Canada defeats U.S. to capture gold at women’s U18 hockey worlds

It had the makings of an early blowout, but the United States made adjustments on the fly Monday night and turned the gold-medal final at the under-18 women’s world hockey championship into a real thriller.

But Canada, which built a 3-0 lead on goals by Alexia Aubin, Ava Murphy and Jocelyn Amos, were able to hold on and defeat the U.S. 3-2 in front of 2,288 fans at LaBahn Ice Arena.

Finley McCarthy and Claire Enright scored second-period goals seven seconds apart to make the final period interesting.

“We knew what we had to do. We had to stick together and work on the habits that we have been working on this whole tournament,” said Murphy, when asked about the U.S. comeback.

When asked about her key goal, Murphy added: “We talked about getting pucks on net, so when the puck came to my stick, I knew what I had to do. I threw the puck in front of the net, and we were lucky to get 1/8our first 3/8 goal out of it. I’m so proud of everyone, we really worked hard. To have our dreams come true and win gold is an amazing moment.”

Mari Pietersen stopped 29 of 31 U.S. shots and had to be sharp in the final period to preserve the victory.

Following the gold-medal game, Sara Swiderskiwas named to the media all-star team. In six games, she contributed two assists and 16 shots on goal, and was instrumental in Canada’s defensive efforts with a plus-six rating.

“I dreamt about this moment, but I did not believe it would feel this good,” said Swiderski. “It feels great to be recognized [as an all-star], but it is not possible without my teammates; they gave me the opportunities to showcase myself. Our team was aggressive and that brought us momentum today.”

Head coach Howie Draper was impressed how his team matured through the tournament and loved the extra effort his squad gave in the final.

“It was a great effort, there was lots of hunger, lots of battle. The [United States] is such a skilled team, and they are so strong, so we had to grit it out,” said Draper.

“It is so fun playing in a game this big against such a strong team. You want to get into these tough competitions. Our players were prepared to do anything to find success. They really played for each other.”

Since 2008, Canada has collected six gold medals at the U18 women’s worlds, to go along with seven silver and one bronze.

The U-18 women’s hockey championship was affected by a cancellation and a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was originally scheduled to take place in January in Linkoping and Mjolby, Sweden, before being postponed and moved.

The 2021 event, to be held in the same Swedish cities, was cancelled, while the world men’s under-20 in Edmonton and men’s under-18 championship in Frisco, Texas, went ahead as planned.

The International Ice Hockey Federation caused a backlash on social media when it announced the cancellation of the 2022 women’s tournament two weeks out from its Jan. 8 start. The announcement came on the eve of the men’s under-20 championship being back in Edmonton — which lasted just four days because of COVID outbreaks.

The IIHF announced in March that the 2022 women’s U18 championship would be moved and rescheduled rather than cancelled outright.

Earlier in the day, Finland defeated Sweden 3-0 in front of 2,273 spectators at LaBahn Ice Arena to claim the bronze medal. Sanni Vanhanen scored all three goals for the winners, while Emilia Kyrkko made 35 saves to record the shutout.

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