In a testament to the rapid growth of women’s hockey, there were plenty of classic plays, individual achievements, and medal victories in the 2010s. And it’s time to put the spotlight on them.
Here are our top-10 U18 Women’s Worlds moments of the decade. Let the countdown commence!
The 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship continues on 1st January with the quarter-finals. All games can be watched live and for free on IIHF.com in the game centre.
10) Russia Makes History by Beating Canada (2018)Russia has twice won bronze medals at the U18 Women’s Worlds (2015, 2017), but it really moved the needle with a 3-2 upset over Canada on home ice in 2018. It was the first and only time a European team has beaten one of the North American superpowers.
Dmitrov is a women’s hockey hotbed in Russia, and it attracted the second-highest total attendance in tournament history (22,663). However, few of the 2,281 fans on hand in the small but packed rink for this round-robin opener realistically expected coach Yevgeni Bobariko’s squad to come away with three points. However, Maria Alexandrovna scored on a first-period breakaway and Daria Beloglazova added a second-period power play goal to put Russia up 2-0.
In the third period, Sarah Fillier and Oxana Bratisheva traded power-play goals, making it 3-1 Russia with under 10 minutes to play. Margaret McEachern brought Canada within one on a shot from the blue line with 7:36 remaining. But that was the end of the rally. Goalie Diana Farkhutdinova, who finished with 34 saves, was impregnable the rest of the way, and the Russians rejoiced.
“We’d never beaten Canada before and we wanted to put that right in front of this crowd," said Beloglazova. “They really pushed us forward, helped us to play faster.”
A 4-3 semi-final shootout loss to the U.S. gave Canada a rematch with Russia in the bronze medal game. The Canadians won handily, 5-1. Nonetheless, 2018 brought us a little closer to parity in women’s hockey.
9) Sweden Achieves Historic Silver (2018)No non-North American country has ever won gold at the U18 Women’s Worlds. Yet when the Swedes surprisingly made it to the final in Dmitrov, Russia, it was another historic step for the game.
Coach Ylva Martinsen’s girls got a semi-final bye by completing group play with a 2-0 win over Russia on Anna Amholt’s 26-save shutout. The host nation had opened the door for this rare opportunity with a 3-2 upset over Canada on Day One.
The Swedes and Russians met again in the semi-finals, and this time Lina Ljungblom emerged as the heroine with the 2-1 winner with under 10 minutes left. Sweden’s Cinderella run ended unceremoniously against the Americans, who scored six times in six minutes en route to a 9-3 goal medal romp.
At the 2019 Women’s Worlds in Espoo, it was disheartening for the Damkronorna to get relegated, and the team initiated an important discussion with the Swedish federation about securing better working conditions and funding. Still, the 2018 U18 silver offers a glimmer of long-term hope for the country that boasts one of Europe’s most popular women’s leagues in the SDHL.
8) Future Is Now for Finland (2019)For years, only two players had won medals at both the U18 Women’s Worlds and the Women’s Worlds in the same year: Marie-Philip Poulin (two silvers in 2009) and Susanna Tapani (two bronzes in 2011).
That total more than doubled in 2019, thanks to the foresight of Finnish senior national women’s team coach Pasi Mustonen. He’d carefully monitored the progress of defender Nelli Laitinen, the U18 captain, and forwards Elisa Holopainen and Viivi Vainikka.
That trio won bronze at the U18 Worlds in Obihiro, Japan. Laitinen and Holopainen (with a tournament-high 8 points) were both named to the tournament all-star team. Then the players suited up for the historic silver-medal squad in Espoo that heartbreakingly lost the final to the U.S., 2-1 in a shootout.
“They are highly skilled,” Mustonen said. “They’re top players in the U18. They wouldn’t stand a chance to play if they were North Americans. They wouldn’t play for three or four more years in this tournament. But luckily, they are Finns. So I can hardly wait till the next Olympics.”
