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Past the Preliminaries of the U18 Worlds: what’s next?

It’s been an exciting five days at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship — but now that the preliminaries and quarterfinals have concluded, what’s next?

Steven Kingsman, HHOF-IIHF

The best women’s hockey players under the age of eighteen from Canada, the USA, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland descended on Bratislava, Slovakia, this past week to battle it out for world championship gold. Now that the four days of preliminary play and one day of quarterfinal action are done, we’ll walk you through the aftermath of the preliminaries and give you the low-down on what’s up next at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship.

U18 Worlds Primer

Unlike the senior Worlds, U18 is still an eight country tournament. The teams are divided into two groups: Group A and Group B. In the preliminary round, each team plays the others in their group. Then, the top two teams Group A receive an automatic bid into the semifinals (a “quarterfinal bye,” which is a fun term the IIHF uses to define this idea).

The quarterfinals are made up of the bottom two teams in Group A and the top two in Group B. The winner of each game moves on to play in the semifinals.

Meanwhile, the bottom two teams in Group B play a best of three relegation round — the loser of which is relegated to Division I Group A, while the winner gets to compete with the rest of the teams again at next year’s World Championship.

Preliminary Round

Many of the players at the tournament were rookies, with the youngest competitors being just fourteen years old (the tournament’s youngest player is Slovakian defender Viktoria Kucerova, who sits at 14 years and 1 month!).

Group A

Russia, Canada, the United States, and Finland are all competing in Group A this year, with Finland earning the promotion from Group B after a bronze medal finish at last year’s tournament.

Russia vs. Canada (Game 1)

Canada emerged victorious over Russia in overtime by a score of 3-2, with defender and alternate captain Nicole Gosling netting the game winner just three minutes into overtime. It didn’t seem like a tight game at first, with Canada coasting on a two goal cushion. Boston University commit Ann-Frédérik Naud opened the scoring at the end of the first period off a feed from regular season teammate Maya Labad, and shortly into the second, forward Sarah Paul made it 2-0 Canada. The game looked to be won until halfway through the third period, when Agidel Ufa forward Veronika Korzhakova struck for the Russians. Not to be outdone, Kristi Shashkina evened things up with her first goal of the tournament just three minutes later to force the game into overtime. Straight off the bench in overtime, though, Gosling, who’s a Clarkson University commit, ended it and secured the first victory of the tournament for Team Canada.

Steve Kingsman (HHOF-IIHF)

USA vs. Finland (Game 3)

The Americans met Finland for its first game of the tournament, with rookie goaltender Kiia Lahtinen making her international debut for Finland. She was opposed by goaltender Skylar Vetter, who was one goal shy of securing her second ever international shutout in her second year at the tournament. Chicago Mission forward Abbey Murphy scored the first goal off a feed from long time teammate Haley Winn, but no more than a minute later, Finnish alternate captain Kiira Yrjänen tied things up. Though it would be the only goal the Finns scored that game, the Americans weren’t done, and goals from Clara Van Weiren, Audrey Wethington, and Rory Guilday brought the score to 4-1 before the contest ended.

Canada vs. Finland (Game 5)

Finland would lose in a similar fashion to the Canadians the next day, by the same score: 4-1. Just like last time, too, the Finns’ opponents opened the scoring, but this time it was Canadian Lindsay Bochna who triggered the horn. Finnish captain and defender Nelli Laitinen would tie things up on the powerplay before the conclusion of the first period, but, just like in their first game, Team Finland just could not get their feet under them and their offense struggled mightily to generate any more scoring chances. In fact, they only generated 13 shots on goal the entire game, giving Canadian rookie Kayle Osborne a fairly gentle introduction to international play. Nonetheless, Team Canada wasn’t ready to relent, and kept piling on the goals: Defender Charli Kettyle would score, as would Maddi Wheeler, and Émilie Lussier would get the empty net goal to seal the deal.

Russia vs. USA (Game 7)

In one of the tightest contests thus far this tournament, the Russians held the Americans to goose eggs on the scoreboard for much of the three periods. Though both goaltenders are rookies on the international stage, both Amanda Thiele (USA) and Yulia Volkova (Russia) had to contend with 20+ shots on goal from their opponents in what would become an impressive clinic. Nevertheless, the Americans broke through in the final frame with just over five minutes to go off a shot from Chicago Mission forward and Minnesota commit Ella Huber, who was selected as one of our players to watch before the tournament even began. Huber’s far side rocket beat Volkova after an unfortunate screen from one of her teammates, and got the USA on the board. The game would end without another goal from either side.

Canada vs. USA (Game 9)

Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated games of the tournament for North American women’s hockey fans, Canada and the USA met in a clash that lived up to all expectations. Having met last year in the gold medal game (which Canada won in overtime), many of the players on each roster were familiar with their opponents this time around — after all, some of them will even play on the same team in the future, like Canadian forward Anne Cherkowski, who will join American captain Maggie Nicholson at Minnesota next year.

