United States 6, Sweden 1
The Americans got on the board quickly and moved into autopilot in their opening game. They capitalized on an early Sweden penalty as Laila Edwards lit the lamp just 23 seconds into the power play. She took a pass from Simms down low and walked it into the slot. The first save was made but Edwards knocked home the rebound. Cassandra Hall scored twice in succession, first with top shelf wrister from the far faceoff dot and then one-timing home a rebound that fell to her at the far post. Josie St. Martin extended the lead to 4-0 before the first period was over on a nice little backhand flip right in front of the net.
In the second, Elyse Biederman picked up a pass at the center line and skated right in on net, slotting the puck past Sweden goalie Annelies Bergmann at the near post. Sweden broke up the shutout early in the third on a power play goal from Ebba Hedqvist who said it was a good drop pass and the US defenders provided a screen. Tessa Janecke closed out the scoring when she was in position on the back post to receive a perfect pass from Sydney Morrow.
What We Learned:
- Move Your Feet: Edwards, Hall and St. Martin all mentioned "moving their feet" in their interviews. Coach Katie Lachapelle said it in her first few sentences. But what does it mean? "We have a fast team and we want to play fast," she said. It's about smothering pucks, on forecheck and on defense. It means "making people feel like they don't have a lot of space and time." Hedqvist said she struggled a bit with having to make decisions so quickly, so Lachapelle's admonishment worked.
- Sin Bin: There were 14 penalties in this game and eight in the Canada/Finland game. There wasn't a lot of consistency in what was called or what wasn't, but it's clear all teams need to be smarter with their choices and be prepared to excel at special teams. Sweden failed to capitalize on any of their two-skater advantage situations and if they're going to compete in group A, they have to score in those instances.
- Cassie Hall: There was a play that turned into nothing where she picked up the puck in her defensive zone, wove through the defense as she moved up the ice and hit Edwards for a perfect pass. It was a thing of beauty that meant little, but it felt really indicative of what we can expect to see from her. Also, she scored twice in :47 and looked really comfortable working with and off Edwards.
- Laila Edwards: Another member of press row said "Have you ever seen someone 6'2" skate like that?" It's nimble and easy-looking, like she's not putting any effort in. Add a long stick to her already long reach and she's really tough to defend. She was wending around the defense before they could even get to the puck.
- Elyse Biederman: I'd have put her on this list even without the short-handed goal. She made herself stand out in his game by being relentless on the puck. She was persistent all game, getting in the defenders' faces and forcing them to make plays. It's the exact kind of play coaches love.
"We're so happy to have this tournament happening. I think everybody's pretty fired up." – USA coach Katie Lachapelle
"It was a good game for us to have also as a first game because now we know what level to expect." – Sweden coach Mira Jungaker
"Leila is really shifty, as well. But you know, when she shifts, she's pulling the puck past three people." – Lachapelle
"It was a tough lesson, but a good lesson for us to come into before tomorrow's game." – Jungaker
"It showed a lot about the three words we use: relentless, pride and together." – Laila Edwards
"It feels it's so good. I can't even describe it. It's such an honor," – Cassandra Hall on wearing the USA jersey for the first time
"To be closer to the to the other team and be a little bit quicker in your decisions all the time," – Ebba Hedqvist on what she learned from the loss to the US
Finland 2, Canada 0
In the nine previous matchups between these two teams at the U18 level, Canada had not lost and had outscored Finland 61-3. Canada has just one loss to a team other than the Americans in any U18 Women's World Championship.
None of that mattered to the Finns on Monday as the teams got on the ice for this much-delayed tournament. Canada struggled to find an even keel, coach Howie Draper said – they were a bit more hyped than he'd have liked. That led to some sloppy plays as the Canadians took six penalties in the game.
The teams played a pretty even first period, but Canada looked to be pulling away in the second, getting momentum from the penalty kill. They outshot Finland 14-3 in the frame, but it was Finland that would get on the board before the period ended.
Jenniina Kuoppola won the puck after a faceoff in their zone and quickly passed it back to Ada Eronen, who was waiting near the boards at the blue line. Eronen took two strides towards center ice and let loose with a rocket of a shot that made it through a ton of traffic in the slot and clanked off the far post and into the net.
