8-13 February: Group stages
Eight teams were split into two groups for the initial round-robin phase. The top four teams in the current IHF rankings - Canada, USA, Finland and Switzerland were thrown together in Group A - with the top two in the final standings earning direct passage to the semi-finals, and the other two teams going into a quarter-final play-off.
Group B brought together the next four teams in the IHF rankings – Sweden, Germany, Russia and Japan, with the top two joining the bottom two from Group A in the quarter-final play-offs, while the other two teams awaited the play-off losers to determine their final position in the overall standings.
Canada and USA each won both of their first two games convincingly, with the Americans beating Finland 3-1 and Switzerland 9-0, while Canada recorded 5-0 and 3-0 wins against the same opponents. That left the two neighbours going head to head on 12 February to decide who topped Group A and went into the semi-finals as first seeds. Canada got the better of a five-goal thriller, prevailing 3-2, just as they had in the Vancouver 2010 final. Meanwhile, Finland defeated the Swiss 4-3 to finish third in the group and top the seedings for the play-offs.
In Group B, host team Russia won all three of their games (4-1 versus Germany, 2-1 versus Japan and 3-1 versus Sweden, to top the standings, while Sweden saw off Germany (4-0) and Japan (1-0) to join them in the quarter-final play-offs. Germany defeated Japan 4-0 to finish third.
That meant that Finland would face Sweden in the quarter-final play-offs, with Russia taking on the Swiss.
15 February: Quarter-final play-offs
The Swiss kept their cool in a charged Shayba Arena to dispatch the host team 2-0 and set up a semi-final encounter with reigning champions Canada. Stefanie Marty opened the scoring in the 11th minute of the first period, after which the Swiss then withstood a sustained period of pressure from the Russians in the second and third periods, with goaltender Florence Schelling stopping an incredible 41 shots. They then delivered the killer blow in the dying seconds as Lara Stadler scored on the counter-attack to seal the victory.
In the other quarter-final, Sweden edged a ding-dong encounter against Finland, which started quietly but came to life in the second period. Venia Hovi had opened the scoring for the Finns in the 34th minute, before Anna Borgqvist equalised five minutes later. Her team-mate Lina Wester then put Sweden in front, before Emma Nuutinen restored parity again. However, with extra time beckoning, the Swedes finished stronger as first Emma Eliasson and then Emma Nordin found the net in the last five minutes of the third period to secure a 4-2 victory and a semi-final showdown with the USA.
17 February: Semi-finals
In the semi-finals,the USA overpowered Sweden 6-1, while Canada defeated Switzerland 3-1 to set up a reprise of the 2010 final at the Bolshoi Ice Dome on 20 February.
The USA’s Alex Carpenter and Kacey Bellamy scored just 66 seconds apart in the first period as the United States crushed Sweden at the Shayba Arena.
The Americans dominated the semi-final from the opening faceoff, holding a whopping 29-1 shot advantage in the first period, with Sweden failing to even muster their first shot on goal until nearly 14 minutes into the contest.
Amanda Kessel, Megan Bozek, Brianna Decker and Monique Lamoureux also scored for the Americans, who have now beaten Sweden 12 out of the past 13 times they have faced each other in major international games.
“It's awesome,” said American forward Lamoureux. “I think it's something we were expected to do. We've been preparing for it for the last four years and putting in a lot of work.”
Jessie Vetter had to make just eight saves for the USA, while Swedish goaltenders Valentina Wallner and Kim Martin Hasson faced 70 shots between them.
Valentina was especially busy as she endured a 32 minute spell in which the USA peppered her with 47 shots.
“It is surreal. I don't think I am going to realise I was here until the Olympics are over,” said Canadian forward Natalie Spooner, who scored a double in her sides win against the Swiss.
“We are going for gold and that is the game we want to be in,” she added.
The two North American teams have been the main powerhouses ever since women's ice hockey was included on the programme for the Winter Games at Nagano 1998.
18 February: Classification matches
In the matches to decide the lower order in the final rankings Finland defeated hosts Russia 4-0 in the fifth-place game, while Germany got the better of Japan in a 3-2 victory that gave them seventh spot.
Noora Raty and Michelle Karvinen were the heroes for Finland, as they racked up a convincing 4-0 victory over the host team.
Making her final appearance on the Olympic stage, goaltender Raty stopped 18 shots for the shut-out, while Karvinen scored a quick-fire double within the space of 61 seconds in the third period. Linda Valimaki and Rikka Valila grabbed Finland’s other goals.
Meanwhile, Susann Gotz notched a goal and an assist to spearhead Germany to a 3-2 victory over Japan, which means the European side claim seventh place in the final standings.
Goaltender Viona Harrer made 27 saves for Germany, who had already defeated Japan at Sochi 2014 during the group phase.
Haruna Yoneyama and Hanae Kubo scored the consolation goals for Japan, whose women were appearing at an Olympic ice hockey tournament for just the second time in their history, having previously received an automatic berth as the host nation at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano.
20 February: Bronze medal match
Switzerland pulled off a dramatic turnaround to beat Sweden 4-3 and win the bronze.
It was a first ever medal for the Swiss since women’s ice hockey was introduced onto the Winter Games programme at Nagano 1998.
That had scarcely looked possible in a first period where the Swiss managed just a single shot on the Swedish goal, and the Swedes looked comfortable after taking the lead through Michelle Lowenhielm.
Towards the end of the second period, Sweden then doubled their advantage, after an error from Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling enabled Uden Johansson to find the net.
It looked to be Sweden’s game. But all that changed in the third period as, within the space of a 13-minute spell, the Swiss players suddenly discovered a new lease of life and the route to goal.
On 41 minutes, Sara Benz cut the deficit to one; then four minutes later Phoebe Stanz took advantage of a power play to equalise, before Jessica Lutz put the Swiss 3-2 up in the 53rd minute.
The Swedes were left stunned, and it soon got worse for them as 15-year old Alina Müller increased Switzerland’s lead, firing the puck into an empty net two minutes before the final buzzer.
Pernilla Winberg managed to pull one back 43 seconds from time, sparking a final goalmouth frenzy, but the Swiss did enough to hold on, as their players embraced to celebrate a historic victory.
20 February: Gold medal match
Marie-Philip Poulin was Canada’s heroine in the women’s ice hockey gold medal match, as the defending champions overturned a 2-0 deficit to clinch a 3-2 victory at the Bolshoi Ice Dome.
The forward scored an equaliser 54 seconds from time, before grabbing a golden goal winner in one of the most dramatic climaxes ever witnessed in an Olympic final.
Canada had trailed 2-0 late in the third and appeared to be heading to defeat before coming to life to score two goals just 2:42 apart to send the game into extra time.
After Brianne Jenner had pulled one back to give Canada hope, Poulin conjured an equaliser with just seconds left on the clock.
After Canadian defenceman Rebecca Johnston backhanded the puck towards the net, US goaltender Jesse Vetter knocked it directly onto the stick of Poulin, who reacted quickly to fire home and force overtime.
Poulin's golden winner came on a power play after US forward Hilary Knight had been sent to the penalty box. Taking a pass from Laura Fortino, she slid a snapshot under Vetter and into the net.
It sparked wild celebrations as she was mobbed by her team-mates, who celebrated Canada's fourth Olympic women's title and, remarkably, a 20th straight victory at the Winter Games in an unbeaten streak that stretches back to 2002.