(photo: IIHF Twitter)

Team USA earned their second straight Gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Under-18 Championships yesterday in dramatic fashion in front of a record crowd in St. Catharines, Ontario.

It was the classic match-up: Team USA vs. Team Canada for gold, and it lived up to the hype.

 

Fifty-five hundred sixteen people filled the seats, suites, and even the standing-room only section, making this the largest crowd ever to witness an IIHF WW U-18 game. And while they may not have liked the outcome, as the home Canadian squad left with silver, the game did not disappoint, especially for the young women playing in front of them.

At 13: 59 in the first, the home crowd and Team Canada thought they scored, but Alex Gulstene had made a spectacular pad save to keep the game scoreless.

The first period would not remain scoreless, however, as Canada got on the board at 17:55, giving them a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

The second period was when the action really revved up. After Team USA nearly tied the game on a power play opportunity, Canada doubled their lead to 2-0 at 5:58 after several minutes of sustained pressure. Gulstene made another key save to keep the game from getting out of hand just moments later. “I’m not thinking anything,” she said about the save,

I’m just reading the play, looking where her stick was, just being in the moment.

Staying focused in those crucial moments proved invaluable for Team USA, who turned the game around in the second half of the period. Alex Woken forced a turnover, stealing the puck from Canada’s Codie Cross, then Woken flew down the ice and got the Americans on the board with 5:00 remaining in the second, putting the U.S. within one after two periods.

Canadian forward Emma Maltais admitted, “It definitely changed things when they scored that goal,” and Natalie Snodgrass also commented on the impact of getting on the board, saying “We got some momentum from that goal.”

So going into the third period, the Americans had only a one-goal deficit and a new-found confidence in their game, and they poured it on. At 8:03 of the third, they were rewarded as Natalie Snodgrass scooped up a shot that went wide and stuffed the puck in on a wraparound to tie the game 2-2. Gulstene kept the score even to ensure overtime as Canada had a late scramble in front of her.

As if a USA vs. Canada match-up wasn’t already a dream hockey scenario, the game going into overtime only added to the spectacle. But it didn’t last long; just 1:47 into the extra frame, Natalie Snodgrass worked her magic yet again, backhanding a loose puck into the net, and securing a Gold medal for Team USA for the second year running, breaking the overall gold medal tie with Team Canada.

I was in the right spot at the right time,

She said, “It was a nice shot from the point, deflected. I missed it the first time but buried the rebound. I threw my gloves in the air!”

Coach Joel Johnson expressed his pride at the way his team battled and overcame a two-goal deficit,

This is an amazing group of young women and they earned this tremendous victory

With her game-tying heroics and gold medal-clinching overtime goal, Natalie Snodgrass was named U.S. Player of the Game. Alex Gulstene, who also had an incredible game – and tournament for that matter, expressed her emotions after the win,

To win it here, on their home turf, is amazing – It’s beyond words.

 

 

 

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 Canada (Gold Medal Game) W, 3-2 OT Natalie Snodgrass

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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