At any rate, the game started off with a bang, with Cherkowski scoring just twenty seconds into the match-up with a laser of a shot. From that point on, it was penalties aplenty for both teams — by the end of the game, Canada had served six penalties and the USA had served four. Despite the powerplays, the American offense couldn’t seem to get their feet underneath them and couldn’t convert on the player advantage for much of the game. Marianne Picard’s goal more than halfway through the third was the nail in the coffin, and despite Lacey Eden’s last ditch effort in the dying seconds, the USA fell to their biggest rivals 2-1.

Finland vs. Russia (Game 11)

Just as with the CAN vs. USA game, the match-up between Finland and Russia was off to a quick start. Not two minutes in and Polina Luchnikova opened the game’s scoring, with Kristi Shashkina getting the sole assist. Finn Nelli Laitinen struck fifteen minutes later with an absolute laser down the center of the ice that Russian goaltender Anna Alpatova could never have seen coming.

With the game all knotted up going into the second period, Finnish defender Sanni Rantala scored her first goal of the tournament just a minute into the middle frame. Always with a flare for knotting things up, Kristi Shashkina (you’ll remember her from the RUS vs. CAN game) piled on two quick goals of her own to pull the Russians ahead 3-2. A goal from Ilona Markova doubled the Russian lead, and in the end, the Finns didn’t have enough left in the tank to mount a comeback, and fell 4-2.

Group A Post-Preliminary Standings

RANK TEAM POINTS RECORD (W-OTW-OTL-L)
RANK TEAM POINTS RECORD (W-OTW-OTL-L)
1 Canada 8 2-1-0-0
2 USA 6 2-0-0-1
3 Russia 4 1-0-1-1
4 Finland 0 0-0-0-3

Group B

The Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Sweden all compete in Group B. This is Sweden’s first time in recent years being relegated to the group after earning zero points in Group A last year. Slovakia was promoted from Division I Group A into Group B of the main tournament, so they’ll join the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Czech Republic vs. Switzerland (Game 2)

Group B is Czech forward Hana Haasova’s world and the rest of the teams are just living in it.

The HC Opava forward scored her first goal this tournament in her team’s opener against Switzerland, which was ultimately taken to overtime after fifteen year old defender and international rookie Alina Marti and the Swiss made a third period comeback. Despite the early tally, Haasova and the Czechs struggled in the third period and into overtime, mounting no shots on goal in the extra frame and allowing Swiss forward Laura Zimmermann to slip one past goaltender Julie Pejsova just 28 seconds into overtime. In the end, the Swiss won 2-1 with extra time for their first — and only — win of the tournament.

Slovakia vs. Sweden (Game 4)

After their demotion to Group B last year, the Swedes have come out swinging. Despite a scoreless first period, they managed to slip three goals past fourteen year old Slovakian goaltender Laura Medvidova in the middle frame. The first Swedish goal came from Linköping HC forward and U18 Worlds veteran Linnea Johansson, who won silver with her home country at the 2018 tournament. Elin Svensson struck shortly thereafter off a feed from her Ella Albinsson. Hanna Thuvik, Svensson’s teammate with Göteborg HC, notched the Swedes’ third goal, and then Lova Blom got the fourth tally in the third period — and it should have been smooth sailing for the blue and gold from there, but two quick goals from the Slovaks in the dying minutes prevented Swedish goaltender Ida Boman from nabbing the shutout in her first international appearance. The final score was 4-2 Sweden, with the Slovak goals coming from Barbora Kapicakova and Emilia Leskovjanska.

Sweden vs. Czech Republic (Game 6)

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but once again Hana Haasova opened the scoring for the Czech Republic just four minutes into the first period for her second goal of the tournament. It wasn’t until the middle of the second period that, as Czech forward Kristyna Kaltounkova sat for holding, Elin Svensson struck again and evened the score. Kaltounkova would redeem herself in the third period, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Anna Kalova scored in the third for the Czech Republic, and, after taking an impressive six shots on goal in the third frame alone, Kaltounkova finally broke through and sealed the deal. Though the Swedes attempted a comeback by pulling their goalie with 47 seconds on the clock, it wasn’t enough, and they fell 3-1 to the Czech Republic.

Chris Tanouye (HHOF-IIHF Images)

Slovakia vs. Switzerland (Game 8)

It was a rough first period for Slovak goaltender Laura Medvidova in this one. Though the Swiss have struggled throughout the tournament, they were able to pile four goals on the rookie goaltender in the first period alone. Two players notched three points in the first period: forward Sinja Leemann, with three assists, and Laura Zimmermann, who scored twice and tallied an assist on Ladina Staub’s opening goal. Sara Bachmann would then trigger the horn for the fourth time in less than ten minutes. While the Slovak defense struggled initially, they tightened up in the final two frames, allowing only eight shots in the second period and five in the third. Nonetheless, the defense wasn’t able to take back any of the goals, and not even a late tally from Romana Haluskova could salvage the game for Team Slovakia.

