BUDAPEST – Three minutes, three goals. It came down to a disastrous defensive collapse by Team USA to give Canada the 2014 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship gold medal. Tied 0-0 late in the second period, the U.S. gave up three goals in just as many minutes and could not mount a comeback in the third, losing the championship game 5-1.
USA – Canada 1-5 (0-0, 0-3, 1-2)
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Canada wins its third straight and fourth overall gold medal at the women’s U18 tournament, the most of any country now after previously being tied with the U.S. with three golds apiece.
“It was the best game I think I’ve ever seen us play,” said forward Sarah Potomak, who scored twice in the game for Canada. “We pressured them as much as we could, we buried our chances and then the game was ours. The first goal opened the floodgates and we just kept going.”
Potomak finished the tournament with nine points in five games (5G, 4A), putting her a point in front of U.S. forward Taylar Cianfarano for the tournament scoring title.
“I’m just speechless because we just won the World Championship, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” she said.
It would have been hard to top the 2013 championship final, a 2-1 overtime thriller that saw Canada tie the game with 12 seconds left in the third period, and as expected the game was a tight defensive battle right from the beginning.
Despite being outshot early on Canada had the better scoring chances, forcing U.S. goalie Erin O’Neil into making a few key stops. But the American goaltender seemed up to the task of facing the Canadians, and her team’s defence-first philosophy initially paid off in keeping their rivals off the scoreboard.
“The USA came out really hard against us and I think it took us a bit of time to adjust to the tempo and the pace of the game,” said head coach Laura Schuler. “But the girls stuck with the process from the beginning right up until the end, they believed and they worked their tails off.”
But with just over five minutes remaining in the second period, Team USA’s Patricia Marshall was called for delay of game. Canada won a faceoff near the blue line on the power play and forced the puck in deep to the side of the USA net, where Victoria Bach got a shot off that trickled through past O’Neil and into the open crease, where Potomak sat waiting to bury the rebound.
The goal swung the momentum all the way to the Canadian side, as less than a minute later Bach got her second assist on a goal by Eve-Audrey Picard, coming off an odd-man rush that caught the Americans off balance.
Before Team USA could blink they were in an even deeper hole when, at 1:26 left in the period 2013’s overtime hero Karly Heffernan made a great pass to Samantha Cogan, setting her off on a breakaway where she beat O’Neal between the legs to give Canada a commanding 3-0 lead.
“I thought we had a really good first period and a good game plan going in,” said USA head coach Jeff Kampersal. “But we kind of deviated a bit from the game plan in the second and got a little individualistic, when they scored the first goal we got rattled, then when they scored the second I was going to call a timeout but figured we’d be able to get into the intermission, but that wasn’t the case and that third goal was a crusher.”
Canada did hand the U.S. a couple of lifelines in the third period, giving up a power play goal to Alexandra Laing with two players in the box. Canada would give up another two-man advantage with just under nine minutes to go in the frame, but goaltender Shea Tilley was up to the challenge and kept the U.S. from getting any more pucks in the net. Another goal from Picard and an empty netter from Potomak sealed the win and the gold for Canada.
“I think you have a flashback of everyone that’s lifted the trophy before you and you want to make them proud,” said Lauren Wildfang when describing the feeling of lifting the trophy as a gold medal-winning captain for Team Canada. “That’s the feeling you get of the legacy that’s been left before, and now you’re leaving a new one.”
Following the game the Directorate awards were handed out to the Czech Republic’s Klara Peslarova (Top Goaltender), and the USA’s Jincy Dunne (Top Defenceman), and Taylar Cianfarano (Top Forward).