U.S. too strong for Sweden
by Lucas Aykroyd|07 JUN 2022
The U.S.'s Laila Edwards (centre, #10) celebrates after scoring a first-period goal against Sweden at the 2022 U18 Women's Worlds in Madison, Wisconsin.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
Talk about living the American dream. The host U.S. scored four first-period goals and cruised to a 6-1 victory over Sweden to kick off their long-anticipated 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship journey on Monday night.

"We came out pretty hard just from the start of the game," said U.S. head coach Katie Lachapelle. "Our focus is focusing on ourselves and making sure that we could get our feet moving and play together as a team. So I thought we did a good job with that."

Cassandra Hall, sporting Hilary Knight's #21, stepped up with a pair of goals and an assist, while Laila Edwards added a goal and two assists. Josie St. Martin, Elyssa Biederman, and Tessa Janecke also scored for the Americans. Sydney Morrow racked up three assists.

"We had a lot of confidence and excitement going into the game," said St. Martin. "I think we had nerves there. But I also think we were way more excited than nervous, and we were ready to get on the ice and win the game."

The defending champions were keen to make a statement in their first Group A game at LaBahn Arena, and they largely succeeded. They looked quick, confident and clever in getting pucks to the net. They capitalized twice on the power play. Shots on goal favoured the U.S. 47-21.

Ebba Hedqvist had the lone goal for Sweden.

"It was a tough first game for us," said Swedish coach Madeleine Ostling. "We knew that the USA would be good, but they played high-level hockey. They play with high speed. We weren't ready in the first period at all, so I think it was a process for us also during the game. It started very badly and was better in the second. We actually competed well in the third."

LaBahn Arena is rich in women’s hockey history. The banners hanging from the rafters speak to a tradition of excellence, commemorating UW’s national championships from 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2019, and 2021. Bold white letters on a red background overheard proclaim: “Home of the Wisconsin Badgers.” So there’s a lot of pride here.

The Americans – the defending champions from 2020 and winners of an all-time best eight gold medals – are eager to continue that victorious vibe.

On Tuesday, the U.S. will go for its second win against Finland, which is coming off a huge 2-0 upset over 2002 silver medalists Canada. Ostling's Swedish side will be in tough against a Canadian team hungry for redemption.

"We expect a very hard battle, but I'm very confident our team will come out on top if we play how we know how to play," said Edwards of facing Finland.
Versus the U.S., the Swedes generated some first-period chances, from wraparound attempts to long drives through traffic, but just couldn’t solve U.S. netminder Annelies Bergmann – even after getting an extended 5-on-3 at the end of the period.

Meanwhile, Lachapelle’s offence was on fire.

At 3:09, the Americans drew first blood. With Swedish captain Nicole Hall in the penalty box for tripping, the U.S. moved the puck around quickly, and Edwards powered to the net from the goal line to Swedish netminder Ebba Svensson Traff's right, banging in her own rebound.

The U.S. roster includes two returnees from 2020, captain Danielle Burgen and assistant captain Kirsten Simms. Edwards is the other assistant captain, and the 2022-23 Wisconsin commit led with her playmaking skills on the 2-0 goal at 8:30. Controlling the puck above the left faceoff circle, she found an onrushing Cassandra Hall on the right side, and the Little Caesars forward sniped one high to the stick side.

Just 47 seconds later, Cassandra Hall got her second goal of the night, hustling to the net to backhand in the rebound from Morrow's shot.

Lachappelle praised Hall: "She's a pretty dynamic player. She gets herself going and she's quick, she can shoot. You don't think she's gonna pull out a move, and next thing you know, she's by three people or getting a good shot off. So she's pretty dynamic that way."

At 17:18, St. Martin stretched the U.S. lead to 4-0, cutting to the net and squeezing a backhander through Svensson Traff, whose teammates circled back afterwards to offer encouragement.

St. Martin described the pass that led to her goal: "It was a really nice sauce over by Maggie Scannell, the other '06 on the team. I couldn't have done it without that. It was just amazing. "

With the aforementioned Swedish 5-on-3 carrying over to the second period, blueliner Jenna Raunio – one of three 2006-born players – tried to spark her team early on by powering to the net off right wing, but Bergmann was equal to the challenge in the U.S. net.

With about seven minutes left in the second period, Madison Kaiser nearly gave the U.S. its fifth goal in the city that bears her name, but the puck clanged off the iron.

The teams traded ineffective power plays. Playing shorthanded, Biederman – the smallest U.S. player at 152 cm and 52 kg (5-1 and 115 pounds) – came up big on a breakaway at 17:55, bowling over Svensson Traff as the puck went in. She celebrated exuberantly with her teammates.

Sweden opened the third period with another extended 5-on-3 and scored on the 5-on-4 portion. Hedqvist – another 2006-born player – spoiled Bergmann's shutout bid at 1:23. On the rush, she took a drop pass from Linnea Albertsson and used U.S. blueliner Laney Potter as a decoy to zap the puck over the goalie's glove.

"It was a good drop pass from Linnea and their D actually screened when I took the shot," said Hedqvist.

With 4:48 left, Janecke put the U.S. up 6-1 on the power play, finishing off a nice back door play on a pass from Morrow. 

The U.S. now boasts a perfect 13-0 record and 79-9 goal difference versus Sweden dating back to the inaugural 2008 U18 Women's Worlds in Calgary.

Due to tournament cancellations and postponements related to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was the first official U18 women's action for the U.S. since Kiara Zanon’s 2-1 sudden-death gold-medal winner versus Canada on 2 January 2020 in Bratislava.

The game was prefaced by a tournament-opening ceremony with USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher, Wisconsin Badgers and 2010 U.S. Olympic women’s hockey  coach Mark Johnson, and IIHF Council Member and tournament chair Marta Zawadzka.

Kelleher described this tournament – rescheduled from January in Sweden to June in the U.S. with USA Hockey’s strong support – as “significant for the future of women’s hockey all across the world.” That's bang-on, and the next generation has already put on quite a show in Wisconsin so far.
Sweden vs United States - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship