International Ice Hockey Federation

Women’s U18 back in CZE

Women’s U18 back in CZE

Return to 2012 venues promises drama

Published 06.01.2017 20:52 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Women’s U18 back in CZE
United States' Sydney Brodt #11 challenges Czech Republic's Anna Zikova #27 during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. Photo: Francois Laplante / HHOF-IIHF Images
The 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship begins tomorrow in Zlin and Prerov, Czech Republic, the two cities that hosted the same event five years

The Czechs then set an attendance record, which was broken by Canada last year, and hope to have a good atmosphere at the arenas again. All games will be streamed live on the official event website, which is available in English and Czech language.

That year Canada defeated the U.S., 3-0, for gold, and Sweden claimed the bronze with a 4-1 win over Germany.

Last year the Americans beat Canada, 3-2, in overtime and the Swedes beat Russia, 2-1 for the bronze.

This year, the two North American nations are expected to return to the gold-medal game and, as usual, it’s a coin toss to figure out which might win. The race for the bronze is wide open as the European nations are developing better players all the time.

The defending champs will once again be coached by Joel Johnson, but he won’t have Natalie Snodgrass back. She scored the golden goal in 2016 and was second in tournament scoring last year.

Back is goalie Alex Gulstene, who played in three of five games last year, including the gold-medal win. Half the defence is not returning, leaving veterans Cayla Barnes, Gracie Ostertag, and Madeline Wethington to lead the blueliners. Up front, however, the team has seven returnees, making for a very strong core that will be capable of defending their crown. Jesse Compher, Catherine Skaja, Taylor Wente, and Grace Zumwinkle are among the players to watch.

Canada looks to have an equally strong team as well. Incoming coach Troy Ryan replaces Lisa Haley, and his first job will be to determine a number-one goalie. There are several strong candidates including Edith D’Astous-Moreau, but last year’s main goalie, Stephanie Neatby, won’t be in the Czech Republic this year.

In all, Canada has only six returning players, so Ryan will have to get his players working as a team quickly. Sophie Shirley, lithe and fast, will pace the attack. Other returning players include Amy Potomak, Emma Maltais, Daryl Watts, Ashton Bell, and Olivia Knowles. This should be a skilled, offensive team that can give the U.S. a run for gold.

Sweden remains strong under returning coach Ylva Lindberg, although goalie Emma Soderberg won’t be back. There were many 2000-born players in camp, so it might be a young team as well. Jessica Adolfsson, the team’s leading scorer, is no longer eligible to play but Celine Tedenby, another offensive threat, will be. Sofie Lundin will also be counted on to score some goals despite still being only 16 years old. If Linnea Johansson makes the team, the 14-year-old will be among the youngest players ever at the WW18.

Russia lost the bronze medal game last year to Sweden and rookie coach Yevgeni Bobariko will be without last year’s sensational goalie Valeria Tarakanova. He will, however, have a Tretyak on the roster—Milena Tretyak, that is. His big worry will be scoring. Last year the team relied heavily on Fanuza Kadirova, but she’s no longer eligible for U18. The only player returning who showed offensive flair is forward Daria Beloglazova, but she’s going to need some help. Nearly half the team is back from 2016, but scoring and keeping the puck out of the goal are significant challenges this year.

Coach Jari Risku is back behind Finland’s bench and will likely consider returning goalie Johanna Oksman his number-one puck stopper. There are seven skaters returning, so last year’s 6th place might well be improved upon this year thanks to wisdom gained from a year’s experience, especially for the likes of Petra Nieminen and Jennina Nylund.

The host Czech Republic will be guided by Jan Fidrmuc, back for a fifth straight term as coach. His greatest challenge will be finding goals. Klara Hymlarova is one of eight returnees, and she tied for the team lead last year with only two goals. Grouped with Switzerland, Japan, and Finland, their task will be to avoid relegation.

The Swiss will be without last year’s tournament scoring leader, Alina Muller, who now plays for the senior team. This combined with a young roster, could be problematic for the Swiss who have finished seventh the last two years.

France was demoted last year and Japan, winners of Division I in 2016, will be up, but can the Asian nation remain in the top pool? The talent level is spread thin but the Japanese may be able to challenge some of their Group B opponents. Almost all Japanese play on teams at home, but Sena Takenaka plays at the Ontario Hockey Academy in Canada. They will be in a fight to avoid relegation.


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