It has been a wild few days in Lausanne, Switzerland, as the Men’s and Women’s Youth Olympics 3-on-3 cross-ice tournaments have entertained spectators at Vaudoise Arena and brought a new and exciting ice hockey format to the Olympic stage.
The inaugural 3-on-3 tournaments have seen players come out of nowhere to help their teams on the way to capturing what would be some truly unique and historic Olympic medals. The mixed-country composition of the eight teams means that a total of 36 of the IIHF’s member nations will be represented in the Gold and Bronze medal games tomorrow.
Men’s 3-on-3 Finals
Gold Medal Game: Team Green Leafs vs Team Red Rebels
Bronze Medal Game: Team Brown Badgers vs Team Black Penguins
The men’s 3-on-3 gold medal game will be contested by Team Green (named by their players as the Green Leafs) and Team Red (aka the Red Rebels). The Leafs came into the playoffs as the top-seeded team and came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Team Black 7-3 in the semi-final game. Team defence and goaltending has been stellar, with the Leafs allowing 46 goals in eight games, 19 less than their finals opponent the Rebels.
“Before the Olympics you didn’t know your teammates and how was the level of other players,” said Green Leaves forward Allessandro Segafredo of Italy. “And now we’re in the finals, it’s an amazing feeling and we did it by playing our best game against Black.”
The Red Rebels, meanwhile, upset the second-seeded Brown Badgers 9-7 to advance to the final. The goaltending duo of France’s Mael Haladj and Germany’s Mathias Bittner (each goalie plays half of the period in 3-on-3) turned aside 39 of 48 shots on net to continue their strong tournament. The top line of Peter Repcik (Slovakia), Tjas Lsnicar (Slovenia), and Sander Selvaer (Norway) got the Rebels up early and have been a strong trio offensively.
“We play as a team right now,” said Selvaer. “I think we are gonna win tomorrow if we play like this, we just have to not take a lot of penalties and score on the chances.”
Women’s 3-on-3 Finals
Gold Medal Game: Team Black Magic vs Team Yellow Stars
Bronze Medal Game: Team Blue Crystals vs Team Brown Bears
The finale of the women’s 3-on-3 cross-ice tournament will feature top-seeded Team Black (or as the girls named themselves the “Black Magic”) up against the Yellow Stars.
The Black Magic have been on a roll in this tournament, losing just once in eight games at the tournament. Things looked grim early in the semis when the Brown Bears went up 5-2 against the Magic, but they tied things up in the second period before scoring five unanswered goals to win 11-7.
“Here we are, going into the final tomorrow and I just can’t wait,” said the Black Magic’s Amy Robery of Great Britain. “We had some close games at the beginning and grew more solid and we then kept the lines the same. We got to know how each other plays and now we’re working as a unit.”
Emilia Kyrkko of Finland and Carlotta Regine of Italy have combined to allow just 37 goals, tops in either the men’s and women’s tournaments.
If anyone can get past the Black Magic it might be the Yellow Stars, who have scored a tournament-bet 59 goals in eight games. Leading the way have been players like Zuzana Trnkova of the Czech Republic, who has been on the top line along with Leonie Bottcher of Germany and Nora Pollestad of Norway. Belgium’s Anke Steeno and New Zealand’s Katya Blong have also chipped in on the other lines.
“Focus, determination, and support,” said Steeno when asked what her team needs to bring to tomorrow’s finale.
Regardless of who wins, there will be many nations across the world celebrating an Olympic medal, thanks to what has turned out to be an extremely dynamic and inclusive tournament that has brought together ice hockey players from so many different countries, creating some bonds that will last forever.
“It was amazing, the atmosphere and everything was perfect,” said Netherland’s Kimberley Collard. “When we got on the ice we came together and fought as a team and we are now pretty close.”