HEINOLA – Sweden has won its second straight bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship. Minatsu Murase posted a 43-save shutout as the Swedes won 4-0 over the Czech Republic.
“It’s wonderful, just as sweet as last year,” said team captain Michelle Lowenhielm, who collected her second bronze at the women’s U18. “We did our best and gave our all and worked together and it was all worth it.”
Murase’s shutout performance puts a cap on a great campaign for the Swedish goaltender. She came into the tournament when starter Julia Aberg had to pull out of the tournament with an injury following the team’s first game. It fell to Murase, who collected her second shutout of the tournament, and backup Maria Olmberg to steady the Swedish defence through the rest of the tournament.
“I remember looking at my phone when I got the call to join the team and was like ‘Oh my god’,” said Murase, whose father is Japanese and mother is Swedish.
“It was incredible, she was everywhere today and played really really good,” said Lowenhielm.
The Czech Republic came into the match hoping to reverse a 1W-2L record in the women’s U18 bronze medal game, and capture its first bronze since the inaugural championship was held in 2008. However the team had no answer for the Swedish offence early on, and found itself in a 3-0 hole midway through the first period.
“We played solid defence the whole tournament, and that was the key for us again today,” said Team Sweden head coach “Before the game I told the team to work hard, put pucks in deep and get on the rebounds, and we were able to do all three things today.”
Linnea Hedin struck first for her team on the power play with what appeared to be a harmless shot from the top of the right circle near the boards. But goaltender Barbora Dvorakova was screened in front by a pair of Swedes and failed to get across the crease in time to stop the puck going in for the 1-0 score.
Less than two minutes later a rush to the net by Swedish captain Michelle Lowenhielm was stopped by Dvorakova, but the Czech goaltender was forced out of position and gave up a rebound and an open net to Isabell Palm. The two quick goals prompted a change in net for the Czechs, with semi-final starter Klara Peslarova replacing Dvorakova.
Despite the change in net Sweden came at the Czechs again and added a third goal just over the ten minute mark. Another breakdown by the Czech defence allowed Sweden’s Ida Karlsson to get the puck to the net nearly untouched. Her shot was saved but Malin Hoglund was right behind her to clean up and increase Sweden’s lead to 3-0.
The second period saw more of the same, as the Czechs were unable to create any consistent offensive pressure on Murase. While the team was able to limit Sweden’s forwards for most of the period, at 3:18 Lowenhielm split the Czech defence and coasted to the net untouched, beating Peslarova to go up 4-0 and seal the bronze for her country.
The bronze medal is Sweden’s fourth in the six-year history of the tournament.
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