Gold Medal Game
Canada 3, USA 2
Canada coach Howie Draper said his team was coming together and I should have believed him. They peaked at exactly the right time and came out flying on Monday night, putting the US in a 3-0 hole they couldn't dig themselves out of.
If you'd have said before the tournament that not only would Canada be playing in a quarterfinal, but that they’d be happy they did, I'm not sure anyone would have agreed with you. But it turns out having those extra 60 minutes of ice time together may have been the difference between gold and silver.
"We needed that game to find ourselves and find our unity on the ice," said Draper.
After not scoring a power play goal at all in the tournament before yesterday's championship match, the Canadians got on the board early thanks to an extra attacker when Alexia Aubin's puck made it through traffic and into the back of the net. Getting the first goal was crucial for Canada, who dominated the first half of the opening frame.
The frenzied second period saw Canada score twice in under a minute as Ava Murphy and Jocelyn Amos each lit the lamp, putting USA down 3-0 in a stark reversal of fortune from the 7-0 win the Americans took in the preliminary round.
But just six minutes later, Finley McCarthy and Claire Enright scored a mere seven seconds apart – tying an IIHF record – to bring the US back within one.
The goals energized USA's bench, but an unfortunate delay of game penalty and then the end of the period took some of the momentum away.
"I think if we had another couple minutes in that period, we would have had another one. I think we would have just kept rolling," said Tessa Janecke.
The Americans kept the pressure on in the third, outshooting Canada 10-5 in the period, but the Canadian defense, which had been strong all game, closed the gaps even more, shutting down the middle of the ice and forcing Team USA to the perimeter.
After showcasing their fluid movement and passes in the teams' earlier meeting, the US struggled to move the puck the same way in the title match. It was as though the teams switched roles, with Canada working as one unit, connecting on passes and hitting on all cylinders while the Americans were disjointed.
That said, Team USA was not without their chances to even the score, including a shot that seemed to hit inside the top corner and ricochet out. Coach Katie Lachapelle pointed out that in the preliminary game her team seemed to have all the puck luck, with bounces all going her teams way and on Monday, that evened out, with Canada seeming to get all the favorable outcomes.
It was another stellar matchup between these two women's hockey powerhouses that showcased all the things that make the rivalry so special. After being down and out in a record-breaking historic loss, Canada came together to ensure they wouldn't let it happen again when it mattered most.
The win capped off an unprecedented year for Canada, as they won gold at the senior Women's World Championship in Calgary in August, Olympic gold in Beijing, and now U18 gold here.
What We Learned:
- Mind the gap: Canada picked up their speed, took away time and space, and played team shutdown defense. There was simply no room for USA to maneuver themselves or the puck in. Pucks did not make it through the center of the ice, both on passes across the middle and centering passes to the front of the net. The US consistently had the puck behind the net, looking to circle and dump it to someone in front and no one was ever there to cleanly receive a pass. Players couldn't crash in and even if they could, the puck wouldn't have gotten to them. It was a spectacular display of defense by the Canadians and a dramatic response to their opponents' game.
- When it counts: These young Canadian players, in their first big tournament, rallied from a historically disappointing opening round to come back and win gold. After losing to Finland and USA, they put in the work, didn't get in their own heads and played a pretty immaculate game to get the win.
- Why it matters: This tournament was set to be canceled for a second straight year before USA Hockey and Madison stepped up to put it on in just a few months' time. This stellar gold medal game may stay in the forefront of people’s minds, but both of these teams were in danger of not making it that far. Sweden and Finland showed that parity exists here and anything can happen on any given day. These players get so few opportunities to play at this level in a regular year, making the playing of this tournament so crucial.
- Fan frenzy: It was loud and raucous and fun in LaBahn Arena on Monday. The smaller venue sold out and created a wonderful atmosphere. Despite all the foibles that led to a June tournament in Madison, the people behind it pulled it off. I'm sure there were hitches, but they were not reflected in the atmosphere and spirit in the building. It was altogether a beautifully executed event.
- Ava Murphy: The 17-year-old blossomed at this tournament and like her team, found her sweet spot at the right time, in the title game. She was poised and in control on defense and confident of her shot on offense. Draper called her a high-octane player that plays free, who really learned when to take the shot and get involved and when it's not worth the risk.
- Mari Pietersen: Canada's goalie took over the net after the first five goals in the 7-0 loss as a way to try and shake things up for Canada, but ended up backstopping every minute of the tournament from there on out. Her 1.32 goals against average was second in the tournament. She stepped up when they needed her and withstood the barrage in this final game as the US tried to get back in.
- Tessa Janecke: She led both teams with a total of six shots on goal and seemed to be everywhere on the ice in this game. She was blocking passes, starting breakouts and doing her best to equalize. It was her shot that looked like it was going to tie the game before bouncing off the post and out.
"I'm so proud of everyone. I think we really worked hard. We stuck together as a team. And just to have our dreams come true and to finally win gold is an amazing moment." – Canada defender Ava Murphy
"I dreamed about this moment, but I didn't actually believe it would feel this good." – Canada defender Sara Swiderski
"I think we faced a whole different Canadian team, which caught us on our heels a little bit. I’m definitely upset with the ending, but I'm so super-proud of this group. This is the best team I've played for." – USA forward and tournament MVP, Laila Edwards
"That first goal is so critical, particularly with young athletes. It gave us a little bit of a lift, but I thought we really earned it. It felt like the girls came out of the gate just flying." – Canada coach Howie Draper
"Three goals is a big deficit. And in these games, which are super tight and back and forth, it's hard to get that deficit back. But we gave it everything and we just fell a little short." – US defender Sydney Morrow, who was named to the All-Tournament team
Bronze Medal Game
Finland 3, Sweden 0
After the week each of these teams had, pushing US and Canada until the very end, it’s unsurprising that their bronze medal matchup didn’t have quite the same energy. Tired in their sixth game in eight days, these two fought each other hard, but couldn’t maintain the ferocity we’d seen from them in earlier games.
