It’s an unusually tight Group A line-up as the first phase comes to an end in Dmitrov – but Canada is refusing to worry about the prospect of playing a QF.
After two games for each team in Group A, every nation has a chance of progressing directly to a semi-final tie – and every nation is in danger of going into the quarter-final stage. The surprise results of Saturday’s games, when Russia beat Canada and Sweden took the USA to overtime, means that when the North American nations face-off on Tuesday, they will play for a semi-final spot. That’s a big change – usually this match-up is about securing a psychological advantage ahead of the medal games, but this time the loser could well face its first quarter-final engagement under the current tournament format.
Canada is currently in greatest peril. After losing to Russia on Saturday, anything less than a regulation-time victory over the USA would – at best – leave the team dependent on Sweden getting some kind of result against Russia.
From the outside, that makes Tuesday’s North American summit a rather different affair. But within the Canadian camp, the message is ‘business as usual’.
Head coach Delaney Collins was very clear in her assessment of the situation. “That will not change the way we approach the game at all,” she said. “We’re going to play to win, we’re going to focus on our game and be competitive and do our best.
“By no means are we looking beyond that game. We know we want to get better and better as the tournament goes on, so we need to build on this win against Sweden and get ready for the Americans.”
And there are no fears about potentially becoming the first Canadian team to miss out on a top-two finish in the group phase of this tournament.
“If, by chance, we ended up playing in a quarter final, it would be what it is. We would approach it just like any other game, with our best foot forward ready to compete and play our style of hockey.
“If we don’t need to play a quarter-final, we will have the exact same outlook. It is what it is, and I don’t think our girls are are thinking too much about it. They are just thinking about having success going forward.”
That message was echoed by Courtney Kollman, who celebrated her first World Championship goal for Canada during Sunday’s 4-0 victory over Sweden.
“I think we’re just going to go in there and play our hardest like we do every game for our team and our country,” she said. “We’ll stick to our strategies and worry about ourselves and playing our game.”
For Team USA, the equation is simple. Anything better than a loss in regulation guarantees a place in the semi-finals. But regulation time wins for Canada and Russia would push the Americans down to third and into a quarter-final.
Russia, currently second by virtue of the head-to-head advantage over Canada, will go the semi-finals with a regulation-time win over Sweden. If the host nation goes to overtime, it must at least match Canada’s result from the afternoon game, while a regulation-time loss would force the Russians into a quarter-final.
Canada will avoid the QF with a regulation victory over the USA. Otherwise, the Canadians will have to hope to better Russia’s result against Sweden.
Sweden can only reach the semi-finals by beating Russia in regulation and hoping that the USA does the same to Canada.
The picture in Group B is already clearer. Finland, with two wins from two, is certain of a quarter-final. Switzerland, beaten in both its games, must prepare for the relegation round. The Czech Republic will join Finland in the QF if it gets any sort of victory against the Finns on Tuesday. A Finnish win, though, could open the door for Germany to take second place in the group by defeating Switzerland and pushing the Czechs into the relegation round.