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Team USA Falls in Women’s U18 Final to Canada

It was expected that Canada would come out with a better effort against the United States in the gold medal game of the Women’s World U18 Championships on Monday after the Americans embarassed them 7-0 in the preliminary round, and they did, building a 3-0 second period lead against the US before hanging on to win 3-2.

The United States got off to a slow start against a motivated Canadian squad, and Canada was able to strike early. Alexia Aubin tipped in a shot by Ava Murphy on the power play 5:35 into the game to give Canada an early lead. The US settled into their game, controlling large stretches of the first period after that goal, but were unable to find an equalizing score.

Canada answered back with a strong second period, generating more pressure on the US goal and were rewarded with a pair of goals 58 seconds apart to take a commanding 3-0 lead midway through the second period.

The US received a power play opportunity with three and a half minutes left in the second period that they desperately needed to convert on to make the game competitive, and they responded. Finley McCarthy scored on a wrist shot from the high slot to get the US on the board and change the momentum. On the ensuing face-off, Ava Lindsay took the puck and raced into the Canada zone, setting up Claire Enright for a rebound goal to make it a 3-2 game.

But despite carrying that momentum into the third period, the US could not find a to tie the score. Their best opportunity came in the final four minutes of play when they received a power play opportunity, and Tessa Janecke put a rebound opportunity off the Canadian goal post.

It’s a disappointing finish for a team that cruised through the preliminary round, and looked more than capable of winning a gold medal. Through 14 IIHF Women’s U18 Tournaments, Canada edges a little closer to the US, winning their sixth gold medal at the event, compared to eight for the United States.

Notes and Thoughts

-Well that was a downer. As good as this United States team was in the preliminary round, I’ve said from the beginning that the team would be judged by how they performed in the medal round, and specifically in the gold medal game against Canada, and unfortunately, they came up short.

What went wrong? I don’t know that there’s any one specific thing you can point to. Canada was much better this time around defensively. They did a great job with their back pressure and puck retrievals and really limited US opportunities. They switched up their forechecking scheme to put a little more pressure on the US, which also slowed the US up in the early stages of the game.

Goaltending was another big difference. In the grand scheme, I don’t think there’s a big difference between Hailey MacLeod and Mari Pietersen in goal, but MacLeod struggled in the first game against the US, giving up some early goals that put Canada in a deep hole they couldn’t get out of, while Pietersen was able to keep the US off the board early, which really changed the complexion of the game.

-I was interested to see how the US coaching staff would respond to a tight game, and they didn’t shorten the bench at all. But that strategy seemed to have worked. Ava Lindsay had a really nice game for the US, which set up numerous scoring chances, including that huge second goal. And 13th forward Josie St. Martin used her speed to draw that power play opportunity in the closing minutes of the game.

It didn’t help that the US didn’t get a very good game from their top line, who finished the game a -1, plus taking the penalty that led to Canada’s first power play goal. They had a few chances, but the US needed something out of them and weren’t able to get it.

-One of the Canadian officials from the US-Sweden game—along with one American officials—was tasked with reffing the championship, which seems like an insane decision given how poorly the semifinal went. Things got off to a poor start when Tessa Janecke was clearly hauled down on a good scoring chance with no call, followed shortly after by Kirsten Simms being called for a very weak hooking penalty 200-feet from her own net. That call led to Canada’s opening power play goal and was a huge tone-setter.

But the US was also the beneficiary of a couple really weak calls, and they didn’t capitalize on them. In defense of the officials, these are really hard games to officiate, especially with the added difficulty of trying to establish what is legal physical contact, and what is an illegal body check when both teams are so committed to playing a physical style of hockey.

-Moving forward, I’m not sure what all the US has in the ‘05 birth year for next year’s tournament, but the contributions from the youngsters this year were very promising. Annelies Bergmann returns in goal after a solid tournament, which is always a great place to start. I thought Finley McCarthy and Maggie Scannell lived up to their enormous hype in this tournament and they should lead the US team next year. Cassie Hall and Josie St. Martin both contributed a lot with their speed. Defense is probably the one question mark, but Molly Jordan did establish herself on the third D pairing and was quietly solid most of the tourney. So the foundation for another very strong group is there.