International Ice Hockey Federation

WW18 goalies show promise

WW18 goalies show promise

Banner year for puckstoppers at women’s juniors

Published 12.01.2017 15:40 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW18 goalies show promise
PREROV, CZECH REPUBLIC - JANUARY 07: Switzerland's Saskia Maurer #29 makes the save on the shot from Finland's Kiira Yrjanen #22 while Kiti Seikkula #25 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Normally when news comes out that scoring is down, fans are not pleased, but here at the WW18 in Zlin and Prerov, the news is good for several reasons.

First, it proves games are more competitive. Of the 15 games played so far, only once has a team scores six goals (USA’s opening night win over Russia, 6-1) and twice have teams scored five.

Second, this improved competitive balance shows the revised tournament format, now in its third year, is also successful.

But there’s a third reason: the goaltenders have been excellent from first to last. More incredibly, half the number-one goalies here have never played an IIHF event previously. Yet, despite their rookie status, they are playing like veterans of the blue ice. 

For the record, the inaugural WW18 in 2008 produced an average of 8.40 goals per game. That went up to 8.60 a year later, and it has been falling ever since. In 2015, it was the lowest at 4.81 and rose a bit to 5.38 last year.

So far after 15 games here in the Czech Republic, we’ve seen only 63 goals, an average of 4.20 per game.

Herewith is an overview of the participating nations and their top goalie performance (listed by ranking).

United States—Alex Gulstene was the main goalie last year, a gold-medal win, and this year, her last year of WW18 eligibility, she is just as strong, giving up just two goals in as many games.

Canada—Danika Ranger is a great story. Not considered good enough to be invited to Canada’s summer camp, she played so well with her club team that Hockey Canada couldn’t not invite her. She was sensational in shutting out the USA, 1-0, in an overtime win  two days ago.

Sweden—Sofia Reideborn was the backup in 2015 and didn’t even dress for a game last year as third goalie, but she has come into her own this year in Zlin. She shows quickness and poise—not to mention a little cocky confidence—giving the Swedes hope that they have found their new Kim Martin.

Russia—Valeria Merkusheva, number two last year, is a big reason Russia is playing in the semi-finals on Friday night. She played well against Canada and Sweden and shut out the Czechs last night.

Czech Republic—Kristyna Blahova is another rookie to IIHF play and has played every minute in goal for the Czechs this year. They can do no better than 5th now, but the 16-year-old still has two years of WW18 eligibility left.

Finland—Jenna Silvonen is also in her first tournament. She has a shutout and has allowed only three goals in three games. She almost stole win for Suomi last night against Sweden, stopping 34 of 36 shots.

Switzerland—Saskia Maurer has not only played every minute for her team; she has also stopped a whopping 139 shots, by far the most of any goalie here (by comparison, Danika Ranger has made only 39 saves, the lowest total). Only 15 years old, Maurer could conceivably be back for three more WW18 tournaments.

Japan—Ayu Tonosaki has had the most difficult time of any goalie. Japan won Division I-A last year to earn promotion this year and has scored but five goals in four games, doubling the importance of each goal she has allowed. She has dealt with the pressure admirably, but unless the team can work a miracle and beat Switzerland two games in a row in the relegation round, Japan will be back in Division I-A for 2018.


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