By Bill Brophy for WCHA.com
While Switzerland advanced to the quarterfinals as the only unbeaten team out of Pool B and Japan won its first game ever in the Winter Olympics, the buzz around Wednesday at the 2018 Games is about the upcoming renewal of women's hockey best rivalry: the United States vs. Canada.
The latest chapter occurs tonight in South Korea, a Valentine Day's matchup that will air at 9:10 p.m. CST on NBCSN. Both teams are unbeaten in Pool A play with 2-0-0 records. Canada has won the last four goal medals at the Olympics. The United States hasn't won gold in 20, but has been the world champion the last four years.
The Valentine's Day showdown has a distinct Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) flavor to it. There are 14 former and current WCHA players on Team USA, and another nine current and WCHA alumnae on Team Canada.
There are nine former Wisconsin players who will compete in the game. Here is a story about their influence on the rivalry:
Both teams are assured of advancing to the semifinals of the tournament and most people expect they will meet again for the gold medal Feb. 22, but Team USA coach Robb Stauber knows there will be pressure tonight: Here is a story on Stauber, a Duluth native and a former Hobey Baker-winning goaltender at Minnesota:
In Pool B play on Wednesday, Switzerland edged Sweden 2-1 in a battle of previously unbeaten teams. Alina Muller scored her Olympic-best sixth goal and Phoebe Staenz had the third period game-winning goal for the Swiss (3-0-0). Florence Schelling, the 2014 Olympic MVP, became the all-time winningest goalie in Olympic history with her ninth victory. A recap of the Sweden (2-1-0) vs. Swiss game is here:
http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/schelling-sets-record-swiss-defeat-sweden In the other Pool B game, Japan beat Korea 4-1 at Kwandong Hockey Centre. It was the first goal ever scored by Korea while Japan, competing in its third Olympics, won its first game. A recap is here: http://pyeongchang2018.iihf.hockey/women/news/cor-jpn/
Both teams now go to this weekend's classification round, where they will be joined by the beaten quarter-finalists in a playdown to determine places 5-8 in this year's tournament. The other Pool A game in the Olympic hockey competition Thursday features Finland (0-2-0) vs. the Olympic Athletes from Russia (0-2-0). It will be played at 1:40 a.m. CST and airs on NBCSN.
The standings for Pool A and Pool B are here: http://pyeongchang2018.iihf.hockey/women/
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 the top two teams qualifying for the elimination round.
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.
So far in Olympic competition, Switzerland's Muller is the top scorer with 9 points (6 goals, 3 assists) and her teammate Christine Meier has six (0-6). Former Minnesota Duluth star and 2016-17 WCHA Player of the Year Lara Stalder (2 goals, 3 assists), along with her Swiss teammate Sara Benz (2-3), each have five points. Team USA's Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, a former North Dakota star, (2-1) and UMD alumna Pernilla Winberg of Sweden (2-1) have three points apiece. Among other WCHA alumnae in the tournament, Sweden's Johanna Fällman, Canada's Haley Irwin, and USA's Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Gigi Marvin, Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi have each scored one goal. Canada's Brigette Lacquette and the United States' Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker each have an assist in the first games, while Maddie Rooney of Team USA and Ann-Renée Desbiens of Canada (a shutout) have posted goaltending victories.
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.
There are 37 current and former WCHA stars who are competing the Winter Games. Sarah Murray, a former athlete at Minnesota Duluth, is the coach of the historic Korean team.
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 WCHA ties.
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