BRAMPTON, Ont. -- In a lopsided semifinal matchup at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship, the United States breezed by Czechia 9-1, becoming the only country to reach the final game in each of the 22 editions of the tournament. The Americans benefited from two goals each by Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight and Tessa Janecke. At the other end of the ice, Aerin Frankel had a relatively quiet afternoon in a 14-save victory.
Inside Brampton’s CAA Centre, 2,663 fans watched the teams start tentatively, neither scoring over the first 10 minutes of the game and the United States holding a mere 4-2 edge in shots on goal. The stalemate was broken at the 11:30 mark on a U.S. power play. Kessel converted a cross-ice feed from defender Cayla Barnes, just seconds after Czechia goalie Blanka Skodova kicked out a big rebound. Despite Czechia’s best efforts to stay in the game, the floodgates opened in the second period. Knight scored off an American rush through the offensive zone, and once again it was Barnes with the primary assist, slipping the puck through helpless defender Sara Cajanova. Just 95 seconds later, Knight struck again, deflecting a point shot from Caroline Harvey past Skodova for her team’s third goal of the game. Skodova was mercifully pulled at 8:13 of the second period when Abbey Murphy, the trailer on yet another American attack, found the net to extend the lead to 4-0. Backup netminder Katerina Zechovska was now tasked with minimizing the damage. At the 11:31 mark, Adela Sapovalivova finally solved Frankel, wiring a shot that found the net just inside the goal post. It was the lone bright spot in the disastrous second period for Czechia.
Before the period ended, Abby Roque, and Kessel with her second tally of the game, vaulted the Americans to a commanding 6-1 lead. The United States outshot Czechia 20-2 over the course of the middle frame. The third period fared no better for the underdogs. Eighteen-year-old prodigy Tessa Janecke of Orangeville, Ill., scored twice within a span of four minutes, 21 seconds, joining Kessel and Knight as players on hat trick watch for the rest of the game. While the feat would not be reached by any of the players, Caroline Harvey rounded the scoring, netting her team’s ninth goal. Czechia coach Carla MacLeod was anything but discouraged by her team’s performance.
“Certainly the U.S. came out on a mission, and they played a great game and one of the best in the world,” she told reporters after the game. “That’s not a surprise to anyone. It’s our second time ever playing in the smie-final. You can’t lose sight of where we’re at in our growth process.” Meanwhile, MacLeod’s counterpart John Wroblewski had high words of praise for Knight, whose two goals in the second period were the catalyst for the Americans’ onslaught. “You’ve seen this established player, you think there might be a bit of an ego involved there, but there’s no ego at all,” Wroblewski said.
“There’s a ton of inner confidence, and she plays, practices and carries herself as if it were her first game. As long as I’m around I’ll make sure that our young players appreciate what Hilary does for our team in this tournament.”