Emerging as the feel-good story of the 2022 IIHF Women's World Championship, the Czech Republic earned its first-ever bronze medal at the prestigious international event with a 4-2 victory over Switzerland Having never finished higher than sixth place in the Top Division, the country's historic medal has marked a change in the balance of global women's hockey power.
Czechia players celebrate after Natalie Mlynkova scored, during the IIHF World Championship Women's hockey bronze medal match between the Czech Republic and Switzerland in Herning, Denmark, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022. (Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Finishing first in Group B play, sporting an undefeated 4-0 mark, Czechia proved highly dominant on the ice. Outscoring the opposition in preliminary round play by a cumulative mark of 21-2, including a pair of shutout wins, a big test awaited the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.
Opposing Finland, having earned a bronze medal earlier in the year at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, an intense affair required overtime. Aneta Tejralova, who calls the Boston Pride her club team, scored the game-winning goal. Goaltender Klara Peslarova recorded 36 saves, helping Czechia reach the medal round.
A 10-1 loss to the top-ranked United States saw Klara Hymlarova, who played NCAA hockey in St. Cloud, Minn., spoil Nicole Hensley's bid for a shutout.
Facing off versus Switzerland for the bronze medal, the first period saw plenty of action, as three goals were scored. Czechia grabbed the first lead of the game, as Natalie Mlynkova, a member of the University of Vermont Catamounts, scored against Andrea Brandl at 7:03.
Representing the future for Switzerland, 18-year-old Alena Marti tied the game, capitalizing on a power-play opportunity. Before the period expired, Daniela Pejsova, Czechia's leading scorer in the tournament, rose to the occasion, restoring the lead.
Having outshot the Swiss by a 12-2 mark in the first period, the Czech team added to its lead. Racking up another 12 shots, Vendula Pribylova, a Maine Black Bears alumna, and Mlynkova, provided a 4-1 advantage for Czechia, the prospect of a historic medal clearly within reach.
Regrouping for the third period, Switzerland pelted Peslarova with 13 shots. With Kristyna Patkova serving a tripping penalty, the Swiss managed to take full advantage. Nicole Vallario, a 20-year-old blueliner, scored at the 49:11 mark.
Despite their best efforts, the Swiss were unable to chip away at Czechia's lead. With the Czech Republic remaining poised on defence, complemented by the strong play of Peslarova, the score remained 4-2, allowing the Czech team to clinch its first-ever medal finish at women's worlds.
Adding to the luster of this historic feat was an exciting trend for the game. Carla MacLeod, a gold medal winner for Team Canada at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., served as head coach.
With former Canadian teammate Delaney Collins in a similar capacity for Hungary, the acumen of such Canadian greats has translated into compelling coaching careers, allowing for a more competitive game on a global scale.