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Archive for January, 2016

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2016 IIHF U18 Women’s Hockey: USA takes GOLD in OT Thriller again

I’ve been writing how it would be impossible for this tournament to have the same dramatic ending as last year in Buffalo.

Boy was I wrong.

USA for the second straight year has taken home the gold in Overtime.

Natalie Snodgrass was this years hero as she buried a backhander less than 2 minutes into the first OT period.

FLAP9778“I was in the right spot at the right time … I threw my gloves in the air!” Snodgrass said joyfully.

Its hard to put in to words what we saw tonight at the sold out Meridian Centre in St. Catharines.

Team Canada made all the right adjustments after being heavily outplayed in a 4-1 loss to the US on Monday.

The Canadians played a smarter team game. They were able to keep the US to the outside for most of the game. They also made sure to get pucks deep in the American zone.

The biggest difference is that they were able to finish their chances. Jamie Bourbonnais put Canada on the board late in the first. And early in the second Daryl Watts extended the lead to 2-0. 

American goalie Alex Gulstene made multiple blind saves early in the period to keep USA within reach. Canada could have found themselves up 3-0 or 4-0 easily.

The big turning point came when American Alex Woken stole a puck and head in on a half breakaway. She let it fly and it found the back of the net to get USA back to within 1.

The third period was back and forth with both teams trading chances.

As pressure from the Americans mounted, Natalie Snodgrass was able to put one past Canadian keeper Stephanie Neatby to tie the game at 2.

Alex Gulstene came up with a couple huge stops with less than 10 seconds to go to get USA to the overtime period.

Then the stage was set.

1:47 into the overtime period, the US were able to get the puck to the net and big rebound came to Snodgrass and she made no mistake.

USA would be wearing the gold for a second straight year. By the same score. And also in Overtime.

Congrats to all the teams. Canada were not as strong as the United States this year but they made the adjustments and came so close to pulling off the gold medal victory. They should be commended for their effort. Also a congrats to Team Sweden who defeated Russia 2-1 earlier for the Bronze medal.

The city of St Catharines, Hockey Canada, and the IIHF put on another marvelous event. Hopefully we will see you all next year.

Lastly here is my All Tournament Team

G – Emma Soderberg (SWE)
F – Alina Muller (SUI)
F – Ashton Bell (CAN)
F –  Fanuza Kadirova (RUS)
D – Cayla Barnes (USA)
D – Jessica Adolfsson (SWE)
MVP – Natalie Snodgrass (USA)

 

2016 IIHF U18 Women’s Day 5 Recap: USA and Canada win, set up Gold Medal Showdown

Day 5 of the Women’s U18 Hockey Championships has come to an end and as predicted USA and Canada will meet in the gold medal game Friday night.

The Americans had little trouble in eliminating Sweden 4-0 in the days first semi-final match.

F11C7442Natalie Heising put the United States up 1-0 early in the first. Sydney Brodt added a shorthanded goal and Emily Oden added another at even strength to extend the US lead in the 2nd to 3-0.

Taylor Heise scored her second of the tournament to close out the scoring for the Americans in the 3rd for a 4-0 final.

“Now that we’re there, we’re excited, and we want to win the gold,” Heising said after the game.

The final shot total heavily favored the US 43-9.

Goaltender Ellen Jonsson was certainly a bright spot for team Sweden. She kept her team in the game giving the Swedes a fair chance through 2 periods.

Sweden will play Russia in the Bronze medal game also to be played on Friday.

Canada dominated Russia by a similar 4-0 score.

Russia put up very little resistance and were outshot 43-12 by a hungry Canadian team.

Despite out shooting the Russian girls 12-1, Team Canada only held a 1-0 lead after one thanks to Ashton Bell’s second goal of the tournament.

A similar dominant second period once again only saw Canada add one to their lead after Ryleigh Houston’s powerplay tally.

Leading 2-0 heading into the third it was only a matter of time before Russia’s defense collapsed. Ashton Bell and Kayla Friesen scored 25 second apart early in the third to put the game away.

Team Russia will look to repeat last years Bronze medal performance again Sweden at 4pm EST tomorrow at the Meridian Center.

Gold medal rematch set.

As most expected, USA and Canada will faceoff again in the gold medal match.

I mentioned it in previous articles but last year both teams appeared to be on even ground heading into the final game. Mondays 4-1 victory by the US certainly showed quite a gap between the two countries this year.

