The United States Women’s U18 team is off to a 2-0 start at the World U18s in Japan after winning their opening game against Russia and then defeating Canada, both by 3-2 scores.
It’s not unexpected to see the US perfect through their first two games, but a great start nonetheless.
These games were both played at 2am my local time—I’m all for growing the game, but never put one of these in Asia again please—so I only made it through the first period of the Russia game, and just watched the replay of the Canada game. Here are my thoughts on the team so far:
-The US line-up has looked like this so far:
Hannah Bilka-Casey O’Brien-Makenna Webster
Abbey Murphy-Katie Knoll-Dominique Petrie
Kiara Zanon-Lacey Eden-Sydney Shearen
Sydney Bard-Audrey Wethington-Clara Van Wieren
As I predicted before tournament, the US tried to balance out their lines by separating Abbey Murphy from Casey O’Brien and Makenna Webster. Also as I predicted, when the US really needed it, they were back together. Tied 2-2 heading into the third period, that line was reunited and it took them all of two shifts to score the game-winning goal(and they had two fantastic chances to score prior to that goal).
I suspect they’ll go back to their original set-up for the rest of the prelims. It will be interesting to see what they do should they meet Canada again though. Do they wait until later in the game to match those three up, or go with it from the start?
The US rolled through their four lines for about the first half of the game with the fourth line eventually disappearing in the third period.
Haley Winn-Maggie Nicholson
Caroline Harvey-Kate Monihan
Hadley Hartmetz-Maddy Samoskevich
Mallory Uihlein-Lauren Bernard
This was my biggest area of concern coming into the tournament. While they weren’t perfect against Canada, I came out of the game pretty happy with how they played. Winn and Nicholson were very solid together as a top pairing. Winn is living up to her billing, quarterbacking the top PP unit and logging lots of minutes.
Caroline Harvey had a great game anchoring the second unit, which is huge for the US. Hartmetz and Samoskevich are both great puck movers, but were a little rough defensively, which is why their ice time decreased a bit in the third period when the US was trying to protect their lead. Uihlein and Bernard were used more sparingly, though Bernard saw a lot more ice time in the third period playing with Caroline Harvey. Not sure if that’s because there is a comfort level with those two playing at Selects Academy or if there was an injury or what. I thought Monihan had been really good up to that point, and the second period was almost universally a disaster for Bernard. But it worked out. Bernard had a better third period, and Canada never really threatened to tie the game.
Skylar Vetter got the first two games and did the job. I can’t fault her on any of the goals allowed, and she made a couple nice stops against Canada. All the US should really need out of their is to not let in a back-breaking softie. We might see somebody else in the preliminary round, but Vetter will start the big games.
-The US survived their opening game against Russia with a 3-2 win. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the close score. These teams get limited practice time together and don’t play any exhibitions, which means the first game can be a little rough as they try to piece things together on the fly at game speed. Last year’s first day of the tournament saw the US slog to a 1-1 tie with Sweden and Canada get upset by Russia. Just getting a win is enough in the first game.
Here are all the goals, scored to public domain electric guitar music.
The US still maintains a healthy speed advantage over the Canadians and that showed in this game. It felt like the US had a pretty healthy advantage in terms of puck possession and offensive zone time, though it felt like when Canada was able to attack offensively, they were slightly more dangerous.
That was the case on the game’s first goal. Canada took advantage of a pretty lazy US turnover behind their own net and were able to find their top sniper, Julia Gosling alone in the high slot for a pretty goal.
The second Canada goal came early in the second period. Lauren Bernard got caught in the neutral zone drifting a little too far towards the strong side of the ice, leaving Laura Cote free on the weak side. Cote caught a pass and had the speed to break in with a clear shot that she finished. The same thing would happen to Canada on Team USA’s second goal. Weak side defender got caught cheating across the midline of the ice, and nobody is going to catch Abbey Murphy if she gets a step. That’s the type of thing defensemen can get away with when they’re playing back with their club teams, but doesn’t work against the world’s elite players.
The turning point in the game came shortly after Canada went up 2-0. Canada’s Alexie Guay made a very uncharacteristic turnover at the US blue line, springing Dominique Petrie for a breakaway. She converted and all the momentum in the game shifted. Murphy was able to score 14 seconds later and the US went from being in a huge hole to tied in an instant.
From there, the US continued to control play and finally got their goal from their big line in the third period. Canada became increasingly reliant on their top line for offense, and that seemed to have diminishing returns as the game progressed and their ice time added up. Canada had a few chances, but the one-goal lead never seemed seriously threatened late in the game.
I think this game showed the recipe for success for the US in a potential gold medal match-up with Canada. They just need lines 2-4 to keep even with Canada’s 2-4 lines, and then have Murphy-O’Brien-Webster outscore Canada’s top line. Hopefully as the tournament progresses, the US will get a little more efficient with their power play, and be able to take better advantage of all the o-zone time they get.