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Canada bounces back to claim gold at IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds

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Claiming the gold medal following a third place finish in the Group A preliminary round, Canada emerged as a feel-good story. Defeating the host nation United States in the Finals, the path to the gold medal encompassed a key theme at the 2022 edition of the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds. Following a heartbreaking cancellation earlier in the year due to pandemic concerns, the theme of redemption stood prevalent.

With an amazing display of support on social media, players and enthusiasts from numerous nations, voicing their displeasure at cancellation for the second consecutive year, the event found new life. With the American Midwestern city of Madison, home of the dynastic University of Wisconsin Badgers, willing to serve as host city, a summertime tournament ensued.

Making a collectively powerful statement about sporting equality, the result was an amazing display of teamwork that demonstrated the strong, and very positive, culture of women’s ice hockey.

As host nation, the United States enjoyed an undefeated start in Group A competition, vanquishing archrival Canada, Finland and Sweden in convincing fashion. Meanwhile, the usually strong Canadian contingent struggled with a 1-2-0 mark, also losing to Finland via shutout.

Favored to capture another gold medal on home soil, the US defeated fellow Group A team Sweden in a 3-2 final, with Grace Dwyer scoring the game-winning tally. Coincidentally, the other semifinal featured a pair of Group A teams, as Canada and Finland faced off. Prevailing in a 2-1 final, Jade Iginla, daughter of former NHLer Jarome, and Madison Chantler recorded the Canadian goals. Taking into account Canada’s performance in the semis, outshooting Finland by a 45-10 mark, their performance indicated a different team from the one that struggled in the preliminary round.

Gaining the start for Canada in the gold medal game, Mari Pietersen, one of six members of the PWHL’s Etobicoke Dolphins on the roster, was the busier goaltender in the first period. Despite the US outshooting the Canadian team by a 9-4 mark, they fell behind by a 1-0 mark after the first 20 minutes of play.

Special teams proved critical as Canada capitalized on a power play opportunity for their first goal of the game. With Kirsten Simms serving a penalty for hooking, Stanstead College sensation Alexia Aubin scored at the 5:35 mark. Pietersen certainly made a claim for first period heroics, nullifying a pair of US power plays.

An action packed second period saw Canada jump out to a 3-0 advantage, scoring twice in a span of merely 58 seconds. Starting with blueliner Ava Murphy, whose club team is the Oakville Hornets, putting her name on the scoresheet at the 31:36 mark, with assists credited to Aubin and Iginla. Before the period expired, forward Jocelyn Amos, a member of the London Devilettes, also found the back of the net.

Proving to be a crucial turning point in the period, Canada’s penalty for an illegal hit at 36:31 allowed the US to stage a comeback. Finley McCarthy broke Pietersen’s bid for a shutout with eight seconds remaining in the power play, as Madison Kaiser and Laney Potter earned the assists.

The 38:30 mark saw Claire Enright trim Canada’s lead, the US fans erupting with cheer, eagerly hoping for a tying goal. With McCarthy called for delay of game with merely 48 seconds remaining in the period, US backstop Annelies Bergmann prevented the Canadian offense from adding to their lead, remaining 3-2 after 40 minutes.

In a third period that saw the US pepper Pietersen with 10 shots, her poise between the pipes emerged as the factor for Canada. With Murphy called for interference at the 56:19 mark, such composure proved essential as the US attempted to take advantage of the power play opportunity.

Unable to tie the game during the power play, Bergmann vacated the crease at 58:29 in favor of an extra attacker for the US. With a raucous crowd hoping for a tie, Pietersen, committing to Boston University for 2023, preserved the lead, as the US were unable to force overtime.

Gaining their first gold medal since 2019, it marked the sixth gold medal in tournament history for Canada, and their 14th podium finish overall. Blueliner Sara Swiderski was the lone Canadian named to the Tournament All-Star Team. US forward Laila Edwards, whose older sister Chayla, skates for the Wisconsin Badgers, gained Tournament MVP honors, along with the Directorate Award for Best Forward. Other Directorate Award winners included Finnish goaltender Emilia Kyrkkö and Swedish blueliner Tuva Kandell.  

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