Today kicks off the IIHF Women’s U18 World Ice Hockey Championships in Buffalo. One of the first large events to be hosted by Pegula’s new Harborcenter complex. The tournament doesn’t draw the same fanfare and attention that the Men’s Junior (currently finishing up in Toronto/Montreal) but is worth attending for many reasons.
I love international competition. Even more so international hockey. So my interest is already peaked. But the U18’s are actually the highest level of “junior” hockey for the ladies. After this the best competitions for them are the Olympics and the over 18 Worlds. So this isn’t low level high school puck here, its expected to be good hockey.
And with that I made my way down to the new facility for the opening game. Japan vs. Sweden. A matchup that didn’t bring in the big crowds but ended up being entertaining nonetheless. You would expect the Swedes to coast mainly because of their rich history in the sport as opposed to Japan, but you would also have been mistaken.
Sweden held a 2-1 lead late into the third period before Japan scored an equalizer with 3 minutes remaining. Looking like we were possibly in for an upset, Hanna Olsen of Sweden finished a beautiful one timer from the slot to retake the lead 3-2 with under a minute to play. This would end up being the game winner. Final shots were 28-25 in favor of Japan.
The first game alone was entertaining and showed this tournament could be competitive even from the underdogs.
Why should you attend the games? The above should give you one decent reason. The hockey isn’t bad. There is no checking in the women’s game (although I saw one big collision that resulted in a penalty) but there is plenty of good skating and passing. Personally I like my international hockey that way.
Second reason to attend is the venue. The new Harborcenter is a very good venue for hockey. The main rink is on the 7th floor and provides a nice atmosphere with views of downtown. There are no bad seats and even the standing room is good as you a provided with your own mini tables. This a perfect time finally check out the facilities if you haven’t yet.
Affordability. The games are all $5 except for the later rounds. Semi-finals are $10 and the gold/bronze medal games are $20. Matches run all day from noon until 930pm at night so if you’re off during the week it provides some nice mid day entertainment. You can park in the large garage that is directly attached to the arenas at no cost (at least for the earlier games). For the first contest I was able to find dozens of open spots.
Lastly USA/Canada is AS GOOD of a rivalry in women’s hockey as it is in men’s. The Gold Medal loss in Sochi for the women stuck with me longer than the early round loss to Canada by the men
Tonight’s game is sold out between the two sides but its all but expected (not guaranteed of course) to end up Canada vs. USA in the gold medal game next monday. Tickets are almost sold out for that game too so I suggest you get them quick.
Lastly for the merchandise hunters, it appears there are no country specific items such as jerseys/scarfs/hats available. However in the Rink 1 pro-shop you will find commemorative shirts and hoodies for the event.