Hockey

Team Canada Women: Looking for Hockey Gold

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For the first time since 2020, the U18 Women’s Championship will be played in January after a cancellation in 2021 and a postponement in 2022 to June of that year because of Covid. This year will have eight teams fighting for a chance at gold. Canada and the United States have been the only countries to have gained the honour of winning the competition since it started in 2008. Other nations on the other hand are looking to win it for the first time.

The setting for the yearly tournament will be Östersund, a city in the middle of Sweden and the host of the second-tier, HockeyAllsvenskan team, Östersunds IK.

The competition format is a little different than the men’s competition. Just like the senior women’s competition the groups are set up in between skill levels instead of a balance. So, teams like Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Finland, the four best-seeded teams in this competition are all in Group A. While the four lower teams, Czechia, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Japan are fighting to replace teams in Group A hopefully.

Only teams in Group B can be regulated. This means that all four nations in Group A have already qualified for the 2024 competition. Their chance to move up comes in the quarter-finals, when the bottom two from Group A battle it out with the two top teams of Group B. Whoever makes it gets to move onto the semifinals and punch their ticket into Group A among the top nations. The bottom two battle it out like last year when Germany lost to Switzerland.

But the favourites in the tournament are none other than Team Canada. With 2022 being one of the most successful years of women’s hockey with an Olympic win, World Champion win, and a U18 Championship win, they swept the women’s podium against their rivals, the United States.

This tournament is one of the most influential tournaments for young women as it helped shape players like future star Sarah Fillier.

The women coming to this team won’t have the same facilities as their male counterparts. They don’t even have a U20 competition to continue showcasing their talent to scouts or teams. Once they hit 18, they only have one chance to represent Canada and it’s the senior team, a team that is dominated by women in their last twenties and early thirties. So, their chance to showcase themselves to Canada won’t come again for a long time.

They also have only a few leagues and teams compared to the men’s with most of the team coming from the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), a junior women’s league in Ontario with most teams being in the Greater Toronto Area. Despite them being queens of the hockey world, the potential in women’s hockey in Canada has barely been cracked in this country and especially at the junior level.

Despite that, the 2023 tournament looks like another success even though they lost a pre-tournament game to Finland. Their big challenge will be of course the United States as they hope to battle against them again in the finals of the tournament. Out of the 14 times this tournament has been the United States has won it eight times, with Canada winning it the remaining 6 times. Canada is looking to close the gap between the two nations by only one win after this tournament.

The only other nation that has come close was Sweden in 2018 when they beat Canada in the semifinals but lost at the end to the United States to claim silver. Despite the challenges, Canada has an opportunity again and they look to make another exciting tournament out of it.

main image credits: Getty Images

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