The 2019 Women’s World Championships got under way this week in Espoo, Finland. The tournament will run from the 4th–14th April. It makes history as the first tournament to contain 10 teams.

Group A consists of Canada, USA, Finland, Russia and Switzerland.

Group B consists of Sweden, Japan, Germany, France and Czech Republic.

This tournament has been dominated by Canada and the USA since its inception in 1990. Canada has won gold 10 times whilst the USA has won the other eight. The last running of the tournament in 2017 featured a thrilling gold medal game. A game that saw the USA beating Canada 3-2 in overtime.

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This will be a showcase event that will be coming at the right time for the women’s game. The CWHL recently announced that it ceased operations, effective May 1st. This leaves many of the stars in this World Championships with uncertainty as to where they will be playing hockey next season. For those players, the tournament should allow them to get back to what they do best and give them a temporary respite from the upsetting news.

Format

The group stages consist of two, tiered, five-team groups who will compete in a round robin format, followed by the knockout stages, consisting of all five teams from Group A and the top three teams from Group B. The bottom two teams in Group B will be relegated to Division 1 Group A.

The tournament will use the three point System for the group games, which consists of:

  • 3 points for a regulation win
  • 1 point for each team if the game is tied after regulation
  • An additional 1 point for the overtime/shootout winner
  • 0 points for a regulation loss

Marie-Philip Poulin

One of the major storylines heading into this year’s tournament was concerning the health of Marie-Philip Poulin. Arguably the best player in the world, Poulin was forced to miss the Clarkson Cup final and was recently listed as “day-to-day”.

Should Poulin be unable to play, it would be a massive blow to Team Canada’s hopes at regaining the gold medal. With very little to split the Canadian and USA teams, losing a player of Poulin’s quality could swing the balance back in favor of team USA.

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There has been some good news on the injury front for Canada. It looks almost certain that star goalie Shannon Szabados will be fit enough to play. Szabados missed the Isobel Cup final with a lower-body injury, but reports appear to be very positive and she should play.

Players to Watch

Team Canada arrives in Finland with an experienced roster full of the biggest names in women’s hockey. But it is one of the newer players, Loren Gabel, who will be one to watch. The reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner dominated NCAA hockey this season at Clarkson University, putting up 69 points in just 38 games. She makes things happen every shift she is on the ice and will look to make an impact for Canada in her first major International tournament.

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For the USA, it will be interesting to see how Hayley Scamurra fares in her first major international tournament. The leading points scorer in the NWHL this season had a breakout season and was rightfully rewarded with a place in the USA squad. She is a dynamic forward who can play in all three zones and will provide a major scoring depth for the USA.

Buffalo Beauts v. Metropolitan Riveters January 12th 2019 (Photo by Troy Parla)

The Best of the Rest

Finland has a fascinating World Championship debutante in the form of Elisa Holopainen. The 17-year old has been utterly dominant in Liiga this season. She put up 51 points in just 20 regulation games whilst also tallying 15 points in 8 playoff games. She was named Best Forward at the U18 Women’s Worlds. The Finns will be hoping this form translates to the senior level.

From the new teams playing in the tournament for the first time, Chloe Aurard of Team France is the standout player. She had a fantastic year at Northeastern University, putting up 31 points in 35 games on a good team. A team that won the National Championship. She should be the main scoring threat for France as they look to try and qualify for the knockout stage.

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Predictions

It again looks a given that the gold medal game will consist of Canada vs USA. If the Rivalry Series is anything to go by, this will be an extremely close affair. I think the USA may just have the edge so I will take them to win gold, with Canada taking home silver.

The race for the bronze medal will be fascinating, with the best of the rest closely matched. Russia will be looking to go one better than their 4th place finish in the Olympics, while Germany and Switzerland will also hope to be in the mix. But for me, I think Finland will just do enough to come away with the bronze medal on their home ice.

Let us know your thoughts!

Feature Image Credit : Photo by Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images