International Ice Hockey Federation

Play-off round ready

Play-off round ready

RUS-FIN, CAN-CZE in QF pairs

Published 10.01.2018 09:57 GMT+4 | Author Andy Potts
Play-off round ready
DMITROV, RUSSIA - JANUARY 6: Russia's Alexandra Budanova #4 battles for the puck with Canada's Brooke Mcquigge #23 during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The play-offs get underway in Dmitrov on Wednesday - and history is in the making. For the first time ever, a European team will play for gold.

The 2018 Women’s U18 World Championship is getting down to the sharp end – and an ebsorbing tournament is set to get even more exciting.

Tuesday’s results, with USA beating Canada and Sweden overcoming Russia, left the Americans top of Group A while Canada propped up the four-team pool. That leaves the Canadians preparing for a QF against the Czech Republic on Wednesday afternoon, with the winner moving on to play the USA in Friday’s semi-final. Previously in this tournament, every single Gold Medal Game has seen the North American rivals face off, while the rest of the world battled for bronze at best.

The other half of the bracket has Sweden awaiting the winner of today’s Russia vs Finland match-up. Yevgeni Bobariko’s team was widely expected to move directly to the semi-finals after winning its opening game against Canada, but came up short in a 0-2 loss against the Swedes as the Tre Kronor snatched second place in the group.

Bobariko cut a frustrated figure after that game. “I don’t want to sum up our tournament so far, because our most important game is coming up,” he said. “I literally only just found who we will play in the quarter-final, so we need to look at the videos, explain to the girls how we should play against Finland and prepare as fully as possible. We’ve already had many tough match-ups with the Finns, they’re a good team.”

Russian forward Ilona Markova was determined to bounce back after the disappointment against Sweden.

“Finland will be another tough opponent, like anyone in this tournament,” she said. “They’re awkward, niggly, and they will fight to the end.

“We need to get together as a team, look at what went wrong and most of all to support each other. The key thing right now is that whatever happens, however hard it is for us, we keep going to the very last.

“We are all here right now because hockey is our passion, it’s what we love. We’re not just here for the fun of it, we’re here because this game means so much to us. Against Finland, we will go out and show it.”

Meanwhile, Canada was left to prepare for its first ever quarter-final. Previously, the Canadians had always earned a bye to the last four in this competition, so it’s an unwelcome excursion into uncharted territory for a team that has contested every Gold-Medal Game in the history of the tournament.

Head coach Delaney Collins, though, is refusing to dwell on any negatives. "We can't be fearful about a quarter-final,” she said. “We have to prepare for it, work on our game and take it as the opportunity that it is. I think the girls are still looking forward optimistically."

The Czechs also confirmed a quarter-final spot in their final game, thanks to a tight 3-2 victory over Finland. Klara Jandusikova, one of the Czech scorers in that game, hopes that the team’s relief at avoiding the relegation round will inspire it to surprise Canada.

“It’s a huge challenge because Canada’s a great opponent,” she told hokej.cz. “But after the Finland game all the girls talked about how we were so nervous, but now we have nothing to lose. Against Canada, we’ll leave everything out on the ice. I want to do everything I can to win that game and I believe that it is possible.”

While four teams continue their quest for medals in Dmitrov, Germany and Switzerland face the start of an anxious battle for survival. The bottom two nations from Group B begin a best-of-three relegation round to decide who will remain for 2019. Germany won the group stage meeting between the teams 2-1, while the Swiss lost all three games so far.

 

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