Just two days after Hungary became the first women’s hockey team to compete for the IHLC in a dozen years, today history was made once again at the 2022 Women’s World Championship, with Czechia stunning Finland in overtime of the quarterfinals, setting up a semifinal (and IHLC) matchup against the United States.
Czechia will become the second new contender in the past 48 hours, after Hungary slipped into the quarterfinals thanks to a last minute German goal, eliminating Denmark in the final game of the group round. Hungary suffered a 12-1 defeat at the hands of the United States, who now face the Czechs next, who themselves punched their tickets to the semifinals on the strength of an Aneta Tejralová overtime marker to eliminate Finland, the first time the Naisleijonat will not contend for a medal in Women’s World Championship history.
Unlike Hungary, who was never considered a serious threat to defeat the Americans, the Czechs have recent history on their side to play perhaps the biggest spoiler in women’s hockey history, having faced Team USA in the quarterfinals of the Beijing Olympics, holding the nine-time World and two-time Olympic Champions to a far less than comfortable 4-1 victory, with goaltender Klára Peslarová stopping 55 of 59 shots. Now with momentum from knocking off the Finns, who just three years ago were an overturned call away from World Championship Gold of their own, the Carla MacLeod-led Czechs can no longer be seen as a walkover for any competitor.
This marks the highest point yet for the resurgent Národnítým žen, who following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, started as an independent nation in Division I in 1999, being demoted ten years later, and by 2013 was back in the Top Division, staying for good by 2016. Qualifying for their first Olympics, and making the semifinals of the World Championship within the same year, marks another exciting trend, as the familiar contenders to take on the mega-powers Canada and the United States is continuing to change.
While this historic meeting in Denmark will be the first such IHLC meeting for Czechia, the trajectory that the team is on almost certainly means that this will not be their last!
Photo Credit: 2022 Women’s World Championship – IIHF – HHOF – IOC