Canada wins women’s U18 tournament that gets record attendance

Canada wins women’s U18 tournament that gets record attendance

11 Jan 2012 | Derek O’Brien

This past weekend, the 2012 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship finished in Zlin and Prerov, Czech Republic. The tournament finalists, Canada and the USA, were expected beforehand. The local interest was not. 17 480 fans watched the 22 tournament games, which almost doubled the previous record.

On the first day of the tournament, 1400 fans in Prerov came out to watch Canada defeat Switzerland 13-1. At the same time, so many fans crammed the arena in Zlin for the for the first game of the host team, the Czech Republic, that rink staff had to scramble to find places for them all to watch the game.

"The public interest has surprised us in a very pleasant way," said tournament executive directer Ondrej Sebek on the official website."We all think it is a great advertisement for Czech women´s hockey. The first game in Zlin surprised us a bit; we did not expect so much interest. However, we made some adjustments for the second game so that all spectators could choose a place from where to see the game."

If fan interest was a surprise, the results on the ice were not. As anticipated, the two traditional powerhouses of women's hockey, Canada and the USA, won their groups easily. Canada outscored Switzerland, Finland and Germany 26-1, while the US beat up on Russia, Sweden and the Czechs 28-1. Leading the way offensively for the Americans was Haley Skarupa, who recorded hattricks in all three group games and netted 11 goals in the tournament. In the semifinals, Canada took care of Sweden 7-0, while the Americans handled Germany 7-1, setting up the much-expected final.

In the championship game, the US outshot Canada 28-16, but strong defensive play and outstanding goaltending from Emerance Maschmeyer kept the Americans from scoring, while Canada got two power-play goals and won the gold medal game, 3-0.

"We have practiced the penalty killing for a long time," said Canadian head coach Pierre Alain after the game. "Since August, when we held a camp focused on this. You have to work on your specialty teams for such short-duration events like this one. We worked a lot on this."

Earlier in the day, Sweden won the bronze medal with a 4-1 victory over Germany. The Germans led 1-0 after one period, but held the lead thanks to great goaltending from Franziska Albl. Albl had stopped 74 of 80 shots in a group-stage game against Canada and was also very good in her team's quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic. She was named the tournament's best goaltender.

Finland took fifth place with a 5-3 victory over the Czechs in Prerov, a game that attracted more than 3000 fans. "The atmosphere was indescribable," said Czech coach Tomas Vytisk. "I have never seen that in my life and maybe I never will again, just as the players."

One of the most dramatic finishes was in the game which determined who would stay in the top group and who would be relegated; Russia beat Switzerland 3-2 in a shootout and they will return to the 2013 tournament, while Switzerland will be replaced by Hungary.

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