The conclusion of the women’s U-18 World Championship featured two of the best rivalries in hockey: Canada vs. USA for gold, and Sweden versus Finland for bronze.
Both games offered dramatics and star power with Finland winning bronze, and Canada taking the gold medal, snapping the USA’s streak of dominance in the tournament.
Here is a run down of the medal games and three stars from the final day of competition:
Gold Medal Game - Canada - 3 vs. USA - 2
After trouncing Canada 7-0 in the preliminary round, the USA entered this game as the favorite. The USA had won five of the last six gold medals. Canada, however, was out for revenge. In the first period with the player advantage, Canada scored their first powerplay goal of the tournament after going scoreless on 14 attempts. Alexia Aubin tipped an Ava Murphy shot home. Canada added another, this time off Murphy’s slapper and made it 3-0 on a rebound goal by Jocelyn Amos.
The USA wouldn't go down quietly. Finley McCarthy scored a powerplay goal late in the second period, and only seven seconds later, Claire Enright scored to make it 3-2, which is how the teams would enter the third period.
In the third, the teams traded chances, but Canada’s Mari Pieterson shut the door for Canada. The USA pushed, but in the end, Canada held on for gold.
Bronze Medal Game - Finland - 3 vs. Sweden - 0
For much of this game, it looked as though a single goal might decide things. Sanni Vanhanen broke the deadlock in the dying minutes of the second period. Vanhanen, who is also a member of Finland’s senior national team, scored two more in the third period to record a hat trick, and lift Finland to a bronze medal.
Late in the third with Sweden’s netminder pulled, the Swedes looked to gain momentum and finally beat Emilie Kyrkko as Nicole Hall crashed the net jamming the puck under Kyrkko. The officials, however, would call the goal back, keeping Finland up by three, and preserving the shutout. Kyrkko made 35 saves in the game to record her second shutout of the tournament.
1. Sanni Vanhanen (FIN) - Had three assists coming into the bronze medal game. Having represented Finland at the World Championships and Olympics, the 16-year-old was expected to lead Finland in all regards. She had great puck control and her speed and smarts were always on dispaly for the Finns, but she had yet to break out. She changed all of that in the bronze medal game scoring a hat trick for Finland to lead her team to a medal.
2. Ava Murphy (CAN)- Originally credited with the opening goal of the game, which later turned into an assist, Murphy pounded home a goal of her own, coming on a slapshot to make the game 2-0 for Canada. In her own zone, the scoring success translated to confidence with the puck and physically for Murphy who played a tight gap and made good first passes all game. Murphy was quietly consistent the entire tournament, but she made noise in the final.
3. Mari Pietersen (CAN) - Pietersen started the tournament as Canada’s number two, but took the reigns midway through Canada’s preliminary loss to the United States and never looked back. In the final, she competed, found pucks through traffic, and directed rebounds to the corners. When Canada needed a save, Pietersen delivered making 29 stops in the game for gold