Laitinen returned to captain Finland again at the 2020 U18 Women’s Worlds in Bratislava. The 17-year-old has high hopes for more medals, as she also looks toward the Women’s Worlds in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia this spring.
7) Maddi’s Magic Moment Makes Canada Proud (2019)If you’re going to score just one goal in a tournament, you might as well make it a big one. Maddi Wheeler scored at 1:34 of overtime to give Canada a 3-2 gold medal victory over the U.S. Her goal ended a streak of four straight U18 Women’s Worlds titles for the Americans.
When U.S. star Abbey Murphy was sent off for holding, Wheeler took advantage of the open ice with a great solo rush from her own zone. The Nepean Wildcats forward cut to the net from the right side and shoveled her own rebound past goalie Skylar Vetter, sparking an ecstatic celebration.
It was a tremendous climax to the first U18 Women’s Worlds ever staged in Asia.
6) Coyne Schofield Sets the All-Time Points Record (2010)Let’s be honest. There’s no way Kendall Coyne Schofield recalls her third and last U18 Women’s Worlds with the same fondness as her first two in 2008 and 2009, in which she scored the golden goal both times.
Yes, this one was held in her hometown of Chicago, and she led the tournament in goals for the second straight year. Her 10 goals stood as the record until future fellow 2018 Olympic gold medalist Haley Skarupa scored 11 in 2012. However, losing the final to Canada 5-4 in overtime reduced the luster.
Still, it would be impossible to leave Coyne Schofield out of this countdown. Her place atop the all-time U18 Women’s Worlds points list (22+11=33) remains unchallenged.
What the diminutive speedster did in Chicago in 2010 also paved the way for her becoming a household name in 2019. Coyne Schofield became the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star Skills fastest skater competition in San Jose. She also captained the U.S. to its fifth straight Women’s Worlds title in Finland.
5) Barnes: Born to Win (2017)In men’s hockey, a handful of players, like Canada’s Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, almost inevitably win gold when they represent their country at any level of IIHF competition. In women’s hockey, the U.S.’s Cayla Barnes is the pinnacle of perfection. She has five golds. That’s it!
Now 20, the tiny but dynamic Boston College blueliner won Olympic gold in her very first try in PyeongChang and followed that up with a Women’s World gold and all-star team berth in Espoo. And you could already tell Barnes was destined for great things when she set a record with three golds in a row at the U18 Women’s Worlds.
The 2017 tournament in the Czech Republic capped off her U18 career in style. She wore the “C” for the Americans, who bounced back after a 1-0 overtime loss to Canada in group play, and she led all blueliners with six points. Unsurprisingly, Barnes was also named Best Defender.
If her career continues on this trajectory, this California-raised talent will wind up in the conversation about the best women’s hockey defender in history with the likes of Geraldine Heaney, Angela Ruggiero, and Jenni Hiirikoski.
4) Newell + Dubois + Heffernan = Canadian Gold (2013)Vierumaki regularly hosts IIHF development and high-performance camps at the Sport Institute of Finland. During the 2013 U18 Women’s Worlds, it also witnessed a master class in how to come up big at the right time, courtesy of Canadian forward Karly Heffernan and goalie Kimberly Newell.
The Canadians went undefeated in the preliminary round and hammered Sweden 7-2 in the semi-finals. However, they were not necessarily favoured to win the tournament for the second year in a row. The powerful American team boasted a 35-0 goal difference heading into the final, including a 10-0 semi-final romp over the Czechs.
Even though Newell stood on her head with 39 saves in regulation, the U.S. led 1-0 with under a minute to play. But then it was time for some old-school Canadian magic in the clutch.
Forward Catherine Dubois banged in the equalizer in a goalmouth scramble with just 13 seconds left. And in overtime, Hanna Bunton set up Karly Heffernan to score on Canada’s very first shot on goal (25th overall). Appropriately, the IIHF.com headline read: “Cardiac kids.”
