By SB Nation–
As the 2017 Women’s World Championships approach, the question on everyone’s lips is, “who will play for the US?” Will it be the original roster? A scab team? This article…will not answer that question.
Instead, we’re going to begin a series talking about the European teams coming to this year’s World Championships, and we’re starting off with a country that just qualified for the Olympics last month—Switzerland. They were, as you can imagine, very excited about that.
But Annie, you might be saying, Switzerland won the bronze medal at Sochi. They had to qualify for Pyeongchang? Yes, yes they did, because international hockey is cruel. They did it in style, too, winning all three games of their qualification round, scoring fourteen goals and only allowing three. They’re bringing a very similar roster to Worlds, and have been put into Group B, along with Sweden, Germany, and the Czech Republic. The game against the Czechs will be especially interesting, as the Swiss beat the Czechs 4-1 in their final game of Olympic qualifications to advance. Knocking the Swiss out of the World Championships in return would, I’m sure, be fun revenge for the Czech team.
So, Who Should I Know On the Team?
Like most of the European teams, the Swiss roster is made up largely of women off teams in their home country or other European leagues, with a few NCAA players sprinkled in. The ZSC Lions have an especially nice showing. Unlike most of the European teams, though, the Swiss have Lara Stalder.
Here she is, batting a puck out of midair to score in double overtime and send her team, the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, to the WCHA championship final.
She’s okay, I guess!
In all seriousness, Stalder is exceptional. A top-three Patty Kazmaier finalist this year (the MVP award for women’s college hockey), she scored 56 points in 35 games playing in the toughest conference in the NCAA, and had eight goals and twelve points in three games for Switzerland in the final round of Olympic qualifications back in February. Switzerland only scored two goals that tournament that did not directly involve Lara Stalder. She scored over half of their fourteen goals herself, and had hat tricks in two out of the three games. Stalder is a one-woman offense, and one of the most talented forwards on any team this competition.
She’s got some decent offensive backup, including Alina Müller, the 19-year-old who pulled in 8 points of her own in Olympic qualifiers, and spends most of her time as the alternate captain of the EHC Kloten U17 boys’ team. Müller was on the Sochi bronze-medal team as a fifteen-year-old, which means she had an Olympic medal before the age most of us were allowed to drive a car. Switzerland’s roster also features the Weidacher sisters (there are three of them–Isabel, Monika, and Nina–and they all play on the ZSC Lions, which I’m sure isn’t at all confusing), and Phoebe Staenz, who had almost a point-per-game season at Yale this year. They are also bringing what appears to be the majority of the ZSC Lions defensive corps, which, if it ain’t broke, right?
Stalder, though, is not the only star the Swiss have to offer. In goal, they have Florence Schelling, another NCAA product out of Northeastern University. After college, she spent the 2012-2013 season in the CWHL with the Brampton Thunder, ranking third in the league with a 0.901 SV% for a mediocre Brampton team before returning to Europe for Switzerland’s Olympic centralization. She currently plays for the women’s Linköping HC club in Sweden, where she is teammates with current Canadian national team player Jennifer Wakefield. This season in Linköping, Schelling has posted a 0.963 SV% and 1.09 GAA over ten regular season games. In Olympic qualifiers, her save percentage of 0.941% was good for second highest in the tournament and first in Switzerland’s Group C. Like Stalder, Schelling is a top-level women’s hockey talent, and strong goaltending is of utmost importance in a short international tournament. Florence Schelling is the sort of goaltender who could steal some games.
This combination might not be enough to carry the Swiss through against some of the better teams–Canada would have them for lunch, on lack of depth alone–but they’ve already handled the Czechs once this year, and Germany’s hardly heavy competition. If they make it to the quarterfinals, I think they could give Russia or Finland a hard time. No matter what, we can count on a few highlight-reel goals from Lara Stalder.