How did the tournament shape up compared to expectations for the two relegated teams?
Tournament Finish: 9th place; will be relegated to Division IA in 2020
Recap: This was a very unfortunate ending to the tournament for the Swedes. For the first time ever, they will not play at the top level next year. There were some bright spots for the team throughout the tournament. They received good production from their top forwards, namely Emma Nordin, Pernilla Winberg, and Hanna Olsson. But it just wasn’t enough for them to finish in the top-three in Group B. They beat France in group play but fell to the Czech Republic, Germany, and Japan.
Sweden had a new coaching staff in place for the 2018-19 season, led by Ylva Martinsen, but I’m inclined to believe this result does not fall squarely on their shoulders. Instead, I think we’re seeing a mix of other countries dedicating more resources and attention to their women’s teams, and getting better and better every year, while Sweden’s federation simply has not dedicated the same care to their women’s side. In fact, Swedish players have actually lost funding within the last year from their Olympic committee. This is a disappointing result for the team, but hopefully it can be a wake-up call for more institutional support.
Stick taps: Sweden’s best moment of the tournament was coming back against France to win 2-1 and pick up their first win, letting them stave off relegation for the moment.
Losing an edge: The downside was getting relegated after the following game, despite leading late over Japan. The Japanese scored twice in the final 10 minutes of the game to win, 3-2, and seal Sweden’s fate.
Tournament Finish: 10th place; will be relegated to Division IA in 2020
Recap: For France’s very first appearance at the top level of the Women’s World Championship, this was not a bad go of it at all. They relied heavily on goaltending; Caroline Baldin was one of several outstanding goaltenders from Group B. She finished fifth in the tournament with a .929 save percentage on 155 shots faced. Although this was their first crack at the highest level, the French kept things close all tournament long. Their biggest loss was 3-0 to Japan in the opener, and in two games against Sweden, they kept it a one-goal game both times. While it must be a little disappointing to move back down a level, this roster is peppered with talented young players. Chloé Aurard and Estelle Duvin, who are 20 and 22 years old, respectively, led the club with three points each.
Stick taps: Aurard’s overtime game-winner against Germany was a thing of beauty, and a piece of history as well, pushing the French to their first-ever win at the top level.
Losing an edge: France had two cracks at Sweden but couldn’t get past them in either the preliminary round or the ninth-place game, so they finish this year’s tournament in last place.