International Ice Hockey Federation

U18 women ready

U18 women ready

Teams set to clash in Russia for first time

Published 06.01.2018 12:54 GMT+4 | Author Andrew Podnieks
U18 women ready
Canada's Sophie Shirley and USA's Cayla Barnes battle for the puck during the gold medal game of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. Photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
The day after the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship ends in Buffalo is the day the U18 Women’s World Championship begins in Dmitrov in the Moscow Region.

Russia is hosting the event for the first time in the eleven-year history of the tournament, but all signs point to a United States-Canada gold-medal game. Given that each of the previous ten final games have been contested between these two powerhouses, little is expected to change in Dmitrov, even though host Russia and other teams would be eager to change thiis.

Canada won the WW18 three years running (2012, 2013, 2014), but when Joel Johnson took over as head coach of the Americans, he put together the same hat trick of victories, caped by a 3-1 win over Canada last year in Zlin, Czech Republic. Johnson will be back looking for number four in early 2018.

Canada, meanwhile, has opted for change. Out is coach Troy Ryan and in is former national-team player Delaney Collins. She served as an assistant in 2015 and 2017, but she now has the daunting task of prying gold from the firm grip of the U.S.

Russia beat Sweden, 2-0, to win bronze in 2017, but that team was a veteran team with few players eligible to return in 2018. The same can be said for Sweden, a team that managed to score but six goals in as many games last year.

Finland has had such great success in the senior Women’s Worlds but has managed only a single bronze medal in WW18 history (back in 2011). Last year Suomi finished a disappointing fifth and had only one player in the top 15 of scoring (Petra Nieminen, who also won’t be returning).

The Czech Republic finished 6th last year and, despite a chronic lack of scoring, managed to stay up again (they have never been demoted in WW18 play). Their task won’t be any easier this year, though, as the fight for goals among the third to eighth teams has gotten all the stronger in recent years.

Switzerland avoided demotion by sweeping Japan in the best-of-three relegation round. Indeed, Lisa Ruedi led the tournament in goals with five, although three game in one relegation game. Nonetheless, she’ll be back with the Swiss this year hoping to avoid the elimination round and instead fighting for a medal.

Japan finished eighth last year and will play down in Division I-A this year.

Germany has been exiled to Division I-A for the last four years, but a huge 2-0 win over Slovakia during last year’s lower division battle helped propel the Germans back to the top for the first time since 2013. Franziska Feldmeier had a goal and an assist in that critical game but is now too old to return.

In the end, though, the greatest drama will likely play out among the North Americans, rival in 2008 in the tournament’s first edition, and rivals evermore in 2018 in the eleventh. The difference between winning and losing always seems to be one error, one power play, one blocked shot.

Dmitrov, one of the top cities in Russian women’s hockey, will see some great women’s hockey at the teen level early in the New Year. Check out the tournament website for coverage and a live stream.

 

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