The women's U18s kick off the same day as the World Juniors finale.
Canada takes three-year gold streak to U18s
As the 2015 World Juniors winds down, just over the border the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship kicks off today in Buffalo, USA.
This year will be the eight edition of the IIHF’s flagship junior women’s hockey tournament, one that’s seen many of today’s top women’s hockey stars like Amanda Kessel, Marie-Philip Poulin, Anna Shokhina, and Klara Peslarova compete.
While the teams from Europe has been catching up in recent years, the women’s U18s gold medals have been contested by just two teams in its seven-year history: Canada and the United States.
Playing not far from home, Team Canada will look to make it four golds in a row for the women’s Under-18 program. In Budapest 2014 the Canadian women put up a statement win over the States, scoring three goals in as many minutes on their way to a 5-1 romp at the 2014 U18 Women’s Worlds.
Canada’s roster has had some turnover from last year’s gold-winning team, but will have 2014 tournament top scorer Sarah Potomak in the lineup, who had nine points in five games in Budapest.
Defending home ice in 2015, Team USA will be more than eager to avenge its losses in the last three U18 gold medal games. The Americans will get a chance for a measure of payback early in the preliminary round, as the two teams will square off against each other in their opening game on 5th January.
The Americans will be counting on the services of 2014 IIHF Directorate Top Defenceman Jincy Dunne, who barely missed out on a trip to Sochi with the women’s senior team but was an integral part of the U18 squad last year. This will be her third U18 tournament, and the blueliner – one of the country’s top young female hockey talents – will be keen to avenge the last two gold medal losses to the Canadians.
Aside from the U.S., one of the teams that managed to give Canada a scare last year was Russia, a traditional men’s ice hockey power that has been bringing along its women’s U18 program. Leading the charge is 17-year-old forward Anna Shokhina, who had a season to remember after not just making the national Olympic team but also playing very well in Sochi. Shokhina followed up the Olympics with a near-massive upset of the Canadians at the U18s, as Russia took the defending champs to overtime in the semi-final before ultimately falling 1-0.
The field is wide open after the North American teams. The Czech Republic, Finland, and Sweden will aim to take the next big step and challenge the North Americans. However the 2014 bronze medallists Czechs will be missing the services of one of the best young goaltenders in women’s hockey with Klara Peslarova having moved on to the senior team. Likewise the Finns will be without Olympian Emma Nuutinen.
Relative newcomers to the women’s top division, Japan had a tough tournament last season but managed to defeat Hungary 4-3 to avoid relegation. The team’s star forward Haruka Toko had seven points in five games, and will aim to improve on her team’s seventh-place finish. Newly promoted Switzerland will also be in the mix, and should feature Olympic bronze medallist Alina Muller on offence.
The 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship will be available on live stream via Fasthockey.