Canada appeared much more confident in their semi-final against Russia today so could we be in for a much better USA-Canada showdown tomorrow? It would be great for the game if we got drama similar to last years tournament in Buffalo. For that to happen, the Canadians will need to be able to match or at least neutralize the Americans superior speed. Hockey is a game of bounces sometimes and if Canada are able to weather an early storm by Team USA, it could be a tight one til the end.

Switzerland defeats France to stay at the top level.

The 2-0 loss will see France relegated for next years tournament. Switzerland by virtue of the win will stay in the top level.

As for the country that will replace France in 2017, Japan defeated Slovakia 4-1 in the Division 1 tournament that is being played in Hungary. Japan will make its way back after being relegated at last years tournament in Buffalo.

(Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)

 

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2016 IIHF U18 Women’s Day 3 Recap: USA overpowers Canada, Finland sneaks into playoff

There were a couple story lines heading into the last day of pool play.

The final spot in the playoff round was up for grabs and the USA – Canada rematch that everyone was waiting for.

Let’s start with USA Canada of course.

USA capitalizes on powerplay to defeat Canada

Last year in Buffalo, USA grabbed gold from the Canadians with a 3-2 OT thriller when Jincy Dunne ripped one in the top corner.

Some figured as we hopped over the border that Canada might have the edge this year. After all the teams were very even in last years tournament providing 2 great games.

However things have started a bit different in this years version of the rivalry.

CHYT2361An IIHF U18 Women’s attendance record saw more than 4,000 spectators pack the Meridian Centre in St. Catherines. An almost unanimous pro Canada crowd was buzzing for a long time before puck drop. The support was great to see for the women’s game and the growth it has seen over the last few years.

However the warm feelings of the crowd soon came to an end. Canada’s lack of discipline saw the Americans get 3 early powerplays. Sydney Brodt put the US on the board 1-0 before Rebecca Gilmore added to the lead halfway through the first to give them a 2-0 advantage.

The first period ended with a 16-4 shot margin in favor of USA and things were not looking good for Team Canada.

Natalie Snodgrass added another powerplay goal in the 2nd to extend the lead to 3-0. The Canadians held a 11-7 shot advantage in the second frame but were still held mostly to perimeter shots.

Despite the Americans strong play overall, Canada’s Julia Edgar finally gave the packed crowd something to hang onto as she made it 3-1 late in the 3rd on her first of the tournament.

The hope was short lived as Rebecca Gilmore notched her second of the game on the empty net for a 4-1 US win.

The final shot total favored the Canadians 34-32 in what ended up as a back and forth game late.

However my observations of Team Canada from their game against Russia held up in this one. They continued to let the other teams speed dictate the pace of play and they allow too many odd (wo)man rushes.

Despite the shot advantage and the modest 4-1 final, USA seemed to have the edge in just about every area of on ice play. They were faster in the breakout, stronger on the boards and were able to generate many more offensive possessions deep in the opposing zone. The Canadian women generally were reduced to shots from just inside the blue line whenever they gained entry to the American zone.

As I mentioned earlier, the two sides seemed even last year in the 2015 IIHF U18 tournament, but this year the Americans have seemed to widen the gap and appear much faster and confident than the Canadian women.

However we should remember that all this means nothing until Friday nights gold medal match. If we get the rematch between the two, which is expected, its a clean slate for Canada. However they have a lot to work on if they are going to give USA a run for the gold.

Finland gets big win to advance to playoff round

Overlooked by the USA vs. Canada match was a very important game that would decide the final team to qualify for the medal round.

It was looking bleak for Team Finland. They had to beat rivals Sweden which was no small task. After losing to Switzerland 2-0 on Saturday it seemed even more unlikely. But Team Finland coach Jari Risku sent the right message.

“I told them to relax and have the confidence that we have the skills to win,”  Risku said after. “We didn’t play like that against Switzerland, but today we did. Trust yourself. Trust your teammates. Let the passion out. That is it.”

A 3-1 Finnish victory would follow that would leapfrog them over Switzerland for the final spot. The Swiss had the easier task of taking on newcomers France if only Sweden could have given them some help.

As it stands now France will play Switzerland in a best of 3 series to see who will stay at the top level for the 2017 tournament.

Up next on Tuesday should be two good quarterfinal matchups between Sweden – Czech Republic and Russia – Finland.

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2016 IIHF U18 Women’s Day 1 Recap: USA and Canada cruise to wins, as we remember William Pax.

