Nearly everyone recognized that defeating Canada in the semifinal of the Women’s U18 World Championship was not going to be as easy as the 6-2 victory over the Canadians in the preliminary round of the tournament. But few could have guessed it would be as hard as it was. The United States erased a 3-1 third period deficit to tie the game, then defeated the Canadians in an overtime shootout to advance to tomorrow’s gold medal game, and keep their hopes of an unprecedented fourth consecutive gold medal alive.
As in the first meeting, the two teams traded goals in the first period, leaving a tie score after one. Canada took control of the game in the second period, despite the US outshooting the Canadians 9-5 in the frame, with a power play goal by Alexis Adzija, followed by a goal from Emily Rickwood three and a half minutes later, giving Canada a commanding 3-1 lead heading into the final frame, and putting the US streak in serious jeopardy.
But the US advantage in speed began to exert itself in the third period, with the Americans drawing three consecutive power plays to start the period. After struggling with the man advantage much of the game, they finally capitalized when Casey O’Brien and Makenna Webster worked a sweet give-and-go off a quick transition and O’Brien cut the Canadian lead in half with a nice finish.
Kelly Browne knotted the game for the United States midway through the third when she picked up a rebound of a Maggie Nicholson shot from the point.
The United States pressed for a game-winning goal in the final ten minutes of regulation, and had some glorious chances in the overtime period, including during a power play after Canada illegally kicked the puck on a face-off, but Canadian goalie Madelyn McArthur was sensational in the overtime.
That left the game to be decided by a shootout. Canada’s Maggie Connors opened the top half of the first with a goal, but was answered by Team USA’s second shooter, Britta Curl. American goalie Lindsay Reed stopped the next two Canadian shooters, and in the bottom half of the fourth round, American Makenna Webster deked to her backhand and slid the puck between the legs of McArthur to give the United States a 2-1 lead. Needing to score to keep the game alive, Canada was stopped by Reed on their fifth attempt, giving the United States a 2-1 win in the shootout and advancing them to tomorrow’s gold medal game.
The United States will meet the winner of Sweden and Russia in the gold medal game tomorrow at 11:30 EST, in a game that can be streamed for free here.
Notes and Thoughts
-Whew. What a great game, and what a way to keep the US gold streak alive. Speaking purely as an American that follows the men’s World Juniors and women’s U18s very closely, I must say that I find these shootouts quite fun. They’ve maybe taken years off my life, but it’s worth it.
As a hockey fan...yeah, that’s a tough way to end such a hard-fought game. At least this one felt like a just result. The 10 minutes of overtime felt like it was just a matter of time before the US got one to go in, since they had multiple quality chances. I would have gladly traded the shootout for an extra 10 minutes of OT in this one.
-As expected, Canada came with everything they had today. They got off to a great start early, pinning the US in their own zone, and once that initial burst wore off, they maybe got outplayed in terms of possession because the US is just a better skating team, but they were controlling the fronts of both nets really well, which is why they were able to build a lead. They got traffic to the front of the US net on their first two goals, while the US never seemed like they were able to get their shots through or get bodies to the front of the net.
I’m sure Canada will have some beef with the string of penalties called against them late in the second period and early in the third, which aided the US comeback and really seemed to take a lot of gas out of the tank for Canada. I’m not sure I buy it though. If anything, I thought in the second period prior to Canada’s goals, there were a lot of opportunities where the US had position and they were being slowed by grabs and holds by Canada that the refs weren’t calling because it seemed like they didn’t want to give a team two PPs in a row. For whatever reason, that changed in the third period and the refs finally started calling it. The US was controlling the play and outskating Canada, which put Canada in a lot of bad spots.
-The one call I will complain about is Canada getting a penalty for kicking the puck on a face-off in overtime, which is one of those dumb rules the IIHF throws into their rulebook. What on earth does that rule possibly accomplish?
-The play of the game came from an unlikely source for the United States. Between the string of penalties to start the third period and the US desperately needing offense, the third line had barely played at all. But they got a shift to reset the lines about midway through the third period and Kelly Browne makes just an incredible effort to win a puck on the forecheck and ends up playing it to Hannah Bilka, who gets the second assist on her goal. The US maintains possession, works it around to Maggie Nicholson, and the puck ends up finding Browne for the goal. A great example of making your own luck.
Here’s the gif of that forecheck. That play is an easy out for Canada about 99.9% of the time.
8:33 Taylor Heise from Gracie Ostertag and Britta Curl 1-0 United States
After a collision in front of the Canada net, the puck worked back to Ostertag at the right point. She stepped in and took a slap pass that deflected off Heise’s stick in front of the net and into the goal.
15:13 Zoe Boyd from Alexie Guay 1-1 tie
Guay passed the puck to Boyd at the left point. She took a shot into heavy traffic in front of Reed and the puck found its’ way through to the net.
13:29 Alexis Adzija from Sarah Fillier and Alexie Guay (power play) 2-1 Canada
Guay took a shot from the right point and Adzija was in position in front of the net to get a tip on the puck that redirected between the legs of Reed.
16:51 Emily Rickwood from Sarah Fillier and Alexis Adzija 3-1 Canada
Some pretty puck movement in the US zone ended with Fillier making a cross-ice pass to Rickwood on the back door and she put the puck into the back of the net.
6:22 Casey O’Brien from Makenna Webster (power play) 3-2 Canada
Off a quick turnover in the Canada zone, O’Brien passed the puck from the left wing to Webster in the slot and Webster quickly gave it back to O’Brien at the side of the net, and O’Brien’s high finish beat McArthur.
9:36 Kelly Browne from Maggie Nicholson 3-3 tie
Nicholson got the puck at the left point on a pass from Hannah Bilka. Nicholson’s slap shot from stopped, but Browne was in position to pick up the rebound on the left side of the crease and put it back into the net.
GWG- Makenna Webster