2024 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship: Day 1
- 14 min read

2024 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship: Day 1

2024 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship: Day 1 by Nicole Haase

A recap of the action from January 6, 2024, Day One of the IIHF U18 Women's World Championship in Zug, Switzerland.

Finland 3, Czechia 2

Coming into this tournament, the big question for Finland was on offense. They weren't particularly prolific in 2023, but the goals they did score were from two players that aged out of U18's. In Saturday's tournament-opener, Emma Ekoluoma revealed herself as the answer to that questions, scoring a hat trick, including the short-handed game-winner with 1:54 left on the clock.

The 17-year old nearly equaled her output from the Four Nations Tournament in December. She and linemate Julia Kuusisto played off each other well, taking advantage in lapses of focus from the Czechs and not squandering opportunities when they appeared.

As expected, Adéla Šapovalivová carried a big load for Czechia, logging more than 24 minutes on ice. She and linemates Anezka Cabelova and Tereza Plosová controlled play early on, but Czechia had only a 1-0 lead at the first intermission on a power play wrister from Šapovalivová. She doubled the lead in the opening minute of the second, slotting in a loose puck to make it 2-0.

Ekoluoma's first came on the power play midway through the game when she went snapped the puck high to make it a 2-1 game. A few minutes into the final frame, she once-again beat Senkova high, scoring on a patient one-timer on a feed from behind the net from Juusisto just as the penalty was expiring to tie the game 2-2.

The game-winner came when a blocked Czechia shot rattled along the back board. Jennika Ojala jumped on the puck and sent it along the side board, looking to clear. Šapovalivová tried to stop the clear, but the puck hopped her stick. Abigail Byskata was closing to defend, but adjusted to nab the puck and take off down the ice, Ekoluoma breaking out with her. The quick break drew the defender to Byskata, leaving Ekoluoma alone through the middle. She dragged the puck and scored backhand to give her team the win.

What We Learned:

  • 60 minutes, some regrets – Czechia felt like they let the game slip away. They were 1-for-5 on the power play and got more lax as the game progressed. Coach Dušan Andrašovský wondered if his team might have a sort of "hangover" after defeating the Americans in a pre-tournament warmup game the day before, but Šapovalivová said that can't be an excuse. Plosová said her team stopped pushing and got too passive as the game went on. They were content with their one-goal lead and the pesky Finns took advantage when Czechia started to let up.
  • The danger of warmup games? – That's mostly tongue-in-cheek, as I agree with Šapovalivová that her team needs to have the fitness to be able to play back to back games like this. But there was a mental piece here that I'm not sure the Czechs navigated well. The team is experienced and came in to Zug with already-high expectations. Then they beat USA and were riding a confidence boost that seems to have made them a little too comfortable on Saturday. It was an important lesson for the teenagers to learn and something we might not have seen from more mature and experienced players.
  • Short shift – Interestingly, Ekoluoma did not lead her team in time on ice, but she did share the lead for most total shifts on ice. Finland used her in short, impactful bursts – her average shift was 35 seconds. I'll be interested to watch this as the tournament progresses and see if that seems to be more about managing her usage or if it appears more strategic and situational.

Standout Performances:

  • Finland F Emma Ekoluoma  It was a dream debut for Ekoluoma, who showcased the ability to pick and place her shot and overall vision on the ice. She would have already been the focus of opposing defenses and she still managed to have a game like this. Her patience stood out. The Finns didn't have a lot of opportunities and it wouldn't have been surprising to see a bit more rushed chaos as they tried to take advantage of those windows. But she stayed focus, didn't get rushed out of her habits and the result was three really smart goals that carried her team to the win.
  • Czechia F Adéla Šapovalivová – Despite the mistake that led to the final Finn goal, she was by far the most impactful and dynamic player on the ice. It's no surprise after seeing her play with the senior team as a 16-year-old, but she plays with poise and hockey IQ beyond her years. She's quick and reads the ice well, which shows up in the breakout and how easily Czechia can flip from defense to offense. She's not reckless, but it feels like she's constantly reading the game a few plays ahead and is constantly on the lookout for changes to transition and flip the ice.


