The men’s U20 World Championships tend to draw the most attention at this time of year, but there is an equally big IIHF tournament on the women’s side right after the World Juniors. There’s no U20 tournament at the women’s level(though there is a U23 world championship called the University of Minnesota vs. University of Wisconsin), so the World U18s is the premier amateur international event on the women’s side.
This year’s tournament will take place January 7-14 in the cities of Zlin and Prerov in the Czech Republic.
The United States and Canada have finished first-second in all nine tournaments since the even began in 2008. The United States has won five of the nine tournaments, including the last two years in overtime thrillers.
The two teams are expected to compete for gold and silver once again this year. They’re in the same group at this year’s tournament, so they’ll meet in pool play on January 10th before likely meeting again four days later for the gold medal.
Canada has already announced their roster, led by Minnesota commit Amy Potomak.
Here is the United States’ roster for the tournament, and a few notes on some of the players I have seen to get you ready for what should be a very fun tournament.
Alex Gulstene-Okanagan Hockey Academy-Minnesota-Gulstene returns in goal after a sensational performance at last year’s tournament where she was named one of the top three US players. She’ll be the clear #1 goalie for the US, and they’ll need her to have another big tournament.
Lindsay Reed-Hotchkiss School-Harvard-I haven’t seen much of Reed, and if all goes according to plan, we won’t see much of her in big games at this tournament either.
Cayla Barnes-EC Wizards-Boston College-Barnes was invited to skate at camp with the US women’s national team earlier this year, and she’ll be expected to be a leader on this year’s team after winning gold in each of the last two U18 tournaments. Barnes is a smaller defenseman, but is terrific at moving the puck. She’ll help drive the US offense from the back line.
Gracie Ostertag-Shattuck-St. Mary’s-Minnesota-Ostertag is a strong, solid defenseman. She can provide some offense with a big shot from the point, but should be the best defensive defenseman for the US.
Madeline Wethington-Blake School(MN)-Minnesota-Wethington is a tall defenseman and a remarkably smooth skater. She’s got the ability to really push the puck up the ice with his skating.
Lizi Norton-Orono(MN)-Minnesota Duluth-Norton is still developing, but has elite level skating quickness.
Natalie Buchbinder-Shattuck-St. Mary’s-Wisconsin-Buchbinder is a really smart, solid defenseman. She’s not flashy, but makes a lot of nice, smart plays.
Allyson Simpson-Shattuck-St. Mary’s-Colgate-Simpson plays a very similar style of hockey to Ostertag, in that she’s a strong defensive presence that can contribute teh occasional offense.
Nicole LaMantia-Chicago Mission-Wisconsin-Haven’t seen much of her, but if she made it here, she’s pretty good.
Grace Zumwinkle-Breck School(MN)-Minnesota-A smooth, athletic skater with a tremendous shot, Zumwinkle will be the top offensive option for the US at this tournament.
Taylor Heise-Red Wing(MN)-Minnesota-Heise made this team last year as a 15-year-old, and is looked at as one of the bright future stars for the US program. Though she skates with a strange posture, she can absolutely fly around the ice, making her a dangerous threat every shift.
Clair DeGeorge-Shattuck-St. Mary’s-Bemidji State-DeGeorge is a rare combination of a true power forward that is also a decent skater and really skilled. Her size and skill in the offensive zone should present a lot of match-up problems for other teams.
Jesse Compher-Chicago Mission-Boston University-Compher is a returner from last year’s squad. She’s a hard-working, reliable two-way center.
Delaney Drake-NAHA-Wisconsin-Haven’t seen Drake play, but she is the daughter of former NHL forward Dallas Drake and is a very highly-regarded player.
Taylor Wente-Maple Grove HS-Minnesota-Wente is a hard-working grinder that has great instincts to always show up in the right place and the right time to be involved in the play.
Anneke Linser-Centennial HS-Minnesota Duluth-Linser has decent size and is a smooth, skilled playmaker with great hands.
Gabbi Hughes-Centennial HS-North Dakota-Hughes is a speedy, tough forward that has a strong shot.
Maureen Murphy-Shattuck-St. Mary’s-Providence-Having a great year as the top scorer on the Shattuck Prep team. A smaller forward with great offensive instincts.
Natalie Heising-Wayzata HS-Penn State-Heising has good speed, which allows her to pressure opponents and make plays.
Emily Oden-Edina HS-Minnesota-Oden isn’t flashy, but is a solid playmaker and complementary player.
Catie Skaja-New Prague HS-Minnesota-A taller forward that uses her strong skating to make plays.
Dominique Petrie-Anaheim Jr. Ducks-Uncommitted-Haven’t seen her, but it’s impressive that she was the only ‘01 birthdate to make the roster.
I don’t think there were too many major surprises in the announcing of this roster. Most of these girls return from the U18 summer series team that played this last summer.
If I were to quibble with any of the selections—and keep in mind, my frame of reference is mostly this fall’s Minnesota Elite League, whereas USA Hockey is probably placing stronger emphasis on their national camps, so maybe we’re comparing different things—Hill-Murray’s Abby Boreen would have been in my first five or so picks among the forwards. I would have taken St. Paul United’s Joie Phelps over a a couple of Minnesota girls that made it too. The defense looks good. I would have considered picking Cristalyn Hengler, who played on last year’s team, but ultimately, I think they were looking for a little more defensive presence with Simpson.
But overall, this looks like a really talented team, and one that should match up really well with Canada. It’s always a battle when these two teams meet, and this year should be no exception.