St. Catharines, Ont.
CANADA OPENS U18 WOMEN’S WORLDS WITH WIN
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. –Sophie Shirley (Saskatoon, Sask./Notre Dame, JWHL) led the way with two goals and an assist as Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team opened its 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship schedule with a 5-2 win over Russia Friday night.
Ashton Bell (Deloraine, Man./Westman, MFMHL), Emma Maltais (Burlington, Ont./Oakville, PWHL) and Daryl Watts (Toronto, Ont./Mississauga, PWHL) also scored for Canada.
Codie Cross (Airdrie, Alta./Warner School, JWHL), Kristin O’Neill (Oakville, Ont./Stoney Creek, PWHL) and Amy Potomak (Aldergrove, B.C./Pursuit of Excellence, CSSHL) were credited with assists.
Stephanie Neatby (Toronto, Ont./Toronto, PWHL) made 16 saves to pick up the win.
After defeating Sweden on Wednesday afternoon in a pre-competition game, head coach Lisa Haley (Westville, N.S./Ryerson, OUA) said she wanted her team to play faster. Heeding the coach’s message – and perhaps inspired by a near full house at the Meridian Centre – the team had an extra gear against Russia.
Canada controlled play throughout the opening 20 minutes and was rewarded for its offensive risks just past the midway point of the first period, when Shirley redirected a centering pass from Cross on the fly.
Bell doubled the team’s lead only 2:37 later. O’Neill sent a centering pass out front to her linemate, who punched it in from the low slot.
Russia briefly cut the deficit in half early in the second period. Fanuza Kadirova broke in from the face-off circle and tucked the puck around Neatby blocker side.
Shirley restored Canada’s two-goal lead three minutes later, when 24 seconds into the power play the puck went off a Russian defender and in.
Malais broke free behind two defenders and went top corner stick side to make it 4-1 only 2:35 later.
After surrendering four goals on only 13 shots, Valeriya Tarakanova was replaced in the Russian net by Valeriya Merkusheva.
Canada continued to roll, though, with Watts stationed at the side of the net to redirect Shirley’s pass from the high slot with five to play in the second.
Russia cut the deficit back down to three before the period was over, with Elizaveta Zenchenko left alone in front to score only 12 seconds after Canada had killed a penalty.
Canada continues preliminary play on Saturday, when it takes on the Czech Republic at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.