In the three game series between USA and Canada in Calgary, Alberta in August the US lost the series 2 games to 1. The US was able to get an OT victory in game one but then lost the next two. Each of those two losses were one goal games. 3 games. All of them decided by one goal. In that series the US had 21 power play opportunities over the 3 games. They were only able to capitalize on 3 of them. That is barely a 14% success rate. Not good by anyone’s standards. Conversely, Team Canada only had 13 power play opportunities but they were able to convert 3 times for a conversion rate of 23%.
Fast forward to the U18WWC this past week. Everyone, including the coaching staffs of Team USA and Team Canada, knew that the most likely final would feature USA vs. Canada. And based on the three game series in Calgary everyone would know that any game(s) between USA and Canada would be very tight. Additionally, based on the Calgary series Team USA would know that they would get LOTS of power play opportunities. Now I understand that hindsight is 20/20 but if I had been the coach of Team USA I would’ve spent the whole pre-tourney camp working on my power play. Where it is obvious that each team is really evenly matched when it is 5v5 you need to take advantage of the times you have a skater advantage. And that can be and was the difference between winning Gold and not winning Gold for Team USA this year. Over the course of 4 games in the 2019 U18WWC Team USA was 4 for 26 on the power play for a conversion rate of just over 15%.
In the Championship game Team USA had 9 power play opportunities. Two brief moments they had 5v3. The first 5v3 they lost the zone twice. Team USA was able to convert only 1 power play opportunity. On the other hand, Team Canada had 8 power play opportunities. Of the three goals Canada scored, the last one being the OT game winner, all 3 of them came on the power play. USA was 1 for 9. Canada 3 for 8.
USA and Canada played a 3 game series in Calgary in August. All three games were decided by one goal. In the two games in the WWC each game was decided by one goal. 5 games. All of them decided by one goal. Taking advantage of the power play situations strongly favored the Canadians and they are the 2019 World Champions because of it.
Other Notes and Observations
I watched all games at the U18 Select camp in Maine. Coming out of there I thought that the D group would be the weakest part of the team. During the WWC that was not the case. They were a pleasant surprise. For the most part the group played great defensively. But they did not contribute anything offensively. Only one goal from the 8 defense over 4 games. But going into the tournament I don’t think the expectation was for the them to provide any offensive production. But…..
The top 6 forwards combined for 14 goals and a +26 rating. Conversely, the bottom 6 forwards only had 2 goals and a -1 rating combined. I imagine that the coaching staff was expecting more production from the bottom 6 especially the third line. But it never came and, in my opinion, was the second largest contributing factor, behind the power play deficiencies, in Team USA not achieving their goal of the Gold Medal. The burden of the scoring was on the top 6 forwards and they did a phenomenal job of carrying that burden. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough. They needed some help.
Abbey Murphy is the best U18 player in the world. She is absolutely electric. I am certain she is devastated by the penalty called against her in OT of the championship game. It was a terrible call. One that shouldn’t be made in that situation. The line of her, Webster, and O’Brien was the best line in the 2018 WWC and again this year. The three of them combined for 14 points and +13 rating.
Skylar Vetter was really good in goal. She played every minute of every game and ended the tourney with 3 wins, .9223 SV%, and 1.59 GAA.
Maggie Nicholson was VERY good finishing with 2 assists and tying for the team lead with a +5 rating. Maggie and 2003 birth year Hailey Winn made for a great first set of D.
Of the 12 forwards on this year’s team 6 of them will be eligible to return to the team for the 2020 U18WWC. Abbey Murphy and Makenna Webster will again anchor the forward group for the third year in a row. First timers Lacey Eden, Kiara Zanon, Clara Van Wieren, and Audrey Wethington will be back for their final year of eligibility.
Of the 8 defense Maggie Nicholson will be back for her third trip in 2020. First timers Maddy Samoskevich and Caroline Harvey will be back in their final year of eligibility. And 2003 birth year Hailey Winn will be back in 2020 and will still have one more year of eligibility to burn after that!
Skylar Vetter will be the only returning goalie and the net will be hers until 2021.