As the IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds has proven to be an extension of the intense level of competition between Canada and the US, the rivalry of all rivalries in women’s ice hockey, there has been no shortage of remarkable moments and heroes in its growing mythology. With the 2016 edition held in the border town of St. Catharines, Ontario (near Niagara Falls, New York), the US had over 35 wins in tournament play since its inception in 2008.
For the second consecutive year, the gold medal game at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships resulted in an intense clash that saw the United States prevail by one goal against Canada. While Jincy Dunne, the most promising blueline prospect in years, would prove the gold medal heroics for the US in 2015, it was a member of that roster that delivered in the clutch in 2016, providing the US with its sixth gold medal in tournament history.
Hailing from Eagan, Minnesota (one of 16 players from the state on the US team), Natalie Snodgrass has been catapulted into hockey hero status, the latest in a growing number for the US Under-18 program. Currently starring at Eastview High School, where she was a two-time Team MVP and two-time South Suburban All-Conference, her legend was assured by more than just scoring the gold medal clinching tally at 1:47 into overtime.
Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she scored the game-tying goal in the third, shifting the momentum in the favor of the US. With host country Canada holding a 2-0 lead in the second period, Alex Woken, the product of Shattuck St. Mary’s began the rally with the first goal of the game for the US.
As Canada was looking to preserve its 2-1 lead in the third, Snodgrass would lead the march towards gold. Tying the score at 8:03 of the first period, the goal was Gretzky-esque. Grabbing possession of the puck, Snodgrass went behind the net. Unable to score a wraparound goal, she displayed remarkable vision. Flinging the puck, it went off the stick of a Canada skater, going directly into the net.
While tensions rose afterwards, with Canada opting for an extra attacker in the dying seconds of the third, looking for a miracle, overtime would prove to be the setting for where the game was settled. Once again, Snodgrass rose to the occasion. With heavy traffic in front of Canada’s crease, she backhanded the loose puck into the net at 1:48 of overtime, providing the US with a come-from-behind 3-2 triumph, along with its second consecutive gold medal in heroic fashion.
The third period goal by Snodgrass proved to be the game’s turning point, shifting momentum and simultaneously shattering hopes. As tears of sorrow flowed down the tired faces of Canada’s sullen skaters, a stream of joyful tears defined the postgame jubilation for Snodgrass, who was fittingly named Player of the Game.
Finishing the event with five points, Snodgrass finished second in team scoring, trailing team leader Rebecca Gilmore by just one point. Of note, Gilmore was also named one of Team USA’s top players at the tournament, as her six points paced the US.
Having committed to the University of Connecticut Huskies, Snodgrass will extend the legacy of her older sister Emily. Having played with the Huskies from 2011-15, Emily was a Hockey East All-Academic as a freshman and led the Huskies in goals scored in her senior season. Part of the Huskies Class of 2020, Snodgrass has now become one of the most notable recruits heading into the 2016-17 season, holding the potential to alter the balance of power in Hockey East.
Photo credit: Vaughn Ridley, Getty Images