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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)

 

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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)

 

U18 Women’s Hockey: Quarterfinal drama sets up for big Sunday

Who said women’s hockey isn’t exciting?

Friday provided two of the most tense quarterfinal hockey games you’ll see in any competition.

In the first game Finland jumped out to a shocking 3-0 lead on Russia after one period.

10917031_10152969747575900_859150723370636114_nThe Fins held on most of the second period but you could tell the Russians were starting to find their legs after having just played the night before. They were able to cut the lead to 3-1 after 2.

Halfway through the third frame Fanuza Kadirova tied the game 3-3 setting up for a dramatic end.

With under 10 seconds to go, the Finnish defender lost control of the puck high in the Russian zone. Kadirova broke free for a breakaway and with 3 seconds left, deposited the rubber in the back of the net capping off an incredible comeback.

You have to feel for the girls from Finland. They were playing with a pure nothing to lose approach after having qualified in their final game of the preliminary round. However they weren’t able to defend the early 3 goal lead they built.

Russia will play Canada Sunday 3pm at Harborcenter in the first semi-final. Canada won the opening round matchup 3-2 despite dominating the game in most statistical categories. If Russia can play a full 60 minutes we could certainly have a great game on our hands.

 

The Czech Republic and Sweden were next up in the night matchup. As with the earlier game, the Czechs jumped out to a 3-0 lead near the midway point of the game.

The Swedes were able to get one back on the powerplay to make it 3-1 heading into the 3rd.

Hanna Olsson was able to close the gap to 3-2 and it seemed we were in for a similar finish. However Michaela Pejzlova gave the Czechs a very important breather goal five minutes later.

Just to keep things interesting Celine Tendenby (SWE) found the back of the net with under 3 minutes to play cutting the lead to 4-3. But that was all Sweden could muster despite holding an 18-5 shot advantage in the 3rd period and a total game advantage of 40-25.

This game also featured two of my favorite players to watch from an individual skill standpoint. #23 Hanna Olsson from Sweden generally appeared able to take over a game whenever she wanted. I couldn’t figure out why she was tentative to do so at times. She possessed superior size and skating ability to most girls on the ice.

The other would be #18 Michaela Pejzlova. The Czech captain has some of the best hands and one-on-one ability of anyone I’ve seen in the tournament. She also has a bit of a feisty competitive edge that should help in a very tough match against the Americans.

The Czech Republic will play the United States at 7pm Sunday in the second semi-final. The US dominated the first match up 3-0 and 24-8 in shots.

It appears we are headed for a highly anticipated USA-Canada Gold medal game Monday but the Russians and the Czechs both appear to be up for the challenge.

(Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

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IIHF Women’s U18 tournament kicks off in Buffalo, should you go?

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.

3e7de7e573I 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.

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