"I don't know. We just have to put this behind us and prepare for tomorrow's game. We have to play like we can." – Czechia captain Adéla Šapovalivová

"We have to be better every day and we have to win." – Šapovalivová

"We were a little bit scared about the first game. We were a little bit nervous and we were tired after the game against the US [on Friday]." – Czechia coach Dušan Andrašovský

"She's our top player. We don't have better players than her." - Andrašovský on Šapovalivová

"We are mentally a tough team. It's been a tough season so far with not so many wins. We believe in how we play. We're not worried." – Finland coach Mira Kuisma

"You have to make sure that the next shift and next shift is focused. Stay in the moment." – Kuisma

"I've been feeling good about my game. Maybe there are some details that can be improved, but overall it was a good feeling today." – Finland forward Emma Ekoluoma

Sweden 6, Switzerland 1

It took a little time for Sweden to find their rhythm in this game, but a power play goal toward the end of the first seemed to be the jolt they needed as they scored three goals in less than three minutes to go ahead 3-0 heading into the intermission. After a back and forth start to the game, the quick goals felt like a dagger to any hopes the Swiss might have had.

That's not to say Switzerland gave up. They pushed back more and more as the game progressed, hitting the post and finding more than a few choice opportunities. But they couldn't seem to find that finishing touch to put it all together.

Sweden opened the scoring when Ebba Hedqvist was left alone at the back post. Her shot was saved, but the rebound back out front was put back by Isabelle Leijonhielm to make it 1-0. Hedqvist was all over the next play, first pushing into the slot on her own before dishing the puck back to Mira Hallin and then tipping in Hallin's shot to make it 2-0.

The Swiss had the front of the net well-guarded, but the Swedes did a great job of not forcing the issue and pushing the puck back to the blue line to regroup. The next goal was a result of that reset, as the puck moved around the perimeter before dropping to Hilda Svensson at the right faceoff dot. She spotted Leijonhielm at the back door and threaded the pass for her to put in.

The Swiss earned a penalty shot early in the second, but Ivana Wey's attempt to go five-hole was stopped by Maja Helge.

Hallin's goal in the second was probably the highlight for Sweden as she won the puck along the boards at the blue line and used some deft skating and puck handling to dangle around the defender before bank-handing it into the net from a close angle to make it 4-0.

The lone Swiss goal came in the final five minutes when Wey won a faceoff and fed the puck across the slot to Alena Rossel. Her initial shot was saved, but Elisa Dalessi followed up to break the shutout and give the home crowd something to cheer about. It was an important confidence boost for the Swiss, who have to face the Americans in their next game.

What We Learned:

  • Learn and grow – I asked Sweden coach Andreas Karlsson about the mentality of his team coming off the 2023 tournament. Eventually, they would have come to appreciate their silver medal, but in the moment, they came off a big upset of the Americans to lose big in front of their home crowd in the gold medal game. This game was a good reset to launch them into this year's tournament. They made a good push and took the lead in the first and held off a number of pushes from the Swiss.
  • Slow climb – It was not the show Switzerland hoped they'd put on in front of the home crowd. Their penalty kill struggled and they overall looked timid. There were bright spots and they got better as the game went on, but it felt like all the offense was driven from one or two players who were trying to will the puck in the net. The goal was big for their confidence, but the task doesn't get any easier as they play USA tomorrow. With the way Germany played Canada, I'm worried Switzerland is going to get relegated at the tournament they host.
  • Need for development – At senior worlds in Brampton, the Swiss coach was so frustrated by his team's lack of depth. That's a foundational federation issue and naturally shows here at U18s. There's a need for better development in girls hockey in Switzerland. The hope is this tournament encourages more girls to start playing. That's a good start, but has a really long runway to possible improvement. Sweden has really pushed for development of their teenagers and the contrast between where the two countries are now was obvious in this game. The Swedish players come through sport-focused high schools and many start playing in the SDHL before they even get to this tournament. The level of that league compared to the Swiss one is pushing development of their young players in a way that Switzerland can't match right now. Folks like Lara Stalder are doing work to push improvement in Switzerland, but again, that feels more long term. What can be done for the current group of teenagers to fill those gaps and accelerate their growth in the meantime?

Standout Performances:

  • Switzerland F Ivana Wey  I often talk in the college game about players who have that nebulous quality of finding another level and when their back is against the wall where they just seem to be willing to do anything and everything to will their team to win. That's how Wey felt for most of this game. She was trying anything and everything in her power to keep her team in this game and try to push back against Sweden. It didn't ultimately show up on the scoresheet, but watching the game, you could not miss her on the ice.
  • Sweden F Isabelle Leijonhielm and Hilda Svensson – These two were electric, together and separately. Like Finland, some of the best scorers for this team had aged out and there was an opportunity for new players to step up and these two rose to the occasion. They each had two goals and an assist.


"I think it very much helps that we have so many players from last year. We are a big group and everyone loves each other. It's good to have a great team on and off the ice." - Sweden F Isabelle Leijonhielm

"I think because we are very different players. We complement each other very well. Hilda [Svensson] is very good. She's a playmaker. And Ella [Hellman] is going 100% all the time. I fight a lot and win one on ones in the corner." – Leijonhielm on why her line is successful.

"We need to shoot more and get more traffic in front of the net." – Leijonhielm

"Maja's so good in the net. She's so calm, and the players on the ice feel safe with Maja back there." – Leijonhielm

"I don't think I thought about it too much. I just went out and tried my best." – Sweden F Jenna Raunio on returning to this tournament after suffering a concussion in last year's tournament that kept her from hockey for most of the year

"We're so happy to have the tournament here and we were ready. But we also know that it's a new situation for the young girls. With three goals [against] in three minutes, it was very hard to keep the momentum and the energy up in the team. We tried to get back and we had a lot of good chances also with breakaways and a penalty shot." – Switzerland coach Melanie Haefliger

"We know that the Americans are a big wall for us, but we'll take this chance. It's maybe the first time in a long time that Switzerland will play against the U.S. So we know that will be a big game for our girls. We want to learn something and take the game step by step." – Haefliger

"That was really good because at least when you are losing 5-0 you just try to score at least one or two goal. It was exciting because being at home, all the people here were for us so they cheered." – Switzerland forward F Elisa Dalessi

"We were really excited to play in front of our fans and we were pumped up. We started not really good, but we came into the game over the 60 minutes. At the end it was better. There is a lot of potential in this team, but we couldn't show everything." – Switzerland F Ivana Wey

"It was really good for us that we could score on a good team like Sweden. We tried to get energy for the next game." – Wey

"I tried to support my team in every way I can. I tried my best. It didn't work today, but maybe it will work against the USA." – Wey

Canada 11, Germany 0

I'm not sure how much there is to say about an 11-0 game where Canada out-shot Germany 57-4. Canada is the team we thought they'd be. They were fluid and fast, they moved the puck well and obviously they know how to score. Germany's goalies, Hannah Loist and Miriam Siebert, both played well. Loist flashed the leather with a quick glove. Several of Canada's goals came from deflections and and tip plays. It's nearly impossible for the best goalies in those situations and Canada ran the plays to a tee. When they are so much better than their opponent, it most felt like a cheat code and I was left feeling bad for Loist after having played so well that this is how she was beaten.

Canada moved the puck well and it wasn't just the talent or star players, For me, what was on display here were the intangibles and also the individual discipline and skills. They didn't get lax as the game progressed. It was tape to tape passes, strong forecheck and great puck movement from start to finish.

Sienna D'Alessandro's third goal was a tip in at the post and she looked embarrassed to have gotten it. It was a cute show of emotion and empathy. Late in the game, press row was on watch for Primerano to tie or break a tournament record – her fives points were one shy. With her two goals, captain Caitlin Kraemer set a new record for goals with the U18 team with 17, surpassing Marie-Philip Poulin.

