Best of the U18 Women's Worlds
by Lucas Aykroyd|28 JUN 2022
Finland's Emilia Kyrkko, named Best Goalie, had the best statement shutout at the 2022 U18 Women's Worlds in an historic 2-0 win over Canada.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
Sometimes at IIHF tournaments, the directorate awards and tournament all-star team only partially capture the great performances we’ve witnessed. That was certainly the case at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship.

Not only did the U.S. cities of Madison and Middleton step up on short notice to host this rescheduled tournament in world-class style (6 to 13 June), but many of the young women who donned the jerseys of the eight participating national teams also made special contributions with their skill and resilience.

So let’s dive into’s picks for the best of the U18 Women’s Worlds – in some fun and distinctive categories.

Best Statement Shutout

Finland has showed it’s capable of beating Canada at many levels of IIHF competition. Yet the nation whose men are reigning Olympic and world champions also achieved a new U18 Women’s Worlds milestone in 2022 – thanks largely to goalie Emilia Kyrkko.
With tremendous focus, positioning, and reflexes, the 18-year-old from Team Kuortane made 40 saves to lead Finland to a 2-0 upset over Canada on Day One. It was the first time in 10 tries that the Finns had ever defeated Canada at this tournament.

With so much competition between the pipes, it’s hard to say when we’ll see Kyrkko – named Best Goalie and an all-star – make an impact with the senior Finnish team. To illustrate, Anni Keisala played her first U18 Women’s Worlds in 2014 and didn’t become the Naisleijonat’s starter until her 2021 Best Goalie run in Calgary.

But Kyrkko has made a good start, carving out her own slice of history.

Best Solo Scoring Effort

Objectively speaking, U.S. centre Tessa Janecke’s most remarkable statistic was her faceoff percentage. Janecke, 18, went 54-for-75 at the dot for a tournament-leading 72.0 percent success rate. However, the native of Orangeville, Illinois also showed off her puck skills with a jaw-dropping goal to make it 2-0 versus Finland.
Shrugging off defender Sinna Varjonen’s check on the left side, Janecke cut to the net just above the blue line and surprised kneeling Finnish goalie Hannele Tarkiainen by roofing a backhander on the short side. The Americans never looked back in a 5-0 romp.

Best Player Comeback

The Hockey Canada press release on 6 June had a disappointing air of finality: “Forward Jade Iginla (Lake Country, B.C./RHA Kelowna, CSSHL) will miss the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship with an upper-body injury.” Fortunately for Canadian hockey fans, the gritty daughter of Hockey Hall of Famer had other ideas.

Canada struggled to find its game in the group stage, all of which Iginla missed. But she proved to be a difference-maker when she came back for the 7-0 quarter-final win over Slovakia, registering an assist and showing great hustle.
Iginla’s first-period goal opened the scoring when Canada nipped Finland 2-1 in the semi-final, and her aggressive forechecking generated Ava Murphy’s 2-0 marker in the 3-2 gold-medal victory over the Americans. Without Iginla’s return, we might be talking about a sixth U.S. gold medal in seven tournaments.

Best Team Performance-Preliminary Round

Slovakia wasn’t even supposed to be in the top division of this year’s U18 Women’s Worlds until the recent exclusion of Russia. Regardless, the Slovaks took a shoot-first mentality into their last round-robin game with Germany, and it paid dividends with a miraculous 6-2 upset. They needed that four-goal margin of victory to make the quarter-finals for the first time in history.

Captain Hana Fancicova stepped up with a pair of goals and an assist.
“If you are on a good wave, you've got to keep on,” Slovak coach Gabriela Sabolova explained afterwards. “We're not so good on defence, so we have to be active in the opponent's zone. It's better for us than to stay in our zone than be scared about what will happen next shift.”

Best Breakthrough Performance

Sanni Vanhanen was like a dam waiting to burst. At age 16, the talented forward already owned bronze medals from the 2021 Women’s Worlds in Calgary and the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

However, despite totalling three assists, Vanhanen didn’t have a single goal heading into the bronze medal game against Sweden in Madison. The Nokia native’s frustration was visible, and U18 coach Mira Kuisma acknowledged the “mental pain” she was going through.
Fortunately, Vanhanen stepped up versus the Swedes with three highlight-reel goals in a 3-0 victory, beating goalie Lisa Jonsson high once on the power play and twice at even strength. Finnish netminder Emilia Kyrkko’s 35-save shutout sealed the victory.

“I like to win," said a happy Vanhanen afterwards.  “But I would like to have silver or gold next time.”

Best Young Duo

Heading into this tournament, only once had two players from the same non-medal-winning team finished 1-2 in the scoring race. Switzerland’s Lisa Ruedi (11 points) and Rahel Enzler (9 points) led the way in 2018. However, in Wisconsin, Czechia’s Tereza Plosova (10 points) and Adela Sapovalivova (9 points) pulled off this feat despite being just 15 and 16 years old respectively.
Sapovalivova, named to the All-Star team, was a revelation with her offensive instincts, adding a crafty presence on the half-wall on the Czech power play. Plosova showed a gritty willingness to go to the net. Expect both to become impact forwards with the senior national team in the not-too-distant future.

Best Hilary Knight Impression

Ian Kennedy of The Hockey News had high praise for tournament MVP Laila Edwards: “It is her ability to slow the play down, find passing lanes, and unleash the strength behind her shot that has Edwards destined to make noise with the USA’s senior national team in the future.”

For anyone who saw the 188-cm, 84-kg Edwards dominating the competition with both size and skill, that assessment hit the mark. She led the Americans in scoring (4+4=8), and when she got a head of steam toward the net – like Hilary Knight – she was virtually impossible to stop. 

With Edwards, fans of both the University of Wisconsin and the Stars and Stripes are in for a treat over the next few years.

Best Late Rally

When the St. Louis Blues led the NHL in January with 14 comeback wins, veteran forward Brayden Schenn explained their approach:

“You play to the final whistle, you don’t give up, you’re never out of a game. I think that’s the mentality we have in our locker room.”

Those words could just as well have come out of the mouths of Swedish coach Madeleine Ostling and her U18 players in Madison. Trailing Finland 3-2 in the third period of their round-robin finale, Ostling pulled her goalie for the extra attacker with four minutes left. It paid off dramatically. Emma Pfeffer potted the equalizer at 17:50, and then Jenna Raunio put Sweden ahead with just eight seconds remaining.

"I guess we decided that we were not going to lose," said Sweden’s Ida Karlsson. "And then it was a good feeling when we turned the game [in our favour]."

Best Sensational Stickhandler

The U.S.’s Kirsten Simms uncharacteristically went goalless at these U18 Worlds, although she did pick up five assists in the silver-medal run. The Little Caesars product made an indelible impression on anyone who watched her dancing with the puck, often while looping around the opposition’s zone in search of the perfect set-up. Simms had magical chemistry with linemates Tessa Janecke and Laila Edwards.
If Simms comes anywhere close to the impact of her American puckhandling role models, Brianna Decker and Patrick Kane, USA Hockey will be thrilled.

Best Show of Sportswomanship

Let’s be real: we’ve all seen hockey games where a blowout score results in angry words and cheap shots at the final buzzer.

And then, you’ve got Slovakia and Czechia in Middleton.
Even though the Czechs won the fifth-place game 7-2, the players from the two Central European countries – none of whom were alive when Czechoslovakia was dissolved in 1993 – celebrated their friendships and their opportunity to have competed at the U18 Women’s Worlds.