Sanni Vanhanen, who had been one of the best players of the tournament heading into the medal rounds, cemented herself a spot on the All-Tournament team with a hat trick to lead her team to a 3-0 win and third-ever bronze at the U18 level.
Finland goalie Emilia Kyrkkö closed out her IIHF debut with 35 saves and her second shutout, and was named to the All-Tournament team. She was truly outstanding throughout the tournament, making 139 total saves, allowing just six goals and finishing with a 0.959% save percentage, best at the tournament.
Vanhanen opened the scoring with an upper corner wrister on the power play late in the second to break the deadlock and give Finland a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. In the second, she scored a near mirror image of her first goal, just from the opposite side of the ice. Her final tally was a bar-down beauty that clanked emphatically to announce its arrival in the back of the net.
Sweden looked as though they had scored with about five minutes left in regulation after a scrum in front of the net led to a puck in the back of it. After a long review, the goal was waved off for goalie interference. Things may have gone differently had the Swedes had that much clock, 6 on 5, and the momentum. But they seemed to deflate just a bit when it was waved off and couldn’t muster the needed goals in time.
It was a disappointing end to the tournament for Sweden, who exceeded expectations and showed that the future of women's hockey in their country is extremely bright. Sweden will be hosting the next tournament in January and looking to show off on home soil that they are a team to be reckoned with.
What We Learned:
- Familiar foes: Their proximity means these two teams play quite often and that familiarity does affect some of how they play. Both coaches said they don’t want to focus too much on what the other team is doing. But knowing your opponent so well can turn it into more of a mental game than a physical one.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The bronze medal game didn't play out at the same level of the semifinal games before it, as both teams left everything on the ice to try and take down the USA and Canada. It was great to hear both teams be so vocally confident. The Swedes talked about not giving USA too much respect and working for the North American teams to respect them. I think it's clear both those things were accomplished here.
- Not long now: Running a tournament of this magnitude over the course of eight days is rough. Teams that don't earn a bye play six games in eight days and then it’s suddenly over. I'm exhausted and I didn't come close to expending the energy the players do. After senior men's IIHF Worlds felt like it was a month long, the short scale on which this tournament is competed feels extra stark.
- Emilia Kyrkkö: She was named to the All-Tournament team and had likely earned that distinction before Monday's games were even played.
- Sanni Vanhanen: In a sea of great players and games, Vanhanen was someone you couldn't keep your eyes off of. She was a team leader on and off the ice and while she did ultimately light the lamp three times, I'd have had her on my All-Tournament team even without those tallies. I knew every time she was on the ice and I couldn't take my eyes off of her.
- Sweden coaching staff: Possibly an odd choice, but after years of watching the apathy of having Leif Boork lead the senior team in Sweden, I know how important the coach is and Madeleine Ostling seems to be a good one. Add in Pernilla Winberg and Kim Martin Hasson and the rest of the staff and I think there's really something special here. It's the kind of support the young players deserve and I hope shows an increased awareness and support from their federation.
"I like to win. But I would like to have silver or gold next time." – Sanni Vanhanen, who won bronze in both Beijing and Calgary with the Finland senior team
"[Emilia Kyrkkö] played very well. She was MVP on our team for the whole tournament. I'm thankful she gave all she had." – Vanhanen
"I think when I scored the first one, it relaxed me and the others came in time. It was personally important for me to score and help the team win." – Vanhanen
"I think we deserved a goal at least. If we maybe got that goal with five minutes left, we would have good confidence with playing 6-on-5 against Finland. We'd feel maybe they were a little shaky. It could have turned the game around, but unfortunately it wasn't a good goal." – Sweden coach Madeleine Ostling
"I think it should have been a goal. That's all I can say." – Sweden forward Nicole Hall
"I'm really proud of the team. They did everything for each other. We did everything we could have done." – Hall
"I think first of all it was a pretty slow game. We were tired from yesterday. In my mind, Finland was also tired. We said that we really wanted to get the first goal because that creates a lot of energy and it's unfortunate Finland got that one. It was a deep [hole] from that one." – Ostling
"I said after the game yesterday, I wanted the USA and Canada to actually respect Sweden as they should. We needed to show how good we are and we did. I think both Finland and Sweden have had a great tournament and I think the US and Canada feel that they need to push a little bit otherwise we're coming." – Ostling
"We know now that we have a chance. We're going to continue our work. But first, summer vacation." – Finland coach Mira Kuisma
"I think the future of women's hockey in Sweden and these players' careers is going to be super good from here." – Ostling
"Nowadays in hockey, the power play is like the top key to winning the games." – Kuisma
Switzerland ousted Germany from the top division by beating them twice in a best-of-three relegation series by scores of 1-0 and 7-3. Germany will be relegated to Division 1A for the next tournament. Team Japan will join the 2023 tournament in the top division after winning Division 1A in Györ, Hungary in January.
Czechia topped Slovakia 7-2 in a placement game and earned 5th place in the tournament. Slovakia finishes 6th and will remain in the top division in 2023. Russia and Belarus are still banned from IIHF competition for the foreseeable future.
The 2022 senior Women's Worlds will take place in Herning and Frederikshavn, Denmark from August 26 August to September 4. It is scheduled to be the first time the Women's Worlds have ever taken place in an Olympic year.
The 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship is scheduled for Östersund and Brunflo, Sweden from January 8 to 15, 2023.
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