WW18: Final thoughts
WW18: Final thoughts
Roaring success should ratchet ambitions
The women’s U18 event set records for attendance and produced breakout performances from many players and as many nations. The women’s game looks to be in a good place.
*The Meridian Centre proved to be a fantastic venue to host most of the games. Organizers removed seats at one end of the rink for the early games but put them back in on medal day. Twice the single-game attendance record was broken in the Preliminary Round, and the 5,516 fans who stuffed the Centre for the gold-medal game not only smashed that mark a third time but set a Meridian Centre record as well.
*The gold-medal game was unquestionably the best WW18 game ever played. Canada’s relentless puck pursuit in the first half of the game showed the nation’s superb skating ability. The Americans took charge slowly but surely, however, and demonstrated fantastic playmaking skills. That the game was decided in overtime was wholly appropriate.
*St. Catharines was the perfect size city to host the WW18 and hopefully the attendance record is not one that will last for years but rather is the beginning of the maturation of the tournament. Furthermore, hopefully Hockey Canada and TSN will support the event more frequently, starting with 2017, as of now an open event without a host. Like the WM18 and the World Juniors before it, if Canada can help establish the WW18 as a kind of World Juniors for women, it can grow exponentially in Canada, the United States, and, finally, Europe.
*This year’s event saw the emergence of several players who are destined to become stars at the senior level. The North Americans, of course, have nothing to worry about in this regard, but the very fact that the Europeans are starting to develop star forwards with offensive ability is both needed and refreshing. Alina Muller of Switzerland, Fanuza Kadirova of Russia, and Sara Hjalmarsson of Sweden are just a few players who look capable of having long and successful careers in women’s hockey.
*Goaltenders have often been the best players on European teams, and this year is no different. Russia’s first-rate goalie, Valeria Tarakanova, in fact, was named tournament MVP. Emma Soderberg (SWE) was the all-star team goalie, and, although France is being demoted, Anais Aurard was her team’s best player.
*Programs in Kuortane, Finland and Ornskoldsvik, Sweden indicate Europeans are starting to take player development seriously, vital steps in the long term to making the Olympic competition more competitive.
*Of course, with all the optimism, there is a dose of reality. In too many games the losing team is held to zero or one goal, meaning the team that scores first wins too often and comebacks are too rare. But considering this is a breakout year for WW18 hockey, this is an issue that hopefully will resolve itself with the maturation of more gifted scorers.
All in all, hopefully we will look back at St. Catharines 2016 and identify it as the start of something great. The infrastructure is starting to put in place, the need is there, and the results are refreshing.
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