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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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U18 Women’s Hockey: Dunne’s OT laser gives USA GOLD

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You simply could not have asked for a better ending to an already great tournament at Harborcenter.

51 seconds into overtime of the Gold Medal game against Canada, the sea parted for USA captain Jincy Dunne and she walked right into the slot with the puck.

“I was just trying to put it on net,” Dunne said after. “Anything can happen when you shoot.”

And that she did. Right into the top left corner.

Gold.

With that the US bench emptied onto the ice and created a pileup in the corner. Gloves and sticks were scattered everywhere. The celebration was on.

The Americans become the first team to win the Women’s U18 tournament on home soil and also broke Canada’s three year run at the top.

The game started out with the Canadians in full control. Scoring early on a US giveaway, they would hold a 1-0 lead late into the first.

But Captain America, #3 Jincy Dunne had her first moment. She took the puck from behind her own net, skated around 2 players and finished her end to end rush with a sick back hander top shelf to even the game at 1.

That goal started a tidal wave of US momentum that carried into the 2nd period.

Alyssa Gorecki finished a nice centering feed to give the US the 2-1 lead early in the second.

But despite the Americans dominance including a 20-2 shot advantage in the period, the Canadians chipped one in just minutes later.

We would continue the 2-2 deadlock throughout the third period.

However Canada began to show some fatigue late taking 4 minor penalties in the last 10 minutes. All credit to their penalty killers as the US could get nothing going on any of them.

The last penalty with under a minute to play in regulation would prove costly.

Overtime begins 4 on 4 so the power play gave the US a 4 on 3 to kick things off. Dunne made no mistake with her first shot attempt.

One of the most unforgettable international moments I will probably ever witness in person.

The sellout crowed, which was pro-American, was unbelievable. The building was so loud after the game winning goal I could have sworn we just won the Olympic gold!

 

Closing thoughts:

Congratulations to all of the teams who participated. Congrats to Russia who won the Bronze medal earlier in the day as well. The Harborcenter put on one hell of a show. Thanks to the IIHF and Sabresfans for allowing me access to cover the event. The fans were great the entire tournament and we showed up in strong numbers.

The hockey was great, to anyone who wasnt able to attend but caught the fever after USA won gold, next years tournament will be in St. Catherines! Just down the road in the Niagara Region!

The Canadians were a good match but it was TEAM USA on this day. Gold Medal. Congrats ladies!

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Photo: Francois Laplante / HHOF-IIHF Images

Header Photo: Courtesy Buffalo Sabres

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