2024 Worlds: Team China Recap

China finishes ninth at Worlds, will be relegated after bold roster decisions.

2024 Worlds: Team China Recap
Team China celebrating a goal in their win over Japan (Photo courtesy of the IIHF)

Team China came into this competition with a lot of uncertainty, a lot to prove, but undeniably a lot of heart. In their first year back Group B of the tournament's highest stage, they will unfortunately be demoted again next year after landing in ninth place but not without an exciting fight through the group stage.

Final Record


China played only the first four games in the group stage of Worlds. While they only won one game, they left their mark with two thrilling shootout battles and a win over Japan in their first game of the tournament. They followed up their 3-2 shootout win over Japan with a 8-1 loss to Sweden, a 2-1 shootout loss to Denmark (the only team to finish worse than them in the tournament), and a 3-0 loss to Germany, who were the top team of Group B.

Team MVP

It is without a doubt that goaltender Grace Zhan was the team MVP in this tournament. 

You will be reading about her a lot below but to set the tone, Zhan started all four games for China in the group stage. She faced 149 shots on goal, the fourth most in the tournament as well as made 140 saves, also the fourth most in the tournament. Her save percentage of .936 ranked second overall behind only Germany’s goaltender, Sandra Abstreiter. 

Zhan played through two shootouts, winning one of them, and played two games where she faced over fifty shots. With the expectation of her game against Sweden, where she let in eight goals, she was absolutely locked in through all four games. There was simply no one else to help generate offense in front of her. 

To me the mark of an MVP is thinking about what the team would have looked like if that player wasn’t there, and there’s no doubt in my mind that without Zhan, China would fall to tenth place, would have gone winless, and would have had a few games with double digits scored against them. That is just how confident I am in saying she was their MVP and at just 18 years old, the future is bright for their net minding.

Key Moment

In my preview, I noted that the opening game for China would be the biggest of the week for them. Coming into this tournament, they needed to set the tone early to have a chance and against a team like Japan, who they have beaten before, it needed to happen for them in that game. 

Not only did it happen for them, it happened with an exclamation point. Yingying Guan, not only scored the late game-tying goal to give China a chance in overtime in that game, but she scored the shootout game-winning goal as well. It was a huge moment for the program that hasn’t even played on this stage in over a decade. 

What's Next?

In one simple word: growth. This team, that lacked dual-passport stars that helped them clinch a spot in Group B, is incredibly young and inexperienced on a stage like this. There is no doubt about that.

This roster included nine teenagers, including 18-year-old Grace Zhan in net. The average age of this team is 23. Veteran and captain Baiwei Yu is the only player born in the 80s and is five years older than the next oldest player. She was the third oldest player in the tournament and without her, it can not be stressed enough just how young this team is. 

Unfortunately for them, they will be relegated again next year but make a serious case for having a great tournament and being promoted again. I would expect to see China in the mix more often in the next decade with the crop of talent that was able to hang in with the likes of Germany and even Sweden this year, despite the scores. 

Where to Watch Team China's Stars

Seven of these rostered players, including Baiwei Yu play for Kunlun Red Star in China, who just won a WCIHL championship in the inaugural season for the revamped Chinese league. Yu was named the league MVP after their win.

Many other players on this roster, including Guan, are playing for other teams in the WCIHL like Beijing, Harbin and Qiqihar but it is Kunlun with the most notoriety after an undefeated season, a championship and previous playing time in the CWHL and ZhHL. The WCIHL will be something to watch moving forward.

Grace Zhan will be headed to Dartmouth College after winning the Jori Jones Award for her goaltending excellence after posting a .946 save percentage and a 1.39 goals against average this season at Hill-Murray.

She is the standout player from this roster that will remain in the U.S. to play and will likely be the easiest to watch on a NCAA roster.