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2022 Worlds Quarterfinal Preview: Switzerland vs Japan

It’s a Group A Rematch!

IIHF

The first quarterfinal of the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championships is a Group A rematch: Japan and Switzerland.

Puck drop is at 6 a.m. ET and, in North America, will be aired on TSN4.

How They Got Here

Switzerland had a strong start to their preliminary round, swiftly defeating Japan. The Swiss defensive system has effectively kept opposing teams to the outside and prevented high danger chances. The shots that get through have been kept out by mostly good goaltending. Saskia Maurer has come into two games as a reliever and been stellar in both. Andrea Brändli was good to start the tournament but struggled in the later games. Maurer is playing with more speed and intensity.

The Swiss adjusted to their opponents well, often stifling systems in the second period. Their offence, however, did not have the power to break out and create scoring chances against Canada, The USA, or Finland.

Japan failed to win a game in the opening round but scored four goals. After a crushing 10-0 loss at the hands of the Americans, Japan scored one in a 3-1 loss to the Swiss. The young Japanese goalie Miyuu Masuhara got her first international start and saved 17 of 20 shots. They also scored three in a loss to Finland.

Japan has shown their determination and grit. This team skates hard to every whistle and digs for pucks with intensity, regardless of the score. They aren’t favoured in this game, but they will work hard to prove that wrong.

Players to Watch

Akane Shiga | Japan

Akane Shiga is the obvious player to watch from team Japan. She is the strongest product of the Japanese development system in her generation. Shiga was a relatively uneventful player on Japan’s world junior team, but after being moved to forward, she has sprung to life. She is an excellent skater and puck handler with an accurate shot. She has recorded 3 of Japan’s four goals, assisting on the fourth, scored by her sister Aoi. Watch for her to be active in the offensive zone, looking for space.

Lena Lutz | Switzerland

Lena Lutz has been one of the standout Swiss players so far in this tournament. The 21-year-old is at her second world championships and last week scored her first goal into the empty net against Japan. She has seen time up and down the lineup averaging a little over 15 minutes a game. Largely in a middle-six role, Lutz has played hard minutes in her own end against the toughest opponents. And on a team who loves quick changes, Lutz has been allowed nearly 50 seconds a shift. Coach Colin Muller has entrusted her with grinding out tough minutes in big games. She has fought hard in her own end and will be instrumental when this team starts to spend more time in the offensive zone.

Storyline

Switzerland can still make a run in this elimination round. Their offence will need to be more productive than that have been so far from this week, but as is often the case in the world championships, goaltending will be the anchor. Switzerland’s first game against Japan was Andrea Brändli’s first win at the international level. Since her play has been lacking at times, allowing sloppy goals early in games. Through the preliminary round, the goalkeeper recorded an .888, which lags behind her previous numbers.

Maurer has played two games as a reliever and has recorded a marginally better .895. Even while playing behind a tired team, she has looked sharp. Brändli has been the favoured starter but could the younger goalie steal the spot in the elimination round with her performance thus far? Regardless of who is in the net, they will need to have above-average games to help Switzerland go deep in this tournament.

Since the debut of the women’s world championships, Japan has been a participant. The team has bounced between the bottom of Group B and the lower division 1 of international hockey. In 2017 they won Division 1 and were promoted to Group B of the top level. In 2019 they finished 8th and returned after a missed covid tournament with a 6th place finish. Russia’s ban from the IIHF competition left one spot open in group A, awarded to Japan.

The team has lost every game in the top group but has fought valiantly, putting ceaseless pressure on opponents. Japan will be looking to prove in this elimination round that they deserve to remain in group A for next year’s tournament. A quarterfinal win would see that happen, but so would wins in the placement games.