2024 Worlds Game Preview: USA vs Canada

Team USA faces off against archrival Canada tonight in the IIHF Women's World Championships group play finale.

2024 Worlds Game Preview: USA vs Canada
Claire Thompson battles a falling Hilary Knight for the puck during the 2023 Worlds gold medal game. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

Tonight, hockey’s greatest rivalry renews, as Team USA takes on Canada for the 184th time at 7 p.m. EDT. 

The Basics: Monday, April 8, 2024- USA vs Canada- 7 p.m. EDT, Adirondack Bank Center, Utica, NY (NHL Network, TSN1, TSN5, RDS)

What to Expect

Fillier (left in white) hits Janecke (right in navy) along the boards. Fillier is more hunched over than Janceke, whose right leg is in the air. The puck is in between them.
Sarah Fillier hits Tessa Janecke along the boards. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

It’s a battle for the top seed tonight, as the last two undefeated teams face off. Whenever these two meet, fireworks tend to follow as their on-ice hatred just keeps growing. Not only will both teams be hungry for the win to give themselves the easiest path toward the gold medal, but they have big things to prove against each other with how things have gone recently. The U.S. will be looking to avenge a second-straight Rivalry Series sweep after again struggling without their college players, who do not participate in the February portion of the series since it’s in the stretch run of their season. Meanwhile, Canada will want to prove that they can still beat the U.S. even when they have their collegiate players.

Team USA enters this game after a rest day following a bit of a scare against Finland on Saturday. However, they buckled down in the third and pulled off a 5-3 win. Previously, they pummeled Czechia 6-0 on Friday after beating Switzerland 4-0 to open the tournament on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Canada enters this game in the second half of a back-to-back after playing Czechia yesterday afternoon, who they thumped 5-0. In an unusual scheduling move, all of Canada’s games this tournament were part of a back-to-back series. In their previous set on Thursday and Friday, they also struggled a bit against Finland, outshooting them just 24-20 despite beating them 4-1, before shutting out Switzerland 3-0.

Frankel lays out to make a save against Canada. The shot is taken from inside the net, so it's of Frankel's back. She is wearing navy and laying with arms and legs outstretched, and the puck is just visible under her stick. Multiple skates from each side are in the background.
Aerin Frankel lays out to make a save against Canada during the 2023 World gold medal game. Photo by Matt Zambonin/IIHF.

In goal, my guess is it’ll be Ann-Renée Desbiens for Canada, but I’m not as confident as I was before the game yesterday. In a move I found surprising, she started against Czechia. She also started Canada’s opening game while Emerance Maschmeyer took the second one. Both goaltenders are phenomenal, and they can’t go wrong with either, but Desbiens is Canada’s starter and has been for several years. I have to imagine she starts against their biggest rival despite it being a back-to-back, but making her play back-to-back in group play is also... a choice, if they make it. So, pencil Desbiens in, but it’s a weird situation.

As for the Americans, my confidence in guessing it’ll be Aerin Frankel is also a bit shakier than it was before their last game. She made some good saves, but Finland was able to exploit her size on their goals in a way that could give the U.S. a little pause. However, she wasn’t the only one not at her peak on Saturday, and she had an excellent, albeit not busy, first game. Meanwhile, Nicole Hensley wasn’t super busy against Czechia until the end of the game, but she was outstanding when called upon, especially at the end. Like Canada, they’re both outstanding, so the U.S. coaching staff can’t go wrong with either goaltender. So, I still lean towards it being Frankel since she’s been their starter lately.

USA Key to the Game

Murphy carries the puck while Zandee-Hart chases her. Both are skating hunched over with their sticks outstretched. Murphy is in navy blue, while Zandee-Hart is in white.
Abbey Murphy carries the puck while Micah Zandee-Hart chases her during the 2023 Worlds gold medal game. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

Play a disciplined, fast game. One of the Americans’ biggest problems against Finland was a lack of discipline, especially in the opening frame. That cannot happen again tonight. This isn’t to slight Finland, who played great, but if the U.S. penalty kill that struggled with Finland shows up, Canada will annihilate them. Outside of the Finland game, their PK has been excellent, so it's probably an outlier, but it's better not to risk it. If the U.S. can stay disciplined and play with the ridiculous pace they showed in the first two games, they’ll give themselves a good chance in this one. Canada’s roster is older, and while still extremely dangerous, the Americans appear to be just a bit better this year if they stick to their game.