The IIHF Women's World Championships wraps up today in Zürich, Switzerland, with the medal games. We're used to seeing the same nations duke it out for the medals at the top women's tournaments, so seeing Russia instead of Sweden in the bronze medal game is a bit of a nice change. However, they'll be in tough to knock off Finland, who have been getting exceptional goaltending from Noora Raty to date. In the gold medal game, we see Canada and the USA face off for bragging rights once again. Canada has outscored their opponents 25-1 in their four games so far (Switzerland, Slovakia, Finland twice), while the Americans hold a 32-3 differential over their four opponents to date (Kazakhstan, Sweden, Russia twice).
American women have dominated the scoring race so far, with Hillary Knight and Brianna Decker at 12 and 11 points each to lead the pack. Four more of their teammates are included in the top 10 in scoring, which is a contrast to Canada: Rebecca Johnston and the ageless Hayley Wickenheiser lead Canada with just three goals and five points each. In general, it's been a low-scoring tournament: all the starting goaltenders so far have had save percentages above 90%, including the ones for the bottom teams, who have faced an amazing amount of shots. Clearly, the goaltenders have been the real story of this tournament.
Stick around here for updates on the action. TSN will broadcast the Final, I'm not sure if anyone will be carrying the bronze medal game.
Finland is becoming the dominant European nation in women's hockey, and should be heavy favourites in this game. It's only Russia's second time in a medal game at a women's championship, and a win would be the country's first ever medal in the discipline. Russia is under the microscope to improve their program leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and this team is just seen as the starting point for where the country wants to end up after it all. Despite playing here, they did start the tournament losing to Sweden and the USA by a combined 20-2 score, and it took overtime for them to knock off Switzerland in the quarterfinals. But hey, it's a start. Their performance so far has already guaranteed them a move up to 5th overall in the Women's World Ranking, and a win would put them incredibly close to a tie with Sweden for 4th.
To no one's surprise, the two North American nations continued their dominance over the rest of the world and will play their only truly competitive game against each other in the final. However, Canada had trouble solving Finnish goalie Noora Raty, and the USA went from beating Russia 13-1 in the round robin to 5-1 in the semifinal, so at least the European goalies are figuring out the elite North American shooters. The winner of this game will take over first spot on the IIHF World Ranking, which is actually currently a tie (Canada gets first in lieu of winning Olympic gold last year).