International Ice Hockey Federation

USA edges Sweden

USA edges Sweden

Amholt heroics take game to overtime

Published 06.01.2018 23:16 GMT+4 | Author Andy Potts
USA edges Sweden
DMITROV, RUSSIA - JANUARY 6: Sweden's Anna Amholt #30 makes a blocker save against USA's Margaret Flaherty #22 during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The defending champion was on top in all areas ... except for getting the puck past Swedish goalie Anna Amholt. She had 57 saves to earn a point for her team.

Gritty Sweden frustrated the defending champion with a fine rearguard action before succumbing in overtime.

In regulation, the Americans out-shot the Swedes 55-13, with 27 of those attempts coming in the third period. But Anna Amholt performed magnificently to keep the scoreline tied at 1-1 and earn her team a valuable point from a tie over 60 minutes.

But the Swede dreams of victory came to an end when Makenna Webster fired home a Madeline Wetherington pass in overtime to snatch a 2-1 verdict.

"It was really just in the moment," the 15-year-old forward said. "I wasn't expecting to be in a position to score. I really just expected to put in a quick shift, build some momentum for my team and get off the ice."

After the excitement of the opening game, it was Sweden’s turn to demonstrate the extent to which Europe’s strongest teams could challenge their Trans-Atlantic rivals. But although this match-up produced another tight scoreline, it was a very different kind of game.

Team USA was dominant from start to finish, but found its path to victory blocked by a hugely resilient goaltending display from Anna Amholt. The Lulea junior player, back for her second World Championship, stood defiant in the face of an American onslaught that kept the Swedes penned deep in their own territory for most of the evening.

Amholt stood up well in the face of efforts through traffic, such as Taylor’s Heise’s attempt in the first period. She reacted smartly to deflections around the net, like Katelyn Knoll’s chance in the second, as the USA tried all it could to rattle up the goals. She was only beaten in the closing moments of the first period when Webster’s pass from deep released Abigail Murphy and the Chicago Mission forward, who is still four months shy of her 16th birthday, showed remarkable composure to face down the goalie and open the scoring.

"The compete level here is so high, it doesn't matter if you're the youngest on the team, you still have to play as hard as you can and compete for your team-mates as well as you can," Murphy said. "It was probably one of the moves that I always do against goalies but it was lucky it went in. I should have gotten up a bit higher, she left a little open slot for me."

That might have opened the floodgates: in the second period Sweden was pushed further and further back, managing a solitary shot on goal as the USA took complete control. But if Lindsay Reed was a virtual spectator in the American net, Amholt seemed to thrive on the heavy workload as she denied the opposition on 17 occasions.

Then everything changed early in the third. A rare Swedish foray into the American zone ended with Sofie Lundin fanning a shot as she was taken out by Madeline Wethington. On the subsequent power play, Sweden at last had a chance to test the US defence. A first-period PP had seen Reed tested from long range, and the same tactic paid off here. Josefin Bouveng fired in an effort from the blue line, and as the puck skittered around a crowd of skates in front of Reed’s net, Lina Ljungblom was on hand to tie the game with 13 minutes to go.

Suddenly, the second upset of the day was on. An American power play came and went – two meaty pad saves from Amholt along the way – and Sweden was still hanging in there. It was close, heartstoppingly so at times: with six minutes to go Dominique Petrie forced the puck into the Swedish net after a stinging shot from Britta Curl, but the video official ruled out the play as the game went into overtime.

"Overtime is a scary moment, but you get all your nerves out at the start," Murphy added. "Once you get out there on the ice, you know you're there for a reason. You just want to score that goal and bring home the 'W' for your team."

 

 

 

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