Hockey

Canada blanks Sweden at women's hockey worlds to set up semifinal date with Swiss

Sarah Potomak had a goal and an assist to lead Canada to a 3-0 win over Sweden in a women's world hockey championship quarter-final Thursday.

Knight passes Canada's Wickenheiser for most all-time points at world championships

Canada celebrates Jocelyne Larocque's (3) goal in a 3-0 quarter-finals win over Sweden in the women's hockey worlds in Herning, Denmark, on Thursday. (Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix via The Associated Press)

Canada outlasted a tenacious goaltender to take another step toward defending its women's world hockey title.

Sarah Potomak's highlight-reel goal in the second period and her assist on Erin Ambrose's third-period goal helped seal a 3-0 quarter-final win Thursday over Sweden.

Veteran defender Jocelyne Larocque scored her first world championship goal in her 10th appearance in the tournament, while goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens posted a nine-save shutout.

Emma Soderberg, who tends the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs' net, was a workhorse in Sweden's net with 54 saves.

"It was a test of our patience, but also a test of our discipline," Canadian assistant captain Blayre Turnbull said. "It's really easy in games like that to become very individual and try to solve the problem by yourself and stray away from our team systems.

"I'm really proud of our group that we stuck to our game plan despite not having the offensive success that we wanted to have."

WATCH | Potomak scores a beauty:

Sarah Potomak scores a beauty as Canada advances to world championship semifinals

3 months ago
Duration 1:02
Sarah Potomak's individual effort highlighted Canada's 3-0 win over Sweden, as they advanced to the IIHF women's world championship semifinals in Denmark,

Canada meets beleaguered Switzerland in a semifinal Saturday with the victor advancing to Sunday's gold-medal game in Herning, Denmark.

Minus captain Lara Stalder and top scorer Alina Mueller because of COVID-19, as well as two other injured players, the Swiss eked a 2-1 shootout win out over Japan in their quarter-final.

The Czech Republic, coached by former Canadian defender Carla MacLeod, posted the upset of the tournament so far and reached the semifinals for the first time with a 2-1 overtime win over Finland.

The U.S. had an easier time in their 12-1 quarter-final win over Hungary to face the Czechs on Saturday.

Soderberg stellar in defeat

Canada and Sweden met in a world championship game for the first time since 2009, although the Canadians beat the Swedes 11-0 in an Olympic quarter-final in February.

Soderberg gave up nine goals over two periods in Beijing before she was pulled, but she gobbled up the puck Thursday.

"I think we came out a lot stronger. I feel like I came out better than I did in Beijing too," Soderberg said. "We didn't let them do whatever they wanted.

"I was able to stay a lot calmer. I think I wanted to do a little bit too much in the Canada game in Beijing. That kind of punished me and us."

Sweden, the 2006 Olympic silver medallist, was relegated in the 2019 world championship.

The national team then boycotted international competition in protest over compensation and other competitive issues. The dispute with Sweden's federation was resolved later that year.

Replacement for Russia

The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated second-tier world championships for Sweden to gain promotion, but the world No. 8 replaced Russia in this year's 10-country tournament.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has barred Russia from tournaments because of that country's invasion of Ukraine.

"We got here under bad circumstances of course, but we hadn't had the opportunity to qualify for the top-tier world yet," Soderberg said.

"This is where we want to be. This is where our program should be. How we're playing in this tournament is a big step forward."

Canada generated sustained pressure in Sweden's end for long stretches of the first and second periods, but Soderberg helped limit the Canadians to a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.

"She's a phenomenal goalie. She moves really well," Larocque said. "She made some huge saves. It was a test for us to stick to the game plan and do the little things right. I think it's good. We had to play some really good hockey and keep pressure on them.

"We'll be able to take a lot from, I'd say, the second half of the that game moving to the semis."

Canada's line juggling continues

Canadian head coach Troy Ryan continued his line juggling from the previous day's practice, most notably shifting Victoria Bach into a trio alongside Marie-Philip Poulin and Brianne Jenner, and Sarah Nurse getting ice time with Sarah Fillier and Emily Clark.

"I don't think there are any natural fits," Ryan observed. "It's not like we loved any of the changes. We told them when we made those changes that we'll keep changing and trying to find something that fits, until there's no more games to be honest."