SabresFans is back this year covering the IIHF Under 18 Women’s World Championships. It will be mighty difficult to replicate last years thrilling OT finish that saw USA take home gold against Canada in Buffalo. Jincy Dunne was the hero, and although she is no longer on the team, USA showed good form on Day 1 of the 2016 tournament.

Before I get to some thoughts and recaps on Day 1 Id like us to remember the founder of SabresFans.com, one of the most visited regional fan websites in the league, William H. Pax. He passed away suddenly in 2015 and it was a shock to us all. He meant a lot to so many people for creating an environment for local fans in the Buffalo area to gather. But for me especially I must give my thanks. He allowed me to write articles for the website, about whatever I wanted, which helped me finally have an outlet for my work. I’ve always enjoyed writing but never had a stage with an audience like this site. Before last years IIHF U18 WWC, I decided to try to get a press credential and was granted. Being a huge fan of the IIHF and international hockey my entire life, it was a small dream come true to have an official pass to cover one of their events. Bill was extremely excited for me and was very invested in my coverage of the event. Most of the articles of our coverage were very high in the search standings for the event which helped us get some more credibility with the hope of getting access to cover more sporting events. Without Bill I wouldn’t be doing this today and its still shocking that he passed just shortly after I covered the tournament last year. Regardless of him not being around anymore, he still provided one of my favorite quotes that sums up why I love international sports. He wrote this right after Jincy Dunne scored the OT winning goal for USA in the gold medal match.

“Hockey for the sake of team and sport is always the best. Pour national pride on top and it’s something you just can’t get in professional leagues.” – William H. Pax

 

Getting back to the tournament, it has moved just over the border so fans in the area that attended last years event won’t have to go far. St Catherines is the host in the year old Meridian Centre. An amazing new facility that is home to the OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs. Its really everything you want in a small sized arena. It has a full suite level, nice amenities, a local sports museum and great sight lines for watching hockey. This was the type of arena that was planned for the Ice Dogs had they moved to Tonawanda (Buffalo area) as originally planned. Although that would have been awesome to see, their new home in the Niagara region will suit them just well.

We appear headed to yet another USA Canada gold medal match next Friday. However one of the things that I always love about international hockey is seeing the growth of other nations. I am hoping this year we see other countries emerge as legitimate contenders to the two powers. After Day 1 I feel Russia certainly has the game but still lacks a bit on defense and goaltending. Finland and Sweden showed quite well, but how do they stack up against USA and Canada? Lets recap today’s games.

UF11C4115SA overpowers the Czech Republic 6-0

The Americans didn’t have much of a test from the Czechs. They outshot them 35-7 overall. Grace Zimwingle opened the scoring for USA early and Taylor Heise made it 2-0 before the end of the 1st.

Only up 3-0 late in the third, Team USA scored 3 goals in under a minute. 2 of those were by Natalie Snodgrass who returns from last years gold medal winning team.

The Czechs were a country Id hoped to see more out of this year after showing decent in 2015’s tournament. They will get Canada tomorrow.

Canada outlasts Russia 5-2

The score tells a bit different story than the game itself. Hard to get a read on either team after this one. Canada jumped out early to a 2-0 lead and the Russians only had 1 shot after the first period. However a slick breakaway tally in the second by Fanuza Kadirova got Russia back in it 2-1.

The Canadian girls made the most of their chances and cashed in 3 more times to extend their lead to 5-1.

The atmosphere and crowd for this game were great with record support from the Canadian fans. Just over 3500 filled the building which breaks the old record for an IIHF U18 Women’s game. I imagine that will be broken again easily for Mondays USA – Canada match along with next Fridays gold medal showdown.

The final shots were 20-18 Canada in what proved to be an uneven performance for them. There were stretches where I though Russia controlled the played and showed good 1 on 1 skill. Canada also got caught a few times on line changes which seemed a bit careless. I take nothing away from them as they finished their chances. However I will give Russia more credit than most will. They seem to be more well rounded at this years event than in 2015. Could they be that 3rd team that pushes USA and Canada? Tomorrow will certainly tell us more as they face the American.

Finland and Sweden take care of business

The Finns should have been in a good mood after seeing the men take gold last week in the Mens World Junior Championships. They defeated newly promoted France 11-1 in the opener for both teams. Team Sweden secured a victory over Switzerland 5-1 as well.

(Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)

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