The U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team has been enjoying a great deal of success so far at the 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. They’ve rolled past all three of their preliminary opponents – including a 4-1 victory over their bitter rivals and toughest opponent Team Canada on Monday, and shutouts against the Czech Republic and Russia last weekend.
Team USA clinched first place in their group Monday with the win over Canada, as they improved to 3-0-0-0, securing 9 points. Team Canada had been undefeated until USA handed them their first loss of the tournament; they dropped to 2-0-0-1 with 6 points, setting up a semifinal berth against Russia while the United States will face Sweden.
Monday’s game took place before a sellout, record crowd of over 4,000 spectators. The attendance at the USA vs. Canada game raised the total number of fans at the tournament to almost 22,000, shattering the previous attendance record of 17,480, set in 2012. And being in St. Catharines, Ontario, the crowd was not exactly Yankee-friendly,
“I was a bit nervous playing in front of so many people,” said Team USA forward Natalie Snodgrass, “There was a lot of red and white, but only the seats were blue.”
She didn’t let her nerves interfere with her game, however, as she was one of the goal scorers in the win.
The Canadian squad got themselves in some penalty trouble and the Americans were quick to capitalize, scoring 3 power play goals, while goalie Alex Gulstene made 33 saves including a pad stop on the penalty kill late in the 2nd period.
The Americans came out strong in the opening period, out-shooting Canada 16-4 and scoring on 2 out of 3 power plays. Sydney Brodt opened the scoring at 5:52, hammering the loose puck home from Madeline Wethington’s shot from the point. Rebecca Gilmore doubled the lead on a one-timer that would eventually be the game-winning goal. She also would go on to score an empty-net goal, putting the exclamation mark on the score sheet and earning herself Player of the Game honors.
Team Canada garnered a little more offense in the 2nd period, but once again penalty trouble kept them from making any headway. Snodgrass scored Team USA’s third power play goal at 6:06 on a pass from Taylor Wente.
The pro-Canada crowd finally had something to cheer for with only 3:26 left in the game when Julia Edgar got her team on the board, spoiling Gulstene’s shutout. The excitement was short-lived, however, after an errant pass sent the puck out of the USA zone while Canada tried to come from behind with the goalie pulled. Gilmore was too quick for the Canadians, and iced the game with her second tally of the match.
The Americans will face-off against Sweden today at 4:00 EST. It’s obvious that Team USA has benefited from training and practices, as evidenced by their unblemished record thus-far, but they credit their accomplishments to their off-ice camaraderie just as much as on-ice skill.
“The off-ice chemistry and character of a team is paramount to its success and we’re fortunate that this group has really come together and is playing hard for one another,” said head coach Joel Johnson,
“Everyone is in this together and individual accomplishments are team accomplishments. That will be one of our strengths as we move forward.”
Defenseman Gracie Ostertag added,
“Whether it’s sharing an encouraging word or making sure we are holding each other accountable to sharing a few laughs, this group of players has a special bond that helps the group be the best it can be.”
Live streaming of the tournament is provided by FASTHockey.com
U.S. PLAYER OF THE GAME
|Fri., Jan. 8||Czech Republic||W, 6-0||Grace Zumwinkle|
|Sat., Jan. 9||Russia||W, 6-0||Alex Woken|
|Mon., Jan. 11||Canada||W, 4-1||Rebecca Gilmore|
|Thurs., Jan. 14||Sweden – Semifinal||4:00 PM|
|Fri., Jan. 15||TBD – Bronze Medal Game||2:00 PM|
|TBD – Gold Medal Game||7:30 PM|
For more information on the 2016 U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team, including a full roster, click here.