finland – Switzerland 6-3 (4-1, 1-0, 1-2)
HAMEENLINNA, Finland – Finland became the third and final team to clinch first place in its preliminary round group at this year’s World Women’s after beating Switzerland 6-3. The win completed the preliminary round sweep of the top-seeded teams.
There was no repeat of the preliminary round magic that Switzerland had at last year’s Women’s Worlds, which eventually led to an all-time high fourth-place finish. Instead the Swiss have struggled this year, going winless thus far, and are now headed to the relegation round.
Finland came out fired up and ready to play. Cheered on by a nearly full arena, the Finns jumped out to a three-goal lead in the first period. Saara Tuominen set up the first two Finnish goals, while Jenni Hiirikoski scored third and fourth goals late in the period on the power play. 
Switzerland’s Darcia Leimgruber gave her team a little momentum going into the first break, cutting the lead to 4-1 with a nice top shelf goal. But in the second period, the Swiss failed to capitalize on the momentum shift and instead fell behind further when Nina Tikkinen scored the 5-1 tally with 2:08 left in the period.
Switzerland played its best hockey in the third period scoring two goals and holding up well against the Finnish attack. But unfortunately for the Swiss, it was too little, too late as the hosts had creaated too big of a lead to overcome. Nicole Bullo and Christine Meier scored the Swiss goals in the period, while Tikkinen added her second tally.
The win means that Finland, Canada and the U.S. will face-off for the right to play for the gold medal in the upcoming playoff round, the top two teams from the group will skate for gold, while the third-place team will play for bronze.
Sweden, Russia and surprise Kazakhstan will play in a second round robin to earn the other berth in the bronze medal game, while Switzerland, Japan and China will battle to avoid relegation in a third round robin. Two teams will be relegated for the next World Women’s Championship in 2011 (note: there is no Women’s Championship staged in Olympic years).



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