What We Learned:

  • Big leap – Germany went from playing in Division 1A to playing the World Champions. It was a massive ask and of course, it went about as you'd expect. But I was impressed with how Germany handled it. They didn't play intimidated or like they thought they didn't belong there. They weren't giving Canada free ice, but stepping to them in the neutral zone and at the blue line. They pulled their goalie midway through, not because she played poorly, but to save her mentally and to get both goalies experience. I like coach Jeff MacLeod's approach and attitude and it seemed to spread to his team. He said the depth and speed of the teams at this level is very different from the level below but Germany didn't look out of place here, regardless of the scoreline and I think they're a team that could surprise a team if they aren't taken seriously – particularly with their goalies.
  • As advertised – Even as I started typing this I wasn't sure if I meant it for the team as a whole or Chloe Primerano particularly. Both lived up to the hype and promise. The quality of streams for young players is usually not great and also, when a player is so much better than those around her, it's difficult to get a read on what that gap really looks like. But Primerano stood out here even among her very talented teammates. The power of her wrist shot is, quite frankly, laughable. The goal she scored to open the second period featured a limited number of strides, including two right strides in a row to pass a defender and then the wrister she released made me audibly react. She and Gracie Graham play together at home and were paired together in Zug, but Watchorn also put Primerano with Emma Venusio and it was electric. Both are threats from deep with massive shots, but they have different styles that complement each other and having the other one back there really gives the other the freedom to push forward and drop into the offensive play.

Standout Performances:

  • Germany F Anastasia Gruss  She was 13-10 on faceoffs and such a crucial part of the Germans being able to break up anything Canada was putting together. You noticed her on the ice as she tried to push the play forward out of the zone and played defense.
  • Canada F Abby Stonehouse – Going beyond the obvious choices, I really liked the off-puck movement and playmaking of Abby Stonehouse. She's one of the smaller players on the ice, but uses it to her advantage to get in tight spaces and weave around defenders. There are more attention-grabbing stars on this squad, but I like what she does to set up and support those players.


"We played to our habits. Even though we had the puck a lot, whenever we didn't, we stuck to our habits and looked to get back on offense." – Canada coach Tara Watchorn

"I liked that we got better and better every period. We talk a lot about creating quality scoring chances. Every shift, every period we played more together." – Watchorn

"What is really cool about her progression is even from the summer, she's even more of a dynamic player and we're only talking about a few months. It speaks to her work ethic and the way she doesn't just carry the puck, but distributes it." – Watchorn on defender Chloe Primerano

"It's kind of unexpected. Poulin is such an amazing player on and off the ice. To just be said in the same sentence as her is incredible." – Canada C Caitlin Kraemer

"The key was probably just staying positive on the bench. Everyone was just tapping each other on the shin pads, making sure everyone's up and happy. We are all just happy when we're playing on the ice." – Canada F Reese Logan

"It was a great game by all of us. I think we worked really well as a group." – Canada D Chloe Primerano

"We never gave up. It's not the result we wished for, but I think we can learn a lot from this game. We have experience now and we're excited for the next games." – Germany captain Martina Schrick

"We have a young team. We can learn and grow together in this tournament." – Schrick

"We try to say that we never give up. We are proud to be here and to play in the top division and to play against the World Champions is only a positive experience." – Schrick

"We wanted to progress as the game went on. We got better in different areas. We made a point that we wanted to play hard in the final period and I think we did that." – Germany coach Jeff MacLeod

"You get players that come along that have a special talent – the vision and the skills and all the things that go with it. It's fun to watch – maybe not as an opposing coach." – MacLeod

"There were lots of positives. We're happy with how our goalies played. Overall, they played well. We're happy with the effort. We knew it was going to be a big task for us, but the effort and how we think we got a little stronger as the game went on is what we think is going to help us." – MacLeod

Tournament Updates

  • This morning, Team USA defeated Slovakia by a score of 7 to 1 in Group B play. The game was televised live on TSN and NHL Network.
  • Finland is currently leading Germany 1-0 in the first period in Group A.
  • Recap and postgame videos of today's games to come later.
  • At 2:00 PM Eastern US time, Canada will take on Czechia in Group A play. The game will be televised live on TSN3.

(Photo: Nicole Haase)