BUDAPEST – Despite outshooting the opposition 70-24, Canada needed overtime and a bit of luck on its side to put away the most talented Russian team in U18 history in a 1-0 victory at the 2014 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. Japan sent Hungary to Division I next year with a 6-0 shutout in the relegation round. Canada – Russia 1-0 (0-0, 0-0, 1-0)
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Captain Lauren Wildfang scored the overtime winner as the Canadians once again advance to the U18 Women’s Worlds gold medal game. Canada will try for its third straight U18 gold on Sunday.
"We expected them to be physical and to come out with an edge and that's exactly what they did," said Wildfang.
"The Russians played outstanding," said Canada head coach Laura Schuler. "They have come a long way and today they stuck to their system and they brought our game up to a new level from the pressure and adversity that they put on us."
The first two periods went by with neither team able to score a goal. Russia, which struggled in the opening period but found its legs in the second, was pinned in its own zone through the first ten minutes. Still the threat of a Russian counter loomed large for the Canadians, who found themselves giving up more than a few dangerous odd-man rushes.
At the other end Russian goaltender Valeria Tarakanova played out of her mind, stopping what looked to be sure scoring opportunities for Canada and causing more than one Canadian player to throw her hands up in frustration.
Regulation time could not solve anything and it fell to Wildfang, who came down the middle of the ice and got into position for a shot that Tarakanova initially stopped, but was unable to prevent Wildfang from knocking in the rebound.
"I came in and took the shot and it just kind of went off the goalie's then I was able to get another chance at it and it trickled in," said Wildfang.
Saturday’s semi-final was only the second meeting ever between the two teams in a U18 Women’s Worlds, the last one coming at the 2010 tournament, a 6-3 win for Canada.
From the opening faceoff Canada had Tarakanova under heavy pressure as Russia’s forwards were bottled up in their own zone and unable to generate any offence going the other way. Still despite her team being outshot 22-7 Tarakanova, playing in just her second game of the tournament, did not surrender a goal in the opening period.
Russia began to settle down in the second and was able to create enough of an rush to keep the Canadian defence honest, while on the other end the Russian defencemen did a great job to limit second-chance scoring opportunities by collapsing in front of their net.
Russia than had a golden opportunity to get the game’s first goal midway through the frame when captain Anna Shokhina was freed up for a breakaway but was stopped on a forehand shot by the pad of Canadian goalie Shea Tiley.
"They played well in setting up the trap and allowing us to come down the ice," said Schuler. "But we felt we could keep up the pressure and give up a few rushes here and there because we have such confidence in our goaltenders."
Canada now awaits the winner of Saturday evening’s semi-final between the USA and the Czech Republic, while Russia still has the chance to win its first-ever U18 medal in the bronze medal game.Japan – Hungary 6-0 (1-0, 1-0, 4-0)
Japan will stay in the top division for 2015 after sweeping Hungary two games to none in the relegation round, finishing the hosts off with a 6-0 win.
Six Japanese players lit the lamp in the game. Forward Haruka Toko had a goal and four assists as Japan scored four in the third period to put the Hungarians away.