In hockey, silver is the only medal that you earn by losing. The Canadian National Under-18 team knows that all too well. They’ve lost the gold medal game at each of the last two U18 Women’s World Championships, both in overtime to the United States. While other countries would be ecstatic to earn any medal, Canada will only be happy with one this year: gold.
Strong goaltending will be key in Canada’s quest. They think they’ve found it with the tandem of Édith D’Astous-Moreau and Danika Ranger. D’Astous-Moreau is one of seven players returning to the Canadian roster from the 2016 tournament. Her last game was a 12 save shutout against Russia in the semifinals last year. Ranger recently won gold with Ontario Red in Canada’s annual National Women’s Under-18 Championship. Ranger allowed only three goals the entire tournament and was given the Top Goaltender award.
The defensive success of Ontario Red will carry over to the blue line as well. Each of Canada’s three pairings features a defender from the gold medal winning Ontario Red squad. One of those three, Avery Mitchell, is definitely a name you’ll want to remember. Mitchell is committed to Clarkson University in the fall, following in the footsteps of U18 alumna Erin Ambrose. Like Ambrose, Mitchell has a bright future on the blue line.
Moving to forwards, this Canadian team has lined up an impressive spread. None of the 13 forwards will disappoint, but expect one line in particular to really shine. Centered by Amy Potomak, Canada’s second line may be the most lethal line in this tournament.
If you aren’t familiar with Amy Potomak, you probably know her older sister, Sarah. Last month, Amy and Sarah became the first sisters to wear the maple leaf together when they suited up for Canada in the December Series against the United States. Amy is a veteran of the U18 WWC, returning from last year’s silver-medal team. She is simply a phenomenal player who will take this tournament by storm.
Potomak’s wingers on the second line are Sophie Shirley and Brette Pettet. Shirley, like Potomak, was called upon to join the Women’s National Team in the December Series against the United States and is also a veteran of the U18 WWC. Pettet is a newcomer to the team, but should have no trouble fitting right in. In the 2015-16 season, she averaged 1.20 points per game at Shattuck St. Mary’s.
Interestingly enough, these three players will soon become rivals. Potomak is committed to play for the University of Minnesota, while Shirley and Pettet are committed to the University of Wisconsin. It will be a treat to see what the trio can accomplish together before they split up for their collegiate careers.
Expect Canada to be in the gold medal game against the United States; that’s the way it has been for every iteration of this tournament since its inception in 2008. Sweden and Russia may pose strong challenges, but they aren’t quite on the same level yet. Canada will fight hard in the gold medal game. They’ve let the last two slip through their fingers in overtime. You can bet they will pull out all the stops to hear “O Canada” play after the final buzzer.
Canada begins tournament play on January 7 against Sweden in Zlín, Czech Republic.