ICE HOCKEY Preview: U.S. women going for fifth straight U-18 World title

While the IIHF men’s Junior (U-20) Championships is being completed this weekend in Vancouver (CAN), the women’s World Junior (U-18) Championships is set to get started on Sunday (6th) in Obihiro, Japan.

This is the 12th edition of this event, which has been dominated by the United States and Canada. The American squad has won four straight and seven overall, plus four silvers in the 11 prior editions.

Canada, of course, owns the other four wins and the two countries have played in every final.

U.S. head coach Maura Crowell appreciates the legacy. “To have four in a row for the United States is pretty remarkable. I think the consistency within the program at this age group has been a big part of that. The young players keep coming up and I think they’re all better, so that speaks to what USA Hockey is doing to prepare our young females for these big events.”

The eight teams will compete in pool play through 9 January. The IIHF places the four strongest teams in one group and the remaining four in the second group:

  • Group A: United States, Canada, Sweden, Russia
  • Group B: Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Japan

The top two teams from Group B will advance to the playoffs and will meet the third-placed and fourth-placed teams from Group A. The top two teams in Group A will advance to the semifinals. The semis will be on 12 January and the finals on 13 January.

“I think we have a nice blend of returning players, and a lot of fresh faces,” Crowell said. “Having a blend is important because you have the experience from people who have done it, and you also have the excitement and energy from new people seeking their first. The chemistry factor and creating a family environment in a short stint is a key piece to winning a gold medal.

Abbey Murphy, Makenna Webster and Casey O’Brien formed one of the most dynamic lines in the World Championship last year. And they’re all back, which is exciting.” Webster ledthe U.S. in scoring at the 2018 Worlds with nine points and five goals.

Look for match results here.