As a result, Spain will be promoted to Division I Group B in 2023 in Katowice, Poland.
“We really value this gold medal because we’ve been waiting a long time for it,” said Spanish captain Bridget O’Hare. “We won in Mexico (two years ago) and we were unlucky not to be able to play last year, where I think we also would have won. It’s unfortunate for our 04s that they won’t be able to play in Division I, but we’re glad to get the team to that level.”
Spain got all of its offence early with three goals in the first 11:01 of the game. Claudia Castellanos scored the first two goals – a rebound on an early power play and then a rocket to the top corner at 4:29. Castellanos, just 15 years old, finished the tournament with nine goals and 11 points – second in both categories.
When Gabriela Barange made it 3-0, it looked like Spain was going to run away with the game.
Great Britain got a couple of 5-on-3 chances but failed to generate much on them. Team GB finally got on the board at 33:25 when captain Chamonix Jackson went bar down. It was just the second goal scored on Spain all tournament, and it was the last.
There wasn’t a ton of offence either way the rest of the game, despite seven power plays aside. Spain outshot GB 33-18, with Emma Nichols making 30 saves for GB and Maria Sierra stopping 17 for Spain.
Sierra, who stopped 59 of 61 shots throughout the tournament, for a 96.72 save percentage and 0.45 goals-against average, was named Top Goaltender by the Tournament Directorate. O’Hare, who was third in tournament scoring with 10 points and led all players with seven assists, was Top Defender. The Top Forward was Linda Rulle of Latvia, who finished with 10 goals and 13 points.
“The key to winning these games has been supporting each other on and off the ice, as well as working harder than any other team,” said O’Hare. “It really came down to how badly we wanted to win and how much work we truly put in.”
By finishing third in Group D, the Netherlands advanced to the bronze-medal game against Australia, the winner of Group E, which also included Latvia and the host Turkish team.
The bronze-medal game was tied 1-1 from midway through the first period until midway through the third, when Ebony Brunt scored the winning goal with 11:44 to play. Dutch captain Fleur Kivits had a one-time chance from the slot with just under three minutes to play but goalie Olivia Last made a point-blank save.
“It was a thrilling game and the girls worked so hard,” said Australian head coach Tamra Jones. “They’re really young and most of them met each other for the first time at the airport when we arrived here because we haven’t played for two years. They’re a special team. I’m very proud of them and very fortunate to have them.”
The Australians only lost one game in the tournament – in the first round to eventual-champion Spain. They got their chance at a medal thanks to another 2-1 game against Latvia that was also won in the late going by Natasha Dube.
“The Aussie spirit’s always there,” said Jones. “We always go down kicking and play right till the end. We’ve got really strong leadership. We’ve got 15 rookies but the five seniors, including our goaltender (Last) and our captain (Brunt), have been in the program for a few years and are great leaders.”
In the game to determine fifth and sixth places, Latvia defeated Turkey 5-1, led by three points from Rulle. It was a successful tournament for the Latvians, who were competing in the U18 Women’s Worlds for the first time.
The host Turks won one game but it was a thriller, 2-1 in a shootout over Mexico in their first game, which is what got them into the group of second-place teams in the second round.
In the game to determine seventh and eight places, Mexico defeated Kazakhstan 2-0. The game was scoreless after two periods but Luisa Wilson scored two power-play goals less than three minutes apart early in the third period. Miranda de Antunano stopped all 27 shots she faced for the shutout.
In ninth place was Iceland, which was competing in this tournament for the first time. Despite not winning a game, the Icelanders competed well. Outside of an 11-0 first-round loss to Spain, they were within four goals in all of their games.
“Of course we’re disappointed not winning a game, but we did what we set up for,” said Icelandic coach Jonina Gudbjartsdottir. “We wanted them to grow as individual players but also as a team and they did that. They showed us that they’re ready for the next World Championship, where we’re going to keep on building on what we have now.”
Next year, most of the U18 Women’s World Championship tournaments will return to their usual January dates and, with more teams expected to compete, Division II will likely be split into two tiered groups again. Istanbul is again in the running to host one of the groups