Ambrose threaded a shot from the point over Soderberg's shoulder at 13:10 of the third period.

Three power-play chances in the first 10 minutes of the second didn't yield a goal for Canada, which went 0-for-8 overall, but Potomak scored with a highlight-reel even-strength effort.

She scraped the puck off the neutral-zone boards, and then sliced by Swedish defender Maja Persson Nylen going backhand to forehand to solve Soderberg at 13:56 of the second period.

"It was a beautiful goal and that's something we've all seen from her before," Turnbull said. "It was great for her to get on the scoreboard that way and it was very timely."

Outshot 14-1 in the first period, the Swedes held Canada scoreless until 17:11 when Renata Fast, below the goal-line, fed Larocque out front for a successful wrist shot top shelf.

Knight enters record books

U.S. forward Hilary Knight set a record for all-time career points in the women's world hockey championship Thursday, and she's not done adding to it.

Knight's goal and assist in a 12-1 quarter-final win over Hungary gave her 87 points to surpass Canadian forward Hayley Wickenheiser's previous mark of 86.

"I understand how big an accolade it is, so all I can say is it's really an honour," Knight said.

"I'd be remiss if I didn't mention I play with the best players in the world night in and night out when we suit up for the U.S. team. To be able to play with other individuals, and the creativity and competitiveness, it keeps you going."

The 33-year-old from Sun Valley, Idaho, added to her all-time tournament goal-scoring record with her career 51st.

Knight broke that record previously held by former U.S. captain Cammi Granato (44) during last year's world championship in Calgary.

After what appeared to be a record-clinching second assist of the second period, Knight was mobbed by her teammates near the U.S. bench in celebration.

Scorers eventually assigned one of her assists to a teammate later in the game, but Knight's goal early in the third period ensured the record was hers.

Knight was presented with a plaque and a commemorative jersey post-game.

A tribute video was also shown on the arena's video screen at centre ice.

"What Hilary Knight means on and off the ice for the game of hockey is indescribable. This milestone is just another part of that," U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield said.

"You want to talk about the number. The one thing you don't see is the consistency of work that Hilary Knight puts in day in and day out away from this tournament on her own, just the grind.

"There's a reason she's able to do what she's doing at this age and this level in her 12th tournament. I know there's a lot of hockey left in number 21."

Knight's family on hand to witness record

Knight's parents and brother in Herning, Denmark, to witness her history-making game meant a lot to Knight because the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented them from attending what little competition there was over the last two years.

"We haven't had family at tournaments for a really long time," Knight said.

"You kind of take it for granted that your family's always going to be there. To have an experience where they're not such as the Olympics and the world championships before, this one meant more just because they were there."

She's won seven world championships and an Olympic gold medal in 2018 during her 16-year career with the U.S. women.
Hilary Knight of the United States (21) in action during a 12-1 quarter-final win over Hungary in Denmark on Thursday, where she broke the record for most all-time points in women's worlds history. (Bo Amstrup, Ritzau Scanpix/The Associated Press)

Knight has four goals and three assists in five games for unbeaten U.S. heading into Saturday's semifinals.

"We're mid-tournament right, so you have to focus on that," Knight said. "At the end of the day, we want to win another world championship."

In good company

She passed two Hockey Hall of Famers on the all-time points list during the tournament as Canada's Jayna Hefford ranked second with 83.

Wickenheiser appeared in 13 world championship and Hefford in 12.

"They're tremendous for the sport. Pioneers," Knight said.

"I remember vividly Wickenheiser hopping over our blue-line and just sniping top shelf in one of the tournaments and thinking 'who is that? I want to be just like that,' but the American version, right?"

Knight counts her overtime goal to win the 2017 world championship in Plymouth, Mich., among her career highlights.

The host team had threatened to boycott its own tournament in an effort to gain more financial and competitive support from USA Hockey.

"Just what we accomplished off ice, on ice, it was sort of that Disney book ending to it to the tournament," Knight said.

"That was a special one. Blocking a shot, kicking it to Kendall, Kendall driving and creating space for me. I could fill in that nice pocket and to beat a great goaltender, that always feels good."

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