One of the most impressive characteristics about the U.S. women’s hockey team at this week’s IIHF Women’s World Championship is how players responded in rare moments of defeat.
Down 2-0 against Canada in group play? The Americans charged back to win 5-2.
After a slow first period against Hungary in the quarterfinals? The U.S. scored nine goals in the second, with Hilary Knight breaking the all-time world championship scoring record.
And when Czechia’s Klára Hymlárová got the puck past American goalie Nicole Hensley in Saturday’s semifinal matchup? Amanda Kessel responded 14 seconds later by rounding out a hat trick.
“I don’t think the bounce back is necessarily an emphasis because that means you have the mindset of being down,” U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield said with a laugh. “But I think there’s just no quit in this group. There’s nothing that can shake this group.”
The Americans defeated Czechia 10-1 to earn a spot in Sunday’s gold medal game, continuing the U.S. team’s streak of competing for gold at every women’s world championship in history. They’ll face the winner in Saturday’s other semifinal (Canada vs. Switzerland).
USA vs. Canada gold medal game: How to watch, live updates, Women’s Worlds history
In addition to Kessel’s hat trick, Taylor Heise and Hilary Knight added two goals a piece, while Hayley Scamurra, Jesse Compher, Caroline Harvey each contributed a single tally.
Heise, who is making her world championship debut in Denmark, leads all skaters with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists). She is one short of the all-time Women’s Worlds assist record (12), set by American Cindy Curley in 1990.
The rising fifth-year senior at Minnesota said she wasn’t expecting to have such a prolific performance at her first world championships.
“Absolutely not, I was more so focused on getting here after Covid,” she said. The 22-year-old got the news of her positive diagnosis the morning after being named to the U.S. roster.
“I was playing cards on my bed with Grace Zumwinkle actually, and then my positive Covid test came back. I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ So that was real.”
While most of the rest of the U.S. team (minus head coach John Wroblewski and goalie Aerin Frankel, also in Covid-19 protocols) travelled to Denmark, Heise drove 13 hours home to Minnesota.
She was able to get skate on her own after five days in isolation and joined team zoom calls from a lawn chair in her family’s yard. “I had everyone checking in on me and that meant the most to me. When you’re alone for 10 days, it can get really lonely,” she said.
One day after arriving in Denmark, Heise assisted on five goals in the U.S. team’s opening game vs. Japan, tying the IIHF Women’s Worlds record for most assists in a single game.
“She kind of brings everything to the table and makes playing the game really easy,” said linemate Amanda Kessel.
Czechia, a team that first competed in the top division Women’s World Championship in 2016, has already achieved its best ever finish thanks to an overtime victory vs. Finland in the quarterfinal round. They’ll play for bronze tomorrow.
“It was definitely a big challenge, but I think overall, we grew from this game and that’s gonna help us not only in the future, but tomorrow as well,” Czech player Denisa Křížová said after Saturday’s loss.
“Every team goes to the World Championship to win a medal, right?” added Dominika Lásková. “But for us, the main goal was to get through quarterfinals and get to group A, which (has been) one of our goals since 2016… But we are not done yet and tomorrow is going to be the most important game for us so far.”
While the U.S. will need to wait for the other semifinal to determine their opponent, a rivalry rematch against Canada appears likely.
“Walking out of Beijing, it’s not what any of us wanted,” Jesse Compher said of winning silver at February’s Winter Olympics. “I think that’s just fueled our fire every single day… That’s something you keep in the back of your head when you’re working out, when you’re skating, every single day.”
2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship – Medal Game TV Schedule:
09/04/2022: Bronze Medal Game (9am ET, NHL Network)
Czechia vs. TBD
09/04/2022: Gold Medal Game (1:30pm ET, NHL Network)
USA vs. TBD
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC
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‘There’s just no quit in this group:’ Dynamic U.S. team to play for gold at Worlds originally appeared on NBCSports.com