Day 1 of the women’s World U-18 Championship is in the books and it was filled with excitement. Finland notably upset Canada in Group A, while Germany, who was recently promoted to the top tier of the competition shutout the Swiss in Group B.
Perhaps the best performance of the day was by Team USA, who look like the early team to beat.
Here's a look at the opening day of play:
Canada - 0 vs. Finland - 2
Early on Finland out-chanced and outshot Canada with Sanni Vanhanen and Anna-Kaisa Antti-Roiko driving play. Canadian netminder Hailey MacLeod stopped multiple point-blank shots to keep things knotted 0-0. It stayed that way until late in the second period when Ada Eronen put one off the post and in from the point to make it 1-0 Finland. It was the first time in tournament history that Finland held a lead over Canada.
Throughout the game, Canada struggled to stay out of the box, and with a two-player advantage in the third, Finland’s Oona Havana doubled the lead. Canada, despite outshooting Finland 40-15, could not beat Emilia Kyrkko who posted the shutout and was named Finland’s best player. Canada’s best offensive chances in the game came from the line of Alex Law, Jordan Baxter, and Kael Prefontaine. Prefontaine left the game late with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Should she not return, it would be a big hit to Team Canada who lost forward Jade Iginla for the tournament from a shoulder injury in a warmup exhibition against the USA.
Czechia - 4 vs. Slovakia - 0
Adela Sapovalivova paced the offense for Czechia with two goals and an assist. She was a top performer in Czechia’s women’s league scoring 19 points in 8 games this season for HC Příbram. For both goals, Sapovalivova drove to the net and went high on the Slovakian netminder, who faced 41 shots in the game.
Sapovalivova’s second goal in particular, walking from the corner before roofing a wrister was impressive. Czechia also got a goal and two assists from Andrea Trnkova. Trnkova stepped off the blueline freezing her forechecker before going high for her goal. The final tally of Czechia’s 4-0 win came from Eliska Hotova. Czechia netminder Michaela Hesova made 16 saves for the shutout.
USA - 6 vs. Sweden - 1
From the opening faceoff, the United States dominated this game. More than any team on the opening day of play, the USA controlled the puck, attacked in layers, and finished their chances. The top line of Laila Edwards, Kirsten Simms, and Tessa Janecke drove possession, while blueliners Grace Dwyer and Sydney Morrow were exceptional for the USA.
Dwyer and Morrow distributed the puck using their skating skills to walk the blueline before finding an opening and were not afraid to jump into the play. While the USA dominated the play, netminder Annalies Bermann was also solid in net. She showed off her rebound control and tracked the puck well. On the scoresheet, Cassie Hall led the way with two goals and an assist, while Elyssa Biederman, Tessa Janecke, and Josie St. Martin had singles. Edwards scored a goal and added a pair of helpers, while Dwyer had a pair of assists and Morrow had three. While the USA took the win with ease, they did take several penalties, a trend the team will need to rectify moving forward.
Germany - 1 vs. Switzerland - 0
In the lowest-scoring contest of the day, it took until the final minute of the game for the deadlock to be broken. Lola Liang scored the lone goal of the game to lift Germany to the win at 59:14 of the third period.
For Germany, it was an upset victory over the Swiss as they recently advanced to the top division of the World U-18 Championship. Switzerland outshot Germany 27-20 in the game, but Felicity Luby shut the door for the Germans.
1. Emilia Kyrkko, G (FIN): Canada peppered Kyrkko with 40 shots. While they lacked the high danger opportunities and second chances that could have broken the ice, that was in part due to Kyrkko’s rebound control and her ability to calm the storm during multiple surges in the game. Annelies Bergmann for the USA, and Hailey MacLeod for Canada had strong performances, but Kyrkko was the day’s top netminder. She was deserving of being named Finland’s top player for her performance.
2. Laila Edwards, F (USA): When the puck is on her stick, Laila Edwards is a constant threat. She can use her 6-foot-2 frame to protect the puck, but also has enough speed to drive around opponents. She’s patient and has exceptional vision, finding passing lanes to create chances. Edwards did all of this in her team’s opening game scoring the USA’s first goal and setting up two more. Not only is Edwards an offensive driver, but she also backchecked to the goal line and killed penalties.
Kirsten Simms - At times Simms held possession for too long, but her ability to skate through and around the opposition was impressive. She used exceptional edgework to keep her distribution options open, often looping the offensive zone before sending the puck back across the midline to make the Swedish netminder move. It almost looked too easy for Simms. Her skills are elite, and it’s obvious she will remain a member of the USA’s national program for some time. There was no question who the best player on the ice was in this game despite the fact she ended with only an assist. Blueliners Grace Dwyer and Sydney Morrow had a similar impact, but your eyes were on Simms every time she stepped on the ice.