Toronto Star

Canada expects question marks to start foray into U-18 tourney

‘We’ll go in blind the first game,’ says coach Davidson of Czech side

- BILL BEACON THE CANADIAN PRESS

Women’s hockey moves into new territory this week with its first world under-18 championsh­ip in Calgary. So much so the host team knows almost nothing about the strengths and weaknesses of any of their potential opponents, except the United States. “I have no idea,” said coach Melody Davidson. “We played a threegame series with the U.S. in August, but they’ve adapted their lineup.” “I’m sure the Swedes and Finns will throw traps at us and try to capitalize on mistakes. I expect most teams will mirror their national senior teams.” The eight-country event begins with four games today, with Canada facing the Czech Republic at Father David Bauer Arena. Canadian women have never faced a Czech team at any level of internatio­nal competitio­n. “We’ll go in blind the first game, but after that, we’ll be pre-scouted,” added Davidson, the GM of the national women’s program and former head coach of the senior team. For the round robin, Canada is in Group A with the Czechs, Finland and Germany. Group B consists of the United States, Russia, Sweden and Switzerlan­d.

All eight teams play on the first three days of the tournament. The semifinals are Friday and the gold and bronze medal games are on Saturday.

Ten games, including the gold medal contest Saturday night, will be webcast on telus.com and hockeycana­da.ca.

If form holds, the under-18s will be much like the senior levels, where Canada and the U.S. dominate, although the Canadians swept their American neighbours in their August series.

“I hope it isn’t, but I won’t know until we start playing,” added Davidson. “But whether it is or not, it’s a positive step in the growth of our game.”

It moves the women’s game a step closer to matching the various levels of world champions found in the men’s game.

And putting a Canadian team together became an extension of the same scouting process that produces the senior and national under-22 teams.

Players were spotted on their provincial under-18 teams, especially at the Canada Winter Games, and invited to an off-ice camp in May and an on-ice camp in July.

The star attraction should be forward Marie-Philip Poulin of Beaucevill­e, Que., the 16-year-old who leads the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in scoring.

The Americans kept 11 players from the August series against Canada, including U.S. senior national team members Anne Schleper and Kelly Wild. The Americans also have forward Elizabeth Turgeon, the daughter of former NHL star Pierre Turgeon, and Amanda Kessel, the sister of Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel.

 ?? BRIAN KERSEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Outside of the U.S., Canadian coach Melody Davidson isn’t sure what to expect at the women’s under-18.
BRIAN KERSEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS Outside of the U.S., Canadian coach Melody Davidson isn’t sure what to expect at the women’s under-18.

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