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How to watch the U18 World Championships - The Ice Garden
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Team Russia at the 2019 U18 Women’s Worlds | CONWAY’S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
It was a year ago, almost exactly, that the Russian women’s U18 team recorded the most famous victory in the program’s history, a 3-2 win over Canada in the opening game of the first ever Russian-hosted women’s world championship.
The U-18 Women’s World Championship is currently taking place at three different levels. The top division is competing in Obihiro, Japan, Division IA is competing in Austria and Division IB is competing in Scotland. You can follow all three tournaments via the IIHF website.
Our focus naturally turns to the top division. Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Japan are battling it out on the final day of round-robin competition as we write. Due to time zones, this is going to be a little out of date by the time you actually read this, but that is how it goes.
When Wednesday dawns in North America we will know for sure who will have the two byes to the semi-final (USA has one spot locked down and currently Russia does not look like they’re likely to repeat their upset of Canada from last year as they’re losing badly in the second period) and who will be joining Japan in the relegation round. The safe bet is the Czechs, who would need to beat Finland and need Japan to beat Switzerland in order to move on to the quarter finals. The safe bet, however, is not a guarantee.
One of the great things about top level U-18 this year is that through eight games there have been no games decided by a difference of more than two goals, and there’s only been one shut out, a 1-0 affair between the Swiss and the Czechs. Newly promoted Japan may not have won any games yet but they’ve scored goals and won some respect. They look like they belong. Their lone goal against the Finns, their first of the tournament, was also a beauty of a play—Ami Sasaki hammering a puck home right from the slot off a feed from Yumeka Wajima.
Canada’s blow out of Denmark in the Men’s World Juniors had Hockey Men yelling about respect again and some people even talking about needing fewer teams at the top level. In women’s hockey, blowouts are simply a thing that happens. There’s no mercy rule in women’s hockey, you score as many as humanly possible. As this is being written, Canada is taking revenge on the Russians for last year’s upset. It’s 4-0 after 40 minutes, the Russians had to pull their goalie in the first period and Canada is not going to stop because if they do the Russians might come back. That this is an actual concern for Canada is a wonderful thing and a reflection of how well the women’s game is growing in the younger age groups.
For those of us who follow college hockey, U-18s are a great chance to see a bit of the incoming talent—most of the Canadian and American players have already committed to a school. University of Minnesota commit Abbey Murphy’s two-goal performance against Canada included a beauty of a breakaway. Team Canada defender Alexie Guay already has three points in the aforementioned 4-0 Canada-Russia match; if I was a Boston College fan, I’d be pretty excited right now.
They’re also a great chance to see young players from the other side of the Atlantic, like Finland’s Elisa Holopainen, who’s currently sitting at three goals and an assist in two games. Holopainen plays for KalPa in the Finnish Liiga and has already won a bronze medal at 4 Nations with Finland this year—will she add another medal to her collection in Obihiro?
The next step is for the women’s U-18 tournament to get the same sort of media coverage that the men’s U-20 tournament does (there’s no World Championship tournament for women between U-18 and the senior tournament). This year’s tournament is being streamed live on youtube but if you follow mainstream hockey coverage in most markets, you wouldn’t even know it’s happening.
Ed note: Canada beat Russia 5-1 and despite valiant efforts both the Czechs and the Japanese lost to Finland and Switzerland by a score of 2-1. USA beat Sweden by a score of 2-0.
The U-18 top level quarter-finals take place tonight for North Americans, semi-finals are Friday night and the medal games will be overnight on Saturday.
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