STOCKHOLM – Team USA returned to the throne in the World Women’s U18 Championship, beating Canada 5-2 in the final. Hannah Brandt scored one, and picked up three assists.
It was the third gold for the United States in this category that was staged the fourth year. Canada had won the event the previous year when it was played on U.S. soil in Chicago.
"This was the most exciting game of my life and we wanted this win so bad. A team that I’ve been on has never wanted something this bad. We worked really hard," said Brandt.
Team USA hadn’t gone past the eight-minute mark without scoring in their previous four games in the tournament, and Canada didn’t fare any better against the Americans. Having pressed hard the first few minutes, Team USA got a power-play opportunity at 6:22.
Paige Savage and Alex Carpenter cycled the puck in the corner before Carpenter simply stickhandled her way to the front of the net, beating Ann-Renée Desbiens with a hard wrist shot from a very close range to give the U.S. a lead in the game.
"I’m very impressed by how the girls played, from start to finish. They were poised and in control beyond their years. I forget sometimes that they’re 15-to-17-year-old. They stuck to the game plan and made sure we played hard, disciplined, and as a team," Team USA head coach Jodi McKenna said.
After the goal, the tempo of the game came down a bit, and Canada started to get its chances. And then Team USA got another power play when Sarah MacDonnell hooked down an American forward in a scoring chance.
This time it was Hannah Brandt, who fooled the Canadian penalty killers with a toe drag that got her to the front of the net. She had time to wait for Desbiens to hit the ice before she snapped a wrist shot top shelf, at 15:39.
"They gave me the time. 'Fieldsy' made a nice pass, and Pelkey drew the other defenceman towards her so it left me wide open," Brandt said.
At 7:33 Team USA extended their lead to three goals. Brandt carried the puck into the Canadian zone, but was stopped by a Canadian defenceman in the high slot. She managed to pass the puck to Amanda Pelkey on her left, and Pelkey onetimed it past Desbiens.
Emily Fulton gave Canada some hope with a wrist shot that beat Megan Miller high on her stick side at 15:07, but in the next shift, just 22 seconds after Canada’s goal, Team USA struck back as Dana Trivigno slammed Brandt’s rebound to the back of the net.
But before the period was over, Canada was breathing down the Americans’ necks again. Katy Josephs made it 4-2, at 17:33, assisted by Katarina Zgraja and Nicole Kosta. After that Canada took over the game, but Miller and the buzzer saved Team USA.
"Canada pressed hard, they didn’t give up. We expected them to come back because they are such a strong team, but we didn’t lose sight of what we do well. The momentum was swinging more towards them, so we were happy when that buzzer sounded and the second period was up," McKenna said.
Team USA outshot Canada 24-9 in the first two periods.
Canada had a few scoring chances in the third period, but all in all, it was Team USA that controlled the game, with better speed, making it difficult for Canada to create high quality scoring chances.
Instead, Milica McMillen sealed the final score with an empty netter with 35 seconds remaining, with Brandt collecting her fourth point of the game.
“The girls who have been in the tournament before, like Amanda Pelkey, Michelle Picard, Emily Pfalzer, Alex Carpenter, and Haley Skarupa, have done a fantastic job with setting the tone, the high standard we expect from our team,” McKenna said.
"Now we'll celebrate with pizza," she added.