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Preview: 2020 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships

IIHF Women's U18

This Boxing Day, the world’s top U18 players will face off in the Top Division of the 2020 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship program, setting the stage for just over a month of competition featuring the best players under the age of 18 from 28 countries around the world.

Top Division

December 26, 2019 to January 2, 2020
Bratislava, Slovakia

Last season, Canada won gold with a 3-2 win over the United States in overtime, Canada’s first U18 gold since 2014 (the United States won gold every year from 2015 to 2018). Canada will have five players from 2019 returning to its roster, including gold medal overtime hero Maddi Wheeler, while the United States will have 10 returning players, including key forwards Makenna Webster and Abbey Murphy.

Finland won bronze in 2019 and will attempt to be the first team other than Canada or the United States to win gold and just the second team (the other being Sweden in 2018) to make it to the gold medal game. Canada, the United States and Finland are in Group A along with Russia, who came in fourth in 2019 after losing to Finland in the bronze medal game.

Group B will see host Slovakia make its U18 Women’s Top Division debut after winning the 2019 Division I Group A tournament. The team will compete against the Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland. Switzerland has never medalled in this tournament, while the Czech Republic and Sweden are previous bronze medal winners.

The full schedule for the top division can be found here.

While no streaming information has been provided by the IIHF for this year, the games were streamed on the IIHF’s YouTube channel last year.

Division I Group A

January 3 to 9, 2020
Fussen, Germany

Germany will be looking to use its home ice advantage to earn promotion to the Top Division. As last season’s silver medal winner, Germany was an offensive powerhouse led by Sarah Kubiczek (5 goals, 2 assists). Also fighting for the gold medal will be Japan, a team that has constantly bounced back and forth between the Top Division and Division I over the last few years, and was relegated to this division last season for the fourth time since the country’s IIHF U18 Women’s debut in 2009.

Hungary was not too far behind Germany in the 2019 tournament, with its only two losses being a 3-2 loss to eventual gold medallist Slovakia and a 3-2 overtime loss to Germany. Hungary’s Mira Seregely took the 2019 Top Forward award and Zsofia Toth the Top Goaltender award; both are still eligible to compete in this tournament. The country has not been able to break out of Division I since being relegated to it in 2014.

Also competing in Fussen are Italy, Denmark, and France. France won the 2019 Division I Group B tournament to be promoted to this division.

The full schedule can be found here.

Division I Group B

January 2 to 8, 2020
Katowice, Poland

There was just a one point difference between first place France and second place Norway in Division I Group B in 2019; both teams had four wins and one overtime loss, but Norway’s one overtime win against France is ironically what ended up losing them a point.

This division could prove to be one of the tightest and most interesting. Great Britain is coming off of a bronze medal, their best U18 performance in years, while China is continuing to prepare and search for its best hockey players in the lead up to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. South Korea is joining the mix after winning Division I Group B Qualification gold in its IIHF U18 Women’s debut, and Austria will be looking to prove that it belongs back in Division I Group A, which it was relegated from last season.

Poland finished just off the podium last season. Keep an eye out for 16-year-old Wiktoria Sikorska. She led the 2019 tournament in goals with seven, which was also over half of Poland’s goals that event.

The full schedule can be found here.

Division II Group A

January 25 to 28, 2020
Eindhoven, Netherlands

This is the first season that there will be two U18 Women’s Division II tournaments (Group A and Group B), with there previously having been just one Division I Group B Qualification tournament. Group A will feature the teams that finished in second, third and fourth in 2019—Kazakhstan, Chinese Taipei and Australia—as well as the Netherlands, who were relegated from Division I Group B.

Kazhakstan is a top contender for the gold medal. In 2019, the team scored 20 goals in their two preliminary round games against Australia and Turkey and beat Chinese Taipei in the semifinals before falling 4-3 in a shootout to South Korea in the final.

This will be Chinese Taipei’s second IIHF U18 Women’s appearance. The team looked good in its 2019 debut, winning the bronze medal. Forward Yun-Chu Huang tied Korea’s Heewon Kim for the scoring lead with six goals and one assist. At 16 years old, Huang is still eligible to compete in this tournament.

The full schedule can be found here.

Division II Group B

January 28 to February 2, 2020
Mexico City, Mexico

This competition, the only U18 Women’s tournament to take place outside of Europe this season, will feature the teams that did not make the semifinals in the 2019 Division I Group B Qualification tournament—Mexico, Spain and Turkey. New Zealand will be making its IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship debut.

Hopefully having two Division II tournaments will make for tighter competition, with the teams in this group not having to face those such as the Netherlands and Kazakhstan; last season Turkey and Mexico were both shut out in three of their four games, with Mexico failing to notch a win (a 1-0 loss to Turkey was their closest opportunity).

Spain is the likely gold medal winner. The team was successful against Turkey and Mexico in 2019 and close with South Korea (1-0 loss) and Chinese Taipei (4-3 overtime loss).

The full schedule can be found here.


Liz Montroy

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