CHICAGO – Tournament MVP Jessica Campbell deflected a point shot at 3:10 of overtime to cap a terrific comeback by Canada to win 5-4 and earn gold at the WW U18 Championship. The Americans led 4-2 late in the second period but couldn’t withstand a potent Canadian offense.
“My defenceman had the puck at the point and I saw she was going to take a quick shot,” Campbell related, “so I got in front of the goalie and tried to get my stick on it. I didn’t even see it go in.”
If anyone wants to know what World Women’s U18 hockey should look like, tonight’s gold-medal game is the Hockey 101 primer. Canada and the United States are in such a class by themselves at this level that it truly is another kind of game they played from the level they participated in all week against weaker opponents. Tonight’s play was end-to-end, lightning fast, physical, skilled, and eminently entertaining.
Perhaps most of all was the remarkable skill both teams demonstrated on the power play, moving the puck around with hard, clean passes, shooting bullets from all over, and generating plenty of scoring chances. Indeed, special teams accounted for four of the seven goals in the first two periods.
The game started off at a blistering pace, and both teams got early power-play goals to get on the scoreboard. The U.S. struck in the first minute when Alex Carpenter knocked in a puck from close range, but Laurie Kingsbury scored on a superb one-timer from the point that whistled over the glove of Alex Rigsby.
That tying goal gave the Canadians life, and for the rest of the opening ten minutes they dominated. They generated many a scoring chance off the rush, but they couldn’t convert to get the go-ahead goal.
Kendall Coyne put the U.S. ahead 2-1 on a goal that goalie Carmen MacDonald would likely like a second chance on. Coyne skated down the right side and took a routine backhander when she ran out of room, but the puck found the far side.
Just 47 seconds later, Zoe Hickel made it 3-1 when her shot from the right side rolled over MacDonald’s shoulder and in. Canadian players comforted their shaky goalie, and Canada played with impressive determination the rest of the period, knowing how important the next goal would be.
Canada got that goal midway through the second on a power play, Christine Bestland beating Rigsby from in close to make it 3-2. The Americans responded a short time later on their own man advantage, though, again moving the puck around skillfully. Meagan Mangene finished a series of passes with a nice shot from the slot to make it a 4-2 game for the U.S.
“We didn’t really get down on each other at all,” Campbell said about her team’s reaction on the bench. “We just said we have this—this is our game. We fought back and used it for positive energy and came back.”
That fighting spirit helped. Before the period ended Canada clawed back to within a goal, Melodie Daoust converting on a deke off another won faceoff to draw Canada to within a goal again.
The third period was tense action with tremendous flow both ways. Canada had a decided edge in scoring chances, but Rigsby was sensational in the U.S. net. She faced 50 shots in all on the night and was named Best Goalie by the IIHF Tournament Directorate.
The game turned once and for all halfway through the period when Coyne made a sensational end-to-end rush and appeared to score a goal. However, referee Tara Leighton of the U.S. ruled the puck did not enter the net, and the score remained 4-3 for the Americans. The call was gutsy and controversial, but television evidence later suggested it was also correct.
Dodging this bullet, Canada tied the game at 12:29 on a sensational play. Cassandra Poudrier drove down the right side and fed a perfect pass to Jenna McParland who was flying toward the net. She put her stick down and deflected the pass to the top corner over Rigsby’s shoulder.
The rest of the period was thrilling but didn’t produce a winning goal, so teams went to their dressing rooms for a flood leading to a sudden-death, four-on-four overtime. That set the stage for Campbell’s heroics.
In addition to Rigsby being named Best Goalie by the Directorate, Brigette Lacquette was named Best Defenceman and Kendall Coyne Best Forward. Campbell was named Tournament MVP. She led all scorers with 15 points in five games.