Canada pressed again in the third, but the undisciplined play gave Sweden a 5-on-3 five minutes in. The Canadians had a solid penalty kill going, but a missed assignment left a lane open right up the middle and Oona Havana did not miss. Her shot beat Haily Macleod five hole and put Finland up 2-0.
Finnish goalie Emilia Kyrkko was superb in the historic win for her country, making 40 saves, including 19 in the final frame.
What We Learned:
- Greatest Hockey Power?: If you're not familiar with this song, please enjoy. But in all seriousness, Finland coach Mira Kuisma said her team watched the Team Finland win at men's Worlds recently and have tried to take lessons from their win. Their federation has put more effort into the women recently and it has paid off. There is now a youth development team playing together in the country and 11 members of this team are on it. Their new senior coach was promoted from the U18's. There seems to be a pipeline forming it will only mean good things both for Finland and women's hockey as a whole.
- Learning Curve: Canada's Sarah MacEachern said she hadn't played a game since March. Draper told the team before the game that this is all a learning experience. That's meant in a holistic way, but also that each game the team will learn and grow. Selection and pre-tournament camps can't really prepare you for the tournament itself – they're just very good practice. While it's impossible to duplicate the speed of the game, Tova Henderson said it's also difficult to get used to learning things at an accelerated rate. The players have to find chemistry, learn new plays, get comfortable on the ice and synthesize what's happening in games instantaneously. That's a change from playing in high school. Kuisma said her team gets about 90 minutes to enjoy the win and then it's time to start focusing on the next game. The pace is increased everywhere.
- Emilia Kyrkko: She stymied the Canadians at every turn. They tried to plant a player in front of her, shoot from distance, aim high and go for rebounds and she was equal to it all. She played poised, moved well in the crease and came away with a clean sheet.
- Canada got in their own way at times on Monday. Nerves and excitement can do that. I think (hope) that we'll see smoother play from them as the tournament progresses.
- Finland never looked stressed or pressed on defense. I was really impressed with the smart puck handling, quick thinking and lack of rushed mistakes.
"Everybody played exactly how I want them to play." – Finland coach Mira Kuisma
"It was amazing and I am very proud of our team." – Finland goalie Emilia Kyrkko
"We are Finnish people. We celebrated in the locker room, and we sang and danced." – Finland alternate captain Oona Havana, talking about her team being relatively calm on the ice in reaction to their historic win.
"I felt like we started off a little bit hesitant, a little bit more anxious and maybe worried about not finishing the way we want to finish in the end." – Canada coach Howie Draper
"I always think that a little adversity kind of lights a little bit of a fire underneath (the team)," – Draper, on if losing early is a positive in terms of motivating the team.
"I don't think we want to change anything I think we just want to refine." – Draper
"We know that we need to crash net more. There was lots of rebounds. So capitalizing on those tomorrow will be huge." – Canadian forward Sarah MacEachern
With two separate venues and the games all happening simultaneously, it's impossible for me to cover both at the same time – so here's a quicker look at what went down at Cap Ice in Group B play while I was at LaBahn for Group A.
Czechia 4, Slovakia 0
Anna Sapovalivova had two goals and an assist and Andrea Trnková added a goal and two assists to lead Czechia to an opening round win. Sapovalivova scored first, assisted by Trnková and Tereza Plosová. Less than three minutes later, it was Trnková from Sapovalivova and Plosová. Sapovalivova opend up the third with a goal from Trnková before Eliška Hotová got on the board with the final talley. Laura Medvedova made 37 saves for Slovakia in the loss.
Germany 1, Switzerland 0
Lola Liang scored in the final minute of regulation to give Germany the win. She swung at a deflected puck in the air that bounced off the goalie's shoulder and in. It was reviewed for a high stick but ultimately deemed a good goal.
Margaux Favre made 19 saves for Switzerland. Felicity Luby made 27 saves and earned the shutout win for Germany.
Sweden faces Canada at 4:00 PM Central on Tuesday June 7 in a game where they'll both be hoping to get back on track. Later, the Americans face off against Finland for the top spot in Group A at 8:00 PM Central. Both games are at LaBahn.
In Group B at Cap Ice, Czechia and Germany will play at 4:00 PM Central, followed by Switzerland vs. Slovakia at 8:00 PM Central.
Photo credit: IIHF