Switzerland vs. Sweden (Game 10)

Rejoice, Ida Boman fans, because your favorite rookie goaltender finally got her first international shutout in this game against the Swiss! Though she only faced 19 shots, she turned away every one of them to maintain a clean scoresheet. Unfortunately, Caroline Spies wasn’t as lucky, and allowed two goals on 21 shots from the Swedes. Annie Silén got on the board first with a silky snipe. While the Swiss came out with a good 10 shots on goal through the first two periods, they couldn’t put any past Boman. In the third period, Thea Johansson put the final nail in the coffin, and not even pulling Spies could help the Swiss mount a comeback. Team Switzerland fell to Sweden 2-0 in the penultimate preliminary game for Group B.

Czech Republic vs. Slovakia (Game 12)

The border battle between the Czech Republic and Slovakia came to a head in Bratislava when the two teams met for the first time this tournament in what would quickly become a rout of the latter country. Kristyna Kaltounkova, who won more than 75% of her faceoffs during this match-up, drew first blood with a nifty first period goal. Once the goals started coming, they just kept coming — in the second period, Tereza Mazancova and, that’s right, you guessed it, Hana Haasova both notched goals to bring the score to 3-0, with the Czechs in the lead. That would do it for rookie goaltender Laura Medvidova’s tenure in net, as she was swapped for Nikola Zimkova to start the third. However, the goalie change didn’t do much for the Slovaks, and MODO Hockey defender Daniela Pejsova tacked on one more for good measure. With five minutes remaining, Romana Haluskova got Team Slovakia on the board, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Gabriela Hrubanova sealed the deal — and first seed in the preliminaries — for the Czechs with a goal in the final ten seconds of play, bringing the score to a hefty 5-1 Czech Republic.

Group B Post-Preliminary Standings

RANK TEAM POINTS RECORD (W-OTW-OTL-L)
RANK TEAM POINTS RECORD (W-OTW-OTL-L)
1 Czech Republic 7 2-0-1-0
2 Sweden 6 2-0-0-1
3 Switzerland 3 0-1-1-1
4 Slovakia 2 0-1-0-2

Quarterfinals

With Canada and the USA seeded first and second, respectively, in Group A, they earned themselves the quarterfinal bye. That leaves Russia and Finland, finishing third and fourth in Group A, respectively, and the Czech Republic and Sweden, finishing first and second in Group B, respectively.

Finland vs. Czech Republic (Game 13)

Finland came out on top against the Czech Republic by a score of 3-1 — but the game wasn’t as close (nor did the Finns ever really have to contend with the most dangerous lead in hockey) as it might seem from the score. In fact, Hana Haasova didn’t score the Czech Republic’s lone goal until more than halfway through the third period, spoiling Finnish goaltender Kiia Lahtinen’s shutout. The Finnish goals were scored by Team Kuortane defender Sanni Rantala (whose goal was her second of the tournament, and brought her point total to five), Sofia Nuutinen of Kiekko-Espoo (whose sister Emma is currently tearing up the CHA at Mercyhurst University), and alternate captain Kiira Yrjänen, who is teammates with Sanni Rantala on Liiga’s Team Kuortane.

Russia vs. Sweden (Game 15)

Meanwhile, Russia dominated in their game against Sweden with a final score of 4-0. Russian goaltender Anna Alpatova got the shutout and made 19 saves, padding her tournament-leading save percentage of .941. Kristina Glukhareva’s goal broke the ice for the Russians early in the first period — remarkably, it was her first and only shot on net so far this tournament, so she’s currently sitting at a 100% shot success rate.

Veronika Korzhakova struck next at the end of the first frame, with Polina Luchnikova and Kristi Shashkina getting the assists. Luchnikova would tally another point on Shashkina’s goal in the third period, and then Shashkina would notch yet another point on the scoresheet with her assist on the final goal of the game, a powerplay goal from Vita Ponyatovskaya. Both with multipoint games in the quarterfinals, Shashkina and Luchnikova move into first and second place for scoring at the tournament with seven and six points, respectively.

Moving Forward into the Semifinals

After beating the Czech Republic, Finland will face against a red-hot Ève Gascon and Team Canada, while Russia will line up against the women of Team USA. Both games will be broadcast by the IIHF (with new and improved streams!) on Jan. 1.

The two semifinal games will be streamed at the following dates and times:

  • Finland vs. Canada @ 6:30 a.m. eastern on Jan. 1.
  • Russia vs. USA @ 10:30 a.m. eastern on Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, the second game of the relegation series between Switzerland and Slovakia will be taking place on Jan. 1 as well, at 10:30 a.m. eastern. The first game was won handily by Switzerland by a score of 4-0, so Slovakia will have to throw everything they’ve got at the Swiss net on January 1 if they want to keep their hopes alive and not be relegated to Division I Group A for next year’s tournament.

The two finals will be streamed at the following dates and times:

  • Bronze medal game @ 6:30 a.m. eastern on Jan. 2
  • Gold medal game @ 2:30 p.m. eastern on Jan. 2

Just a reminder you can stream all the games for free on the IIHF’s website.