International Ice Hockey Federation

WW18 for a new generation

WW18 for a new generation

St. Catharines to host best teens this week

Published 07.01.2016 18:11 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW18 for a new generation
Face-off between Canada and the U.S. at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship in Buffalo. Photo: Francois Laplante / HHOF-IIHF Images
The IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship is returning to Canada for the first time since the inaugural event in Calgary in 2008.

The first eight tournaments saw Canada and the United States each win four, and although another North American showdown seems imminent, there are plenty of players to watch both in that rivalry and European rivalries as well.

Coach Joel Johnson will be back to try to defend gold for the Americans, but he won’t have star defenceman Jincy Dunne, who is in college this year now that she is over 18 (Ohio State). But seven players from 2015 are back, notably forward Rebecca Gilmore, who’ll be relied upon to lead the offence.

Canada had a veteran team last year in Buffalo and, as a result, has only three returnees. It will be without leading scorer Sarah Potomak, who is also in the NCAA (Minnesota), leaving new coach Lisa Haley with the huge task of putting together a team almost from scratch.

Oddly, although Finland and Sweden routinely battle for bronze at the senior level, the Czechs and Russians have been more competitive at the U18 level. Russia is in a strong position, having finished third last year and able to bring back 12 players, including goalie Valeria Tarakanova and leading scorer Fanuza Kadirova.

The Czechs were the youngest team last year, though, losing the bronze, 5-1. Now with a more experienced roster, they should be even more competitive, that bronze, which they won in 2014, clearly in sight once again.

Finland and Sweden are natural rivals, but the edge, on paper, must go to the Swedes this year. They have 13 eligible returnees, including goalie Emma Soderberg and Jessica Adolfsson, the defenceman who led her team in goals with four last year.

The Swiss and teenage wunderkind forward Alina Muller should not be counted out either as they look to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish.

Japan was relegated last year and France, winners in Division I, will be playing in the top pool for the first time. There is a problem, though. Virtually all of the players who helped get the team to St. Catharines are now ineligible, leaving huge gaps all over the ice. In Division I in 2015, the team scored 21 goals, 18 of which came from players not returning. The attraction for fans to the French team will be the Aurard twins. Chloe scored the other three goals for the team, and her sister, Anais, was the backup goalie. She’ll likely be the starter this year.

Hockey Canada is also hoping to hit a new attendance record. The current mark of 17,480 was set in Prerov and Zlin, Czech Republic, in 2012, but St. Catharines is a vibrant hockey city and could make the record books with a good turnout.


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