Monday, 12 January 2015

Hold Your Heads High

It came down to one game tonight. With the gold medal on the line at IIHF Women's U18 World Championship in Buffalo, New York, two old foes would tangle once more with a gold medal hanging in the balance. Clearly, from the picture to the left, one team came away as the winner and it wasn't the team we in Canada wanted it to be. In saying that, the game was exciting, the skill was on display, and there is nothing for the Canadian women to hang their heads about after they lost in overtime. I am proud of these women, and they deserve some recognition today.

The goaltenders were incredible throughout the tournament. Marlène Boissonnault, the Dundee, New Brunswick product, played incredible hockey all week in defending the net and deserves a nod for her efforts. Amherst, Nova Scotia's Carly Jackson and Brandon, Manitoba's Kristen Campbell platooned behind Boissonnault, and all three netminders were solid throughout the lead-up to the tournament and in Buffalo where Canada needed them to stand tall. Well done, ladies!

On the blue line, Canada had some big contributors. Saanichton, British Columbia's Micah Hart led Canada in scoring from the back end, but Canada also saw solid two-way play from Bourget, Ontario's Josiane Pozzebon and Hartney, Manitoba's Melissa Hunt. Mississauga, Ontario's Stephanie Sucharda, Ottawa's Lindsay Eastwood, Toronto's Kaitlin Tse, and Blainville, Quebec's Alyson Matteau chipped in with solid defensive play as well as these seven women did everything in their power to keep the puck from reaching the Canadian net. I am extremely proud of these seven ladies!

Up front, the top line of Quebec City's Élizabeth Giguère, Aldergrove, BC's Sarah Potomak, and Calgary's Shae Labbe were extremely effective throughout the tournament for Canada. Winnipeg's Ryleigh Houston, Oakville, Ontario's Kristin O'Neill and Lindsay Agnew, Plenty, Saskatchewan's Jaycee Gebhard, Ottawa's Samantha Cogan, Whitby, Ontario's Rhyen McGill, and Rouyn-Noranda's Sarah-Eve Coutu-Godbout all recorded points in the tournament while playing effective defensive hockey. Winnipeg's Christian Higham, Oakville's Madison Field, and Niagara Falls' Sarah Quaranta didn't record any points, but played well all week as they chipped in where they could. In short, the thirteen Canadian forwards were dynamic throughout this tournament!

Team Canada was considered one of the favorites as this tournament began, but they faced the vaunted American squad in the opening game. Just like the senior women's teams, Canada and the US battled through regulation time and overtime without flinching. With the game tied at 1-1, it took a shootout for the Americans to finally shake the plucky Canadian squad. Canada rallied in their next games, downing Russia 3-2 and the Czech Republic 7-1 to earn seven points and a bye to the semi-finals.

Russia would defeat Finland in their quarterfinal game to set up another shot at the Canadians, but the Canadians would play a controlled game as they dominated from start to finish against the Russian squad. Outshooting the Russians by a 51-18 margin, Canada was paced by goals from Jaycee Gebhard, Shae Labbe, and Sarah Potomak after falling behind early to claim the 3-1 victory and a berth in the gold medal game.

It was there that they met with Team USA once more as they looked to avenge that loss in the preliminary round. Canada took the early lead on Shae Labbe's goal at 3:14, but US captain and defenceman Jincy Dunne would even the score just 33 seconds before the intermission. The Americans would take the lead at the 5:00 mark of the second period when Alyssa Gorecki found some room past Boissonnault, but Canada would respond 3:23 later when Samantha Cogan notched the equalizer.

I had spoken a little on Twitter about the penalties Canada seemed to be incurring at these World Championships, and they would finish as the most penalized team at this tournament after taking eight minor penalties in the final, including six infractions in the third period. At some point, Canada's penalty-killing would face the possibility of being burned considering the amount of fire they were playing with in this final, and it was a tripping penalty committed by Josiane Pozzebon at 19:32 of the third period that finally saw the Americans find their mark on the power-play.

Just eleven seconds into overtime with Canada still killing the penalty, this happened. Stick-tap to Craig Kanalley's work with the Vine video on this one.
That's Jincy Dunne with the power-play marker and the golden goal to give Team USA the win. I have to say that Dunne's goal is a goal-scorer's goal - upstairs from the hash marks. Wow. Beauty goal! Jincy, who had a pair of goals tonight in the gold medal game, also had one of the shootout goals for Team USA in the preliminary game between Canada and the US as well. Are we looking at the newest "Canadian killer" from Team USA? That prognosis right now is good.

I cannot state how proud I am of the ladies who represented Canada at the Women's U18 World Championship in Buffalo. I know they didn't get the result they wanted in the end, but they have every reason to walk tall after this game. The two best women's hockey programs on the planet provided yet another thrilling game. It's just unfortunate that one team had to lose.

Well done, Team USA, on winning the gold medal on home soil, and I am proud to be a Canadian after that showing by the Canadian women. Go Canada Go!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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