The United States scored six goals in the third period to defeat a resilient Slovakia 7-1 in Sunday’s opener. Captain Maggie Scannell scored the winning goal 32 seconds into the final frame.
In a nice give-and-go with Eva Thomas, Scannell tipped the puck past the blocker of Slovakia starter Livia Debnarova. This started his five-goal run for the United States in just 4 minutes and 2 seconds. This is her fastest five goals in U18 Women’s World Championship history. The previous record (6 minutes 04 seconds) was set in 2009 when Sweden defeated Germany 8-1.
“Going into the third period, we had 40 shots on net,” Scannell said. “We just said, ‘We’ve got to shoot more, we’ve got to keep putting the puck on the net.'” And great! The puck went in. ”
The United States, which won the bronze medal in 2023, has lost only three games in the tournament’s history in the qualifying rounds, all to archrival Canada (2017, 2020, 2023). Visions of a major upset were born in this match, when Slovakia led 1-0 for over 22 minutes and held the lead 1-1 until the 40th minute. It couldn’t be like that.
“I think the penalty in the second period cost us a lot,” Slovakia national team head coach Gabriela Savorova said. “We couldn’t use all four lines. Because of that, we lost the tempo of the game.”
Caroline Averill added two goals. Josie St. Martin, Jordyn Petry, Eva Thomas and Morgan McGathy also represented the United States, which outscored Slovakia 63-10.
“It’s amazing. Records are meant to be broken,” St Martin said of setting the five-goal speed record.
Slovakia’s Alicka Jurikova scores the first goal in the first ever match between the two countries in World War 18.
Despite being sent off early in the third period, Debnarova deserves praise for giving her team a chance. Leila Hemp of the United States recorded her first tournament win of 2024. Debnarova is competing in the U18 Women’s World Championship for the third year in a row. Hemp played in one game in 2023, defeating Finland 8-1 in the qualifying round.
Slovakia advanced to the first division for the first time in 2020, finishing in 8th place. The Slovak finished 6th in both 2022 and 2023.
The Americans will be looking to bounce back after missing out on the finals for the first time in their history in 2023. In Ostersund, hosts Sweden surprised the United States 2-1 in the semifinals, but defeated Finland 5-0 to take the bronze medal.
Buoyed by the drumming and cheering of Slovak fans, the underdogs held out in the early stages. After blueliner Aleksandra Mateichkova tried to pull down Mary Dellenbacher as she darted to the edge of the net, they finished off the underachiever with disciplined box play. Even better, Zhurikova eased up on a short-handed breakaway and hit the high glove side for a 1-0 lead at 5:13.
“It was a great moment for me because it was my first time scoring for the national team,” Yurikova said.
The U.S. outscored Slovakia 21-5 in the first period, but most of the shots came from outside.
“A lot of our early shots were really on the perimeter,” U.S. coach Liz Keady Norton said. “I think when you’re trying to score a first point from behind, there’s a lot of voices saying, ‘Hey, shoot on net.’ You’ve got to have confidence in the puck, play with your head up, and move it. Being able to move around and have possession and drain the puck goes a long way in a game like this.”
In the second period, Debnarova stoned Petry and Scannell between the hash marks. But the Americans persevered and scored the tying goal at 8:08.
Down the goal line, Kendra Distad found Caroline Averill inside the left faceoff circle and fired a hot shot past the Slovakian goalie. Her Averill will be making her U18 Women’s World Championship debut, as will her 2008-born sister Margaret.
“I’m glad things went well,” Averill said. “My linemates made a great play.”
Penalty trouble kept the Slovaks in their own half midway through. With about four minutes left, 2023 tournament MVP Nela Lopsanova broke through the American defense but couldn’t solve her hemp. Slovakia proved ineffective on the power play in the closing stages, with Meghan Healy sent off for a stumble.
In the third period, just 1 minute and 13 seconds after Scannell’s first goal, St. Martin took a breather with a top-level score at 1:45.
“It was a great pass up the ice, great transition from Morgan.” [McGathey]”I just scrambled for the puck and knocked it over the goalie’s shoulder,” St. Martin said.
Averill scored his second goal 11 seconds later, again on a sweet feed from Dystad. Petry scored on a nice rush at 2:58 to make it 5-1.
At this point, Debnarova was replaced by Mariana Smegova, but it didn’t matter as Thomas increased the lead to 6-1 at 4:34. McGathie capped off the scoring with a power-play marker at 9:31.
Regarding the message the coaching staff sent to the team during the second break, Norton said: “We said, ‘The big dog has to eat.'” “We didn’t get too frustrated and we stuck to the game plan. We have a young group and we have to learn every period.”
There was an element of familiarity here for Lopsanova. She will move to Rochester, New York in 2023-2024 to hone her hockey talent, where she will play against two of her Bishop Carney Select teammates, defensemen Megan Healy and Rose Dwyer. 15 years old from Zilina. (Assistant captain Bela Fanale, who also plays for Bishop Carney, missed the game against Slovakia.)
In the opening game, Lopsanova tried to do too much, leading to several turnovers. It’s all part of the learning process.
The United States last won this tournament in 2020. In the game against Canada in Bratislava, Chiara Zanon scored the winning goal in overtime, 2-0, 2-1 in overtime. Overall, the U.S. won her eight gold medals, the most at the tournament.