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.
USA 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)