CHICAGO – The German WW U18 women’s team is skating on unchartered (frozen) waters this afternoon, looking for a bronze medal in a sport they’ve never won any medal. Indeed, the team placed 6th last year in this event and fifth in the inaugural 2008 event, respectable results given the senior team has fared no better in 20 years.
The senior women’s team finished as high as fifth only twice, in 2005 and ’06, but has never played in a medal game. Sweden’s senior team, of course, won silver at the 2006 Olympics and has won many a bronze medal. At the junior level, the team won bronze at last year’s WW U18 in Fussen, Germany.
But those historical facts don’t speak to these teams in Chicago this year. They met during the Preliminary Round, and Sweden squeaked through with a 5-4 win. The game was tied 3-3 early in the second period, though, and a small collapse near the end of that period gave Sweden a 5-3 lead heading to the third period. Germany had trailed 3-1 and fought back to tie.
Over and above that game, both teams have lost badly to Canada and the U.S., and both beat Russia. Sweden won, 4-1, and Germany, 3-1. The most telling games might be the Sweden-Japan score and the Germany-Finland game, both in the quarter-finals.
Sweden eked out a 2-1 win. Although Japan scored in the final minute to make the score a little closer, the Swedes weren’t able to put the game away earlier and didn’t dominate as one might have expected. The Germans, however, rallied from 1-0 down to tie their game against Finland early in the third period, and they won in overtime on a power play.
Based on play so far here in Chicago, one would have to say the Germans look equally capable of winning bronze this afternoon despite the historic superiority of the Swedes.