A beginner’s guide to women’s ice hockey at the 2022 Olympics

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Ice hockey expert Alyssa Longmuir gives us all the info on how to watch these Games and who to look for on the ice.

Image: IIHF/Matt Zambonin

The Olympics always offer a plethora of new sports to experience, teams to get involved in, and storylines to follow. In Australia specifically, the Winter Games provide an opportunity to experience sports outside of our usual weekend viewing experiences. Between competitive sweeping (curling), seemingly impossible flips (ski jumping) and those resembling death-defying stunts (skeleton), one sport fills the void left by team sports like football, basketball -ball and water polo in the Summer Olympics.

Step into ice hockey, with more than twice the speed of football, Aussie rules levels of physical contact, sticks to kick opponents with only result in a two-minute timeout, and goalkeepers virtually strapped down with pillows trying to stop an 8cm wide circle of ice. rubber heading their way at over 100km/h, ice hockey is definitely a new experience for most Australians.

With the knockout stage starting tomorrow, this guide serves as an introduction to the sport, teams and players to keep an eye on at the Games so you can impress all of your colleagues with your newfound ice hockey knowledge.

Hockey (The frozen version)

At first glance, the rules of ice hockey are quite similar to those of most projectile-based team sports. That is, we watch two teams attempt to place an object (in this case, a frozen rubber disc called the puck) in a designated area (in this case, the net) to receive a point. Where hockey differs is largely in its substitution rules. A team of 21 skaters and two goaltenders is signed up for a given game and each of these players can be traded at will, at any time. Skaters in particular trade every 30 to 40 seconds, with most skaters participating in up to 40 “changes” throughout a game.

The on-ice team is usually made up of a goalie and five skaters – three attackers who are grouped together in a “one line” and two defenders who are grouped together in a “pair D” – the players usually trying to rotate as that unit. .

However, there are situations where the “normal” composition of the five skaters may change. One such situation is when a team concedes a penalty and a skater has to sit in the penalty area for two to five minutes. This would result in a “power play” (for the team maintaining all five skaters) or a “penalty kill” (for the team losing a skater), with the skates not necessarily coming out in their usual combinations, but rather in their “special teams” groupings.

The other situation in which the composition of the five skaters can be changed is in the last minutes of a game, usually if a team has lost only one goal, in which a coach can choose to “pull” his goalkeeper in favor of adding an extra player. skater (usually a forward) on the ice. While this leaves the net unattended in an all-or-nothing situation, witnessing it is not uncommon.

Teams to watch

With the group stage over in Beijing, it’s the knockout stage where everything hangs in the balance. Here are the teams to watch and their clashes ahead of the quarter-finals.

Canada

The current world champions have torn the field so far beating Switzerland 12-1 and Finland 11-1. Entering the Games, Canada arrived on a mission not just to win gold, but to prove once again that they are the undisputed best team in the world after losing their first Olympics in 16 years in Pyeongchang, followed by an unexpected 3rd place finish at Worlds in 2019. Their rivalry with the United States is one for the history books, having played in all but two gold medal matches since the sport entered for the first time on the international stage in 1990, and without being upset by a team like Finland in the semi-finals, Beijing seems to be the next chapter in this story

United States

The current Olympic champions had a less than ideal performance at the 2021 World Championship, beaten 5-1 by Canada in the group stage. While they managed to come back to a respectable 2-3 loss in the gold medal game, the cracks that showed up in Team USA’s system were still evident. An even bigger problem comes in the absence of Brianna Decker with the USA’s top forward just 10 minutes into their Olympic campaign and has been officially ruled out for the remainder of the tournament. While none of these issues are necessarily written on the wall, the United States is going to need the players to step up and step up if they are to return back to back for the first time in Olympic history.

Finland

Finland should have won the 2019 world championship and although I will avoid going into details here, just know that the dodgy video review is the worst and even the international ice hockey federation said they should have be considered a goal. Near misses aside, the 2019 World Championship proved one thing, nothing is guaranteed. While on paper Finland have comfortably held third place for several years, they have proven they can take on the United States and Canada on their best day ever. Whether that day will come during these 2022 Olympics remains to be seen, but when you have one of the top three players from around the world on your team, anything is possible.

Related: Forcing Grumpy Basics To Exist: Alyssa Longmuir’s Impact On Aussie Ice Hockey

Players and Scenarios

Sarah Fillier – #10 – Canada

At only 21 years old, Fillier is lighting up in what is only her second tournament with the national team and has already been referred to by many as Canada’s “next great prospect”. A rising star in the 2021 World Championship with three goals in seven games, all eyes were on Fillier’s arrival at the Olympics waiting to see if she would live up to her own hype. Now only two games into the group stage, the questions honestly should be whether there was even enough hype with the striker scoring in his first shift barely a minute into the game, twice so far and already four goals in total to his name.

Hilary Knight – #21 – United States

With Team USA’s other top forward Brianna Decker out for the tournament, there’s suddenly a lot of pressure on Hilary Knights’ shoulders. At the recent 2021 World Championships, Knight broke the USA’s all-time goalscoring record, cementing her spot as the most successful USA striker of all time.

Jenni Hiirikoski – #6 – Finland

The best defender in the world and a member of the Finnish national team for two decades, there is rarely a player who logs as many minutes in a match as Hirrikoski. She is the fundamental pillar on which the Finland team is built and her ability to turn defense into attack means that even the best teams cannot relax with her on the ice.

Alina Muller – #25 – Switzerland

Considered one of the best young strikers in the sport, the 23-year-old Muller has already appeared at three Olympics, winning her first medal aged just 15. The Swiss star forward missed most of the world championships in August due to injury, but has since turned it on for Northeastern in the NCAA. The top scorer in 2018, and with a goal to her name already in this tournament, there’s a lot of pressure on Muller’s shoulders if Switzerland plan to go past the quarter-finals and get another chance at a medal. .

Where to watch after the Olympics

When the Olympics are over, it’s incredibly easy to forget about those sports you got involved in during the Games, but did you know that Australia has a women’s national ice hockey league so you can continue your newfound love for women’s hockey? Here are some ways to watch international women’s hockey while continuing to support our Australian competition and athletes.

First Hockey Federation – Follow Twitter

A league based in North America with teams in Canada and the United States. Games can be viewed on Twitch or ESPN+.

NCAA – To be continued Twitter

The American Collegiate League and home to many of the Olympics’ top young stars

Games can be viewed via ESPN+. With the playoffs and then the Frozen Four taking place in March, now is the perfect time to get into the college game. Recommended teams to watch include the University of Minnesota, Princeton, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League – Continued Twitter

With teams in five capitals and a new season starting in October, the AWIHL is the best place to catch all your local ice hockey action. The league has broadcast all games for free for the past two seasons before the covid shutdowns and will hopefully continue to do so if play resumes as scheduled after a two-year hiatus. Follow the league on Twitter to stay up to date on the new season.

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