International Ice Hockey Federation

Webster wins it!

Webster wins it!

USA edges CAN in SF shoot-out

Published 12.01.2018 19:58 GMT+4 | Author Andy Potts
Webster wins it!
DMITROV, RUSSIA - JANUARY 12: USA's Makenna Webster #12 scores the game winning goal in the shootout on Canada's Madelyn Mcarthur #30 during semifinal round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The latest chapter in the North American rivalry produced a compelling clash, worthy of a gold medal game.

Canada and the USA had never met in a semi-final before in this tournament, but Friday’s match-up showed enough to show just why these two nations have spent so long as the undisputed queens of women’s hockey.

The Canadians, enduring a disappointing tournament by their own high standards, showed their quality under pressure to open a 3-1 lead in the second period and go a long way towards banishing the memories of Tuesday’s 2-6 reverse against the same opponent.

But Team USA, so impressive in group phase play, responded strongly after falling behind for the first time here in Dmitrov, tying the game up in the final frame and taking the action into overtime all the way to a shoot-out.

There, Makenna Webster became America's hero, getting the crucial goal to send the USA into the Gold Medal Game. The 15-year-old, one of the youngest players in the tournament, shrugged off the pressure of taking her team's fourth attempt and squeezed the puck through Madelyn McArthur's five-hole to win it. Webster had earlier bagged an overtime winner against Sweden, suggesting that even at a young age she is a player for the big occasion.

"It's usually my go-to move," Makenna said afterwards. "I like to start real slow, psych out the goalie then get some speed, get her on her heels and either go five-hole or go backhand."

Head Coach Joel Johnson described his game-winner as "someone who doesn't get phased by those big moments". 

"It's a credit to her mostly as a person," he added. "Hockey talent is one thing, but when you hve the composure and the passion and the 'team-first' attitude that she does, she represents our group in a great way. Even though she's only 15, she doesn't act like it."

Following its frustrations in the group phase, Canada’s players and staff had talked repeatedly about work ethic and belief. From the start of Friday’s semi-final, both qualities were on display. The Canadians made a fast start to the game, helped by an early penalty on the USA’s Gracie Ostertag, and looked well on top in the first exchanges. By the time Ontario native Julia Gosling hit the post in the eighth minute, the Americans had failed to test Canadian goalie McArthur once.

Then came the blow. Team USA’s first meaningful attack saw Ostertag fire in a shot and captain Taylor Heise was on hand to deflect the shot home for her fourth goal of the tournament. Canada had to dig deep, killing a penalty right after going behind, but found a reply in the 16th minute when Zoe Boyd smashed Alexie Guay’s feed through traffic in front of Reed’s net.

The middle frame was tighter, but Allexis Adzija made the difference for Canada. First she put in a long shift on the power play, and reaped her reward when she got in front of Reed to deflect a Guay slap shot into the net and give Canada the lead. Next she turned provider, combing with captain Sarah Fillier to open up the U.S. defence with two perceptive passes that presented Emily Rickwood with an inviting finish at the far post.

Guay, who finished with two assists, felt that Canada played its best hockey of the tournament in the game. "We didn't get the outcome that we wanted, but I felt that this was a game that we deserved to win," she said. "But in a shoot-out, you never know how it might go."

The Americans had 20 minutes to salvage their World Championship dreams and, according to Webster, resorted to a bit of fancy footwork in the locker room during the intermission.

"When we came in, maybe we were a bit down," she said. "So we put one of our songs on and everybody was up and dancing! After that, we knew we could save the game and we showed that in the third period." 

A rash of Canadian penalties kept Joel Johnson’s girls on the power play at the start of the third drame, and eventually the pressure paid off. Casey O’Brien exchanged passes with Webster and finished off the play herself to make it a one-goal game with 13 minutes to play.

The tying goal came three minutes later when Kelly Browne followed up as McArthur lost track of the rebound following a Margaret Nicholson shot. Neither team could win it in the remaining 10 minutes, sending these two old rivals to overtime once again.

The extras began with the Americans on the power play, and the defending champion even enjoyed a 5-on-3 advantage for a time. Webster and fellow 15-year-old Abigail Murphy  were trusted with a shift at this crucial time and Webster almost potted her second OT winner of the tournament when she squeezed a close range shot just wide of McArthur's net.

But Canada held on, killed the penalties and - after McArthur had made 10 saves in overtime - took the game to a shoot-out before finally falling. Guay spoke of how her team's PK, and the vocal support from the bench throughout, inspired everyone to keep battling.

"We had a few PKs, and that gave us momentum," she added. "We could take strength from that. And we knew we needed that kind of energy from the bench. As a player, I know what it's like and I really got momentum from that noise."

 

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