By Bill Brophy for WCHA.com
Lara Stalder was the player of the year in the Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) last season when she led Minnesota Duluth to a berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament.
Stalder showed the world Saturday she is pretty good on the Olympic stage as well. She had two goals and an assist to help Switzerland blank the host team Korea 8-0, in the historic opening match of the women's ice hockey competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Alina Muller, a 19-year old, had four goals for Switzerland and Florence Shilling, an Olympic veteran, got the start in goal ahead of Janine Alder, who is a sophomore at St. Cloud State, and recorded a shutout before a sellout crowd at Kwandong Hockey Centre. It was the Olympic hockey debut for Korea, which featured players from both North and South Korea on a stage which mixed sports and politics. A recap is here: http://www.nbcolympics.com/Switzerland-Korea-womens-hockey-game-recap
In the other game in Pool B play, Sweden, which features five former WCHA players, edged Japan 2-1. A recap is here: http://www.nbcolympics.com/Sweden-Japan-Womens-hockey-game-recap.
The United States opens round robin play in Pool A against Finland at 1:40 a.m. Sunday while Team Canada plays Russia at 6:10 a.m. Both games will be televised live on NBCSN. The gold medal game is scheduled for Feb. 22.
Team USA Coach Robb Stauber is still mum on who will start in goal in the Olympic opener. Maddie Rooney, a current UMD player, and Alex Risgby, a Wisconsin alumna, are two of his choices. Here is a story on Stauber's goaltending thinking: http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/coach-knows-his-starter-net-us-opener-he-wont-tell.
Group A will feature the top four teams based on the 2016 IIHF World Ranking -- the United States, Canada, Finland and Olympic Athletes from Russia -- with each of them automatically earning a spot in the elimination round. Group B will feature the remaining four teams in the tournament – Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and the unified Korean team -- with only the top two teams qualifying for the elimination round.
The current standings in Pool B have Switzerland 1-0-0, 3 points; Sweden 1-0-0, 3 points; Japan 0-1-0, 0 points and Korea 0-1-0, 0 points.
After each team competes in three preliminary round games, the top two teams in Group A will receive a first-round bye in the medal round -- automatically advancing them to the semifinal round. In the quarterfinal round, the third-place team from Group A will play the second-place team in Group B, while the fourth-place team in Group A plays the top team in Group B. The quarterfinal winners will advance to face the top two teams in Group A, while the two quarterfinal losers will play the bottom two teams in Group B in a classification round that determines places five through eight in the tournament standings.
A schedule of all the women's hockey games at the Olympics is here: https://www.olympic.org/pyeongchang-2018/results/en/ice-hockey/daily-schedule.htm
NBC will broadcast and stream the games live. Erika Lawler, a former U.S. Olympian who played at Wisconsin, and Tessa Bonhomme, the former Ohio State all-American who won a gold medal for Team Canada, are part of NBC's coverage.
Stalder is one of 37 current and former WCHA stars who are competing in the 2018 Games. The full list of WCHA Olympians is below.
Team USA includes 14 former and current WCHA players. Team Canada includes nine former and current WCHA players, while Team Finland has seven, Team Sweden features five WCHA alumnae and Team Switzerland has two players with ties to the league.
Here is the breakdown of WCHA players on the rosters.
* -- denotes that player has eligibility remaining
Goaltenders (2): Alex Rigsby, Wisconsin; *Maddie Rooney, Minnesota Duluth
Defense (4): Monique Lamoureux-Morando, North Dakota; Gigi Marvin, Minnesota; Lee Stecklein, Minnesota; Sidney Morin, Minnesota Duluth
Forwards (8): Hannah Brandt, Minnesota; Dani Cameranesi, Minnesota; Brianna Decker, Wisconsin; Meghan Duggan, Wisconsin; Amanda Kessel, Minnesota Hilary Knight, Wisconsin; Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, North Dakota; *Kelly Pannek, Minnesota
Goaltender (1): Ann-Renée Desbiens, Wisconsin
Defense (3): Brigette Lacquette, Minnesota Duluth; Jocelyne Larocque, Minnesota Duluth; Meaghan Mikkelson, Wisconsin
Forwards (5): *Emily Clark, Wisconsin; Haley Irwin, Minnesota Duluth; Sarah Nurse, Wisconsin; Natalie Spooner, Ohio State; Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin
Goalie (2): Noora Räty, Minnesota; Eveliina Suonpää, Minnesota Duluth
Defense (1): Mira Jalosuo, Minnesota
Forwards (4): Michelle Karvinen, North Dakota; Susanna Tapani, North Dakota; Emma Nuutinen, North Dakota; Minnamari Tuominen, Ohio State
Defense (3): Johanna Fallman, North Dakota; Emilia Andersson Ramboldt, Minnesota State; Annie Svedin, Ohio State
Forwards (2): Maria Lindh, Minnesota Duluth; Pernilla Winberg, Minnesota Duluth
Goalie (1): *Janine Alder, St. Cloud State
Forwards (1): Lara Stalder, Minnesota Duluth