Newell and Bunton later took their skills overseas to play professionally in Shenzhen, China. Heffernan, who won another U18 gold in 2014, unfortunately had to retire from hockey in 2016 after a foot injury. However, with a 2019 B.A. in sociology, the 23-year-old Alberta native is successfully transitioning to her next stage in life, working in real estate in California.
3) Snodgrass’s Pair Spoils Canada’s Party (2016)2016 marked the first year that Canada ever hosted both the Women’s Worlds (Kamloops) and the U18 Women’s Worlds (St. Catharines). The latter set a new tournament attendance record of 34,520. However, Alex Carpenter scored the 1-0 overtime winner to lift the U.S. over Canada in the Kamloops final, and Natalie Snodgrass likewise inflicted some cross-border pain on the partisan St. Catharines crowd.
Then a student at Eastview High in her native Eagen, Minnesota, Snodgrass had gone scoreless in five games en route to gold at her first U18 Women’s Worlds in 2015. However, in 2016, the hard-working forward’s six goals were only exceeded by Switzerland’s future Olympic star Alina Muller. And Snodgrass saved her best for last.
Before the halfway mark of the gold medal game, Canada led 2-0 on goals by Jaime Bourbonnais and Daryl Watts. U.S. assistant captain Alex Woken cut the deficit to 2-1 with five minutes left in the second period.
Snodgrass got the tying goal with relentless determination at 8:03 of the third, converting a wraparound. And with pure opportunism, she added the sudden-death winner at 1:47. Cayla Barnes’ centre-point shot redirected to Snodgrass, who banged it into the open net.
2) Campbell Completes Canada’s Olympic-Year Hat Trick (2010)2010 will always be remembered as a dream year for Canadian hockey. Marie-Philip Poulin and Sidney Crosby, of course, led their nation to double gold at the Vancouver Olympics. Yet there was also a third historic IIHF triumph for Canada at the U18 Women’s Worlds, which kicked off on 27 March in Chicago.
It was utterly clear that the Canadians and Americans were on a collision course for gold in the tournament’s third year. Could Canadian coach Dan Church’s girls pull it off against the two-time defending champs?
The final was a full-fledged barnburner in front of a crowd of 1,127. The Americans, led by Kendall Coyne and goalie Alex Rigsby, held a 4-2 lead late in the second period, but Canada kept on fighting. Jenna McParland, a future 2018 CWHL champion with the Markham Thunder, notched the 4-4 equalizer with 7:31 remaining.
Was Canada bound for heartbreak for the third consecutive year? Not if Jessica Campbell had anything to say about it. At 3:10 of overtime, the Canadian captain tipped in Brigette Lacquette’s point shot for a 5-4 victory and her tournament-leading 15th point.
1) She Just Gets It Dunne (2015)We’ll never know if the Americans would have won the 2014 Olympic gold medal in Sochi if they had added defender Jincy Dunne to their roster. At age 16, the gifted St. Louis native was among the last cuts in 2013. Come 2015, she was gearing up for her last shot at U18 Women’s Worlds gold after twice settling for silver versus Canada.
Eminem famously said: “Do not miss your chance to blow because opportunity knocks once in a lifetime.” What Dunne did in the final against the Canadians epitomizes that philosophy.
In front of an excited crowd at Buffalo’s HarborCenter, she wore the “C.” She scored the 1-1 equalizer with 33 seconds left in the first period on a spectacular end-to-end rush with shades of Geraldine Heaney and Bobby Orr. And when she added the 3-2 overtime winner just 51 seconds in, it marked the first and only time a host nation has won this tournament.
That’s our top U18 Women’s Worlds moment of the decade.
Talk about going out on a high. Dunne was named Best Defender for the second straight year, and, as in 2013, she led all blueliners in scoring.
Even though Dunne, now 22 in her senior year with Ohio State, has never represented the U.S. again, her legacy with the U18 team is untouchable. Her progress was marred by a concussion that wiped out her 2015/16 season, but she was invited to Team USA’s Winter Training Camp in Hartford in December, and may still have more to give for the Stars and Stripes in the future.