The United States shut out Team Sweden yesterday with a score of 4-0 to advance to the Finals and defend their 2015 Championship run… and guess who will be there to try and spoil their perfect tournament?

Three guesses and the first two don’t count…

That’s right, Team Canada also clinched a berth in tonight’s coveted gold medal game with a 4-0 shutout victory of their own against Russia. It should really come as no surprise; this is the 9th year running of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Under-18 Championships, and there hasn’t been a single Finals match-up that didn’t feature this classic showdown. Both the United States and Canada have 4 gold and 4 silver medals apiece in the last 8 years, so today’s game will break the tie.

These two teams already faced off earlier this week, with Team USA coming off much better – on paper anyway. You can never predict how these games will go based on previous success in the game that “doesn’t really count.” I’ve seen American squads punish their rivals in the round robin only to lose in heartbreaking fashion when the bling is on the line. The Canadians are the only team to register a (single) goal against Team USA this year, and they might have scored more had they not gotten into so much penalty trouble.

The United States and Canada are clearly at the top of the hockey world, especially when it comes to the women’s game. Any games these two played against other countries this tournament resulted in decisive victories, even in the Semifinal round. Perhaps, one day soon, women’s hockey will grow even more beyond our North American borders and we will have more competition at the top, but for now, the Semifinals were a just microcosm of the discrepancy between Team USA, Canada, and everyone else.


USA shuts out Sweden 4-0 in Semifinal match-up

Natalie Heising got the first goal of the game at 6:24 in the 1st after a turnover by Sweden in their own zone,

I remember coming out on my shift, saw the play develop, and tried to get in the passing lane. I managed to pick it off, and there was that moment where everything seemed to stop, and I realized I was alone with the goalie, and I put it away.

It would eventually turn out to be the game-winning goal, as the Americans earned a shutout on the back of goaltender Beth Larcom. She wasn’t very busy, however, as the Americans out-shot the Swedes by a whopping 43-9. Sweden netminder Ellen Jonsson was superb in the loss, stopping 39 shots and earning an incredible .907 save percentage.

Turnovers proved to be the downfall of the Swedish side when Team USA doubled their lead with a short-handed goal. The speed of Sydney Brodt was too much for Sweden as she skated in and scored on a backhander through Jonsson’s 5-hole at 13:10. But it wasn’t enough to close out the period up 2-0, and with only 10 seconds remaining in the 2nd, Emily Oden roofed a pass from Jesse Compher over Jonsson’s shoulder to make it 3-0.

Taylor Heise put the icing on the cake at 6:30 of the 3rd with a gorgeous wraparound goal, USA’s 4th of the game and 20th of the tournament.


 

Not to be outdone, Team Canada had a decisive victory of their own in their re-match against Russia, setting up an eerily symmetrical bracket. You can bet they’ll want revenge after losing to the Americans in the Preliminary round. And if that game’s attendance was any indication of how things will go today, you can also bet the barn in St. Catharine’s is going to be packed with maple leaf-clad supporters, heightening the atmosphere of what already promises to be a fierce battle between bitter rivals.

For those interested in watching what is sure to be a fiery game, you can catch it streaming live on NHL.com tonight at 7:30 PM Eastern.

DATE

OPPONENT

RESULT/TIME (ET)

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) W, 4-0 Natalie Heising
Fri., Jan. 15 Russia vs. Sweden (Bronze Medal Game) 2:00 PM
Canada (Gold Medal Game) 7:30 PM

Born in the “non-traditional” hockey market of South Florida, Elizabeth (Beth) quickly grew to love the sport at a very young age after her Buffalo-bred family introduced her to the Sabres. High school friends who didn’t care about hockey couldn't understand her withdrawals during the 2004-05 lockout, but college would bring a hockey loving boyfriend (and best friend) to whom she could finally relate. A South Florida native himself, and an avid Florida Panthers fan, he got her into the home team. Together they work for their college hockey club (the FAU Owls), broadcasting games. Beth is a huge USA Hockey fan and hopes to see them win Olympic gold in her lifetime. Between her 2 favorite NHL teams, her college squad, and USA Hockey, it's hard to tell which team she loves most, but she is passionate about them all.

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