I guess most of you already know how the U18 World Championship in Buffalo turned out so I’ll just brush that with a short recap. As expected USA and Canada didn’t have too much trouble making it to the finals and it was a couple of real tight and huge games between the two Goliaths of women’s hockey. The first ended with the US on top after game-winning shots and they were just overwhealming in the final game pushing Canada hard down their defensive zone and had it not been for an impressive 38 save performance by Marlene Boissonnault in the Canadian goal it would have been a blowout victory, but as usual the game was tied after 60 minutes. Didn’t take much overtime though before American Jincy Dunne had won it for Team USA and noone could have deserved that goal better than Dunne who had a truly stellar final game and not only was she named player of the game, but best defenceman of the tournament as well.
Russia claimed the bronze medal after a dominant 5-1 victory over the Czech Republic and another tight game by Valeria Tarakanova who was later named goalkeeper of the tournament. Scoring leader and alternate captain for Canada Sarah Potomak was named Best Forward.
I was a bit sad not getting to see Sweden play the bronze medal game since they played a terrific game against the Czechs in the quarter finals, but nothing seemed to go their way that day. Small margins and one brutally efficient Czech team, placed the Swedes outside the medal race. Still I’m very proud of the great games they played over the tournament and it will be very exciting to see what they can do next year since most of the team will be eligible to play in that tournament as well, 15 out of 22 player were born 1998 or 1999 and we do have a lot of very talented player of the ’98 vintage!
Of course some new favorites appeared on my radar over the course of this tournament and I will keep close tabs on the lightning fast Canadian youngster Kristin O’Neill, the well schooled Finnish goalie Anni Keisala and naturally our Swedish captain Jessica Adolfsson who brings her mighty slapshot every weekend for my home team Linköping. Mighty impressed by all of these young girls and the skills they’ve shown at the highest level and I’m sure we’ll see many of these names appear on the Olympic rosters for 2018!
Switzerland won two straight games over Japan in the relegation series and remains at the top level bringing us to the next tier of the U18 World Championships.
High up in the French alps in the small village of Vaujany the U18 Division 1 tournament took place and just like the tournament in Buffalo it was a close and exciting affair where it was still undecided who would advance to the top division until the very last game. And as it turned out the game between Norway and France on the first day would be the decisive one, both teams won the rest of their respective games and it all came down to the game-winning shots in their match-up. France won thereby winning the tournament and will be playing in St. Catharines next year against some stiff opponents, even tougher for France missing their top scorers Estelle Duvin, Jade Vix and Lisa Bauer who scored 16 of their 21 goals. Duvin had a great Division 1 senior tournament for France last year and was truly outstanding in Vaujany.
Just like France, Norway also had a grand edition of ’97 players who won’t be available next year, however I think Norway has some edge in the 2016 and will be pushing hard for advancing to the top. Very much like what their senior counterparts are aiming for later this spring in Rouen.
Japan will be getting some really hard competition in next years 1st division since not only Norway puts up a strong team, but Slovakia and Germany as well are shooting for those top spots with some strong teams.
I can’t tell you how many favorite players I have on this young Norwegian team, but just to name a few who are packing some real punch for next years tournament we have Josefine Engmann, Henriette Behn and Millie Sirum up front and some strong D’s in Lene Tendenes and Emma Granholt. Promise you will be hearing those names on the world scene in the future!
Austria finished last in the tournament and is demoted to the D1 Qualifications.
This last week has featured the first ever Qualification series to the U18 Division 1 and it ended today (Sunday 25th) hosted by Poland in Katowice. It was extremely hard to predict how these teams would measure up to each other. Didn’t take long though to see which teams would be in the runnings for promotion. Italy and Poland showed promise from the start, however the mighty Danes were just outstanding putting up an impressive 29-2 goal difference in the 5 games and posting no less than 252 shots(!). Considering all of these teams played their first U18 tournaments, it will be interesting to watch Denmark face some more experienced teams in the 1st division. Michelle Weis and Josefine Hansen will be sorely missed although most of the team will be intact for next year since only 6 players on the roster were born in 1997. Italy showed promise beating all teams except Denmark and with top goalie Eugenia Pompanin and top scorer Alice Gaspieri returning on the team next year they will be gunning for a promotion, actually only three players of the ’97 make on this team and no less than seven from the year 2000 shows a great future for Italian women’s hockey!
It’s been a wonderful start of the year with all these U18 tournaments in January and the year is about to get even better as we are closing in on playoffs both in Sweden and in the European Women Champions Cup and in early March the first World Championship divisions kicks off! Loads of super exciting women’s hockey to be played still this season, they say Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year but I would say their wrong!
Thank’s for another great year and let’s make 2015 the best ever, keep being awesome!!