After a rough week for USA Hockey against Canadian teams, the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team was able to knock off defending Women’s World Under-18 Champion Canada for its third gold medal at the event.
In just the fourth installment of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Under-18 Championship, Team USA has three golds, one silver. Um… dominating?
Yesterday, in Stockholm, Sweden, the U.S. women took it to their Canadian opponents, earning a 5-2 win. Vandnais Heights, Minn., native Hannah Brandt notched four points in the win.
The scoring leader for Team USA throughout the tournament was Alex Carpenter with 10 points (6-4). You might remember her father: U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer, Bobby Carpenter. He of the 1,178-game NHL career, spanning 18 seasons with the Capitals, Rangers, Kings, Bruins, and Devils. The apple apparently doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Young Alex was named the tournament’s best forward and one of Team USA’s three best players. After completing her schooling at Governor’s Academy, Alex won’t be going very far, as she’s verbally committed to Boston College.
Team USA also had the directorate award-winning defenseman of the tournament in Milicia McMillan of St. Paul, Minn. The Breck School product notched six points (4-2) and finished the tournament a staggering plus-12 in just five games. I’m sure the University of Minnesota can’t wait to have her on campus.
Brandt’s four-point game against Canada gave her 10 for the tournament (5g-5a). The Hill-Murray senior is also committed to the Golden Gophers.
The future for the U.S. Women’s National Team Program is very bright. To keep track of its progress, the USWNT has it’s own blog. Check it out.
While I’m happy to shed light on this tournament and this U.S. National Team, it also gives us a chance to examine the importance of this event for Women’s Hockey at the Olympics.
Remember all that chatter about needing to make women’s hockey more competitive after the U.S. and Canada cruised through the 2010 Olympics en route to the gold-medal game? Well, the creation of this tournament was one of the measures taken by the IIHF to try to nudge non-North American hockey countries to develop young women into Olympic-caliber hockey players.
It wasn’t going to produce results overnight, and it hasn’t. The Canadians outscored their opponents by a margin of 21 goals, while Team USA was plus-27 in goal differential. However, if women’s hockey is going to survive, tournaments like these need to continue to put pressure on other countries to get more girls interested in girls’ hockey and then get them involved in the national program at a younger age.
This year, teams from eight countries including the U.S., Canada, Finland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Japan all competed in this event. Finland won bronze, and the Czech women’s program took a big step by finishing fourth.
This tournament is also important for the U.S. and Canada. By pitting these young girls against each other from a young age, it’s only going to force them to get better and better as well. The international experience and high level of competition will only enhance the product. Which might be bad news for the rest of the world. It just means other countries have to work that much harder to catch up.
Whether or not this is something on your radar, the next four years are incredibly important for women’s hockey internationally. The U.S. and Canada will always produce elite players and prepare young women for college hockey and the growing Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Still, the hope is for long-term stability within the Olympics. To see that goal for some of these young ladies go away would be a crushing blow for women’s hockey everywhere.
In my eyes, less hockey is never a good thing. So hopefully this tournament continues to grow more competitive and we see some European or Asian country come in and upset the apple cart a little bit in the not so distant future. It might hurt national pride, but it’d be a great day for women’s hockey throughout the world.
Still, USA Hockey can celebrate its success at the Under-18 level. Both the women’s and men’s teams look to be the class of the age group year in and year out. It’s a testament to the grass-roots programs that developed these players and helped get them to a high level at a young age.
Congratulations to the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team, its coaches, its players and all the people that helped get them there.