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The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, Jan. 13, 2023

Happy Friday! U18 Women’s Worlds has been happening this week and there have been some incredible performances. I’ll give you some brief notes on that, hit a couple highlights from last weekend’s PHF slate and touch on some PWHPA updates as well.


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One of the biggest stories so far at U18 Worlds, to me, is how great Sweden has looked in flashes against some really tough competition. Granted, they’ve only beaten Finland and Slovakia, but they looked damn good for stretches against the US and Canada. For a program whose senior team has been through so much turmoil over the past few years, it’s incredible to see how bright the future of that program can truly be. Sweden will play the US a second time in the quarterfinals on January 14th. They lost the first matchup against the US 6-3, but it was closer than the score shows—after Team USA opened the scoring on the powerplay, Sweden equalized with a shorthanded goal. They went down once again on the powerplay, then scored on their own powerplay to tie the game at two. The game got away from them in the third period, but those first two periods were seriously impressive. 

They played a close game against Canada, too, proving that wasn’t a fluke in the slightest. Although they ultimately lost 4-2, that’s an extremely respectable scoreline against one of the two perennial best programs in the world. Sweden opened the scoring and then tied the game on the powerplay after going down 2-1 in the second period. Once again, the third period was the difference-maker. Swedish forward Hilda Svensson is fourth overall in scoring with six points (four goals, two assists) in four games played. Goalie Felicia Frank is third overall in save percentage (.913 SV%) and GAA (1.67). 

The other big story at Worlds has been Slovak superstar Nela Lopusanova, who leads all skaters with ten points in four games. You read that right. Ten points. Four games. Seven goals. Three assists. Did I mention that she’s fourteen years old playing against players at Worlds several years older?

She’s also the only player I’ve ever seen hit a Michigan and pop the bottle at the same time. She loses no speed at all on this play and makes it look ridiculously easy. Remember, this Swedish goalie is no scrub, she’s third overall in the two most important statistics I can give you.

Wow.


Last weekend, the Pride split their weekend playing against Connecticut and New Jersey. They won both games, but Toronto swept Montreal, which still leaves Toronto in first (with a game in hand) and Boston two points behind. The Whale looked a bit lackluster against the Pride on Friday night, but turned it around with a massive 6-0 win against the Riveters on Sunday– meaning that they leapfrogged the Riveters in the standings and now sit in fourth place. The Riveters looked off in both of the games they played, never really threatening against the Pride and failing to break through the Whale’s Meeri Räisänen, who recorded her first shutout of the season.

Both games between Montreal and Toronto (the first ever all-Canadian PHF matchup) ended with a 3-2 scoreline in favor of Toronto, but they were tight, competitive games that I would absolutely recommend going back to watch if you missed. The Saturday game went to a shootout where Brittany Howard scored the winner.

Howard surprisingly didn’t score in the second game, but she did record an assist and Toronto found a way to win anyway, thanks to three goals from two Emmas (Emma Woods, then Emma Greco, then Woods again). Kati Tabin continued her strong season and Michaela Cava had a great weekend with a goal and two assists. For Montreal, Alexandra Labelle had two goals and an assist through the series. Elaine Chuli posted a ridiculous .957 SV% in the second game of the back-to-back, because she’s a machine.

Finally, the Beauts continued their losing streak, swept by Minnesota, who now sits comfortably in third place. The Ice Garden’s Angelica Rodriguez recapped the Beauts’ season so far in this piece that’s worth the read.


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Finally, the PWHPA has announced that they’ll be making a Dream Gap Tour stop in Tampa this year. Tampa has been a great host to both PWHPA and PHF events in the past few years, and hosted the PHF playoffs last season. The same venue, Advent Health Ice Center, will host the PWHPA on February 25 and 26.


A new episode of PHFuture Considerations was released this week with myself, Dan Rice and Mike Murphy of The Ice Garden. You can catch up with us and the Riveters’ Kennedy Ganser here.

For more coverage of U18 Women’s Worlds, make sure you’re following Nicole Haase and Ian Kennedy on Twitter. 

Make sure you’re keeping track of the Checkin’ Tendies podcast, too…

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Eleni Demestihas, @strongforecheck, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Eleni Demestihas