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Near-perfect U.S. wins 4-1

Discipline decisive; attendance records set

Published 12.01.2016 01:44 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Near-perfect U.S. wins 4-1
ST. CATHARINES, CANADA - JANUARY 11: USA's Sydney Scott #11 scores a first period goal against Canada's Stephanie Neatby #1 during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The U.S. scored three power-play goals in a high-tempo game, capitalizing on a lack of discipline by Canada, to claim first place in Group A with a 4-1 win.

The game was played before an all-time record crowd of 4,016 which also pushed the event total to nearly 22,000, well above the previous record of 17,480 set in 2012. With at least nine games still to be played, St. Catharines might set an IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship attendance record that will endure for many, many years.

"I was a bit nervous playing in front of so many people," admitted American forward Natalie Snodgrass, who had a goal tonight. "There was a lot of red and white, but only the seats were blue."

Both teams now have two days off before playing their semi-finals games on Thursday. 

"We were really ready for the game," Snodgrass said. "We got pumped up. We knew they'd come out strong, with the crowd behind them, but we had the intensity and speed and pace. We were ready. It was a fun game to play."

"We just didn't have a very good start," said Sophie Shirley of Canada. "They had more jump. It was just a slow start."

The Americans came out from the get-go like they meant business, drawing three early penalties and cashing in on two of that number.

Madeline Wethington’s point shot ended up on Sydney Brodt’s stick, and she snapped the puck in from close range at 5:52 for the early U.S. lead.

Then, at 9:34, they struck again with the extra man. This time it was a nice cross-ice feed from Cayla Barnes to Rebecca Gilmore, resulting in a nice one-timer from Gilmore.

Canada had a power play of its own later, Kristin O’Neill firing a great shot fro the slot that had goal written all over it, but goaltender Alex Gulstene kicked out her left pad to make a great save.

Shots favoured the Americans 16-4 in the opening 20 minutes, but some calm play from goalie Stephanie Neatby kept the Canadians in the game.

Although Canada generated more offense in the middle period, it was much the same result. Two early penalties gave the U.S. a two-man advantage for a full minute, and they capitalized on the second power play.

Taylor Wente fed a quick pass to Snodgrass who made no mistake from the top of the crease. Neatby continued to keep her team in the game, but Canada lacked all creativity with the puck. It matched the Americans for skating and speed but simply couldn’t figure out what to do when a scoring chance was at hand. The U.S., on the other hand, was in top gear all night, with and without the puck.

Canada got on the scoreboard with only 3:26 remaining when Julia Edgar pushed a loose puck over the line. That excitement for the crowd was eradicated by an empty-net goal from Gilmore with 1:26 left.

"We had our chances, but the bounces didn't go our way," Shirley added. "It sucks. It hurts, but it will also motivate us for the next two games and push us to get better."

And so a thrilling game before a record crowd is over, and Canada is left licking its wounds, hoping for a re-match in the gold-medal game. So too will the victorious and dominant Americans, no doubt, but for now they will enjoy this victory and head to the playoffs with a clean record. 

"Playing relaxed. Not getting too high or too low. That was the difference, I think," said Snodgrass.