The U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team has exhibited some nice symmetry so far in its quest for a second straight gold medal at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship. Two games, two 6-0 wins, two shutouts by two talented and committed goaltenders who provide the backbone for another squad that has the potential to dominate.
Beth Larcom earned the first shutout in Friday’s triumph over the Czech Republic and Alex Gulstene matched her effort Saturday against Russia in St. Catharines, Ontario. They’ve made the Americans the only team in the eight-team tournament yet to be scored upon.
It’s unlikely that will be the case throughout the entire tournament but the stability in net is in place after the seeds were planted last summer in Lake Placid. That’s where Larcom and Gulstene – who first met at a summer camp years earlier – were paired in the Under-18 Series versus Canada. Under the shared commitment to claim gold at any and all levels, they established a quick bond.
“As we went into Lake Placid together and camp back in June, we kind of hit it off right away,” Larcom said. “We’re definitely pretty close.”
That bond goes well beyond a meal and a movie on a day off.
“It’s huge to have a good goalie partner who you can push and pushes you as well to be the best goalie you can,” Gulstene said. “We’re both good friends so there isn’t too much negative energy. It’s all positive competition and definitely, either way, we know that we’ll push each other to be the best and whoever gets whatever game it’s all intended for the best of USA Hockey.”
Goalies coach Lucy Schoedel said she could sense some nerves on the part of both players once camp began in Buffalo earlier this month. They quickly settled, and eventually helped set the tone for a process that has gone exceptionally smooth to this point.
“They’ve brought a lot of confidence to the team, the team rallies around both of them equally,” Schoedel said. “It’s a really good spot to be in, you can count on either kid any night to play the game and to steal it if we need them to.
“It’s a big confidence boost and a way to keep the team in front of them relaxed and calm. They know that they can play their game, they can make mistakes without having to pay on the scoreboard. They have that trust, they play a little bit more loose.”
That was the case in the first two games, although the Russians kept things mildly interesting by playing to a scoreless first period. There will be greater challenges ahead, including Monday night’s encounter with the rivals to the North, but there will also be more time at practice for Gulstene and Larcom to spend with some of the best skaters in the world.
“There’s no doubt it’s elevated my game a lot. Every day in practice we’re challenged by some of the best players in the country, in the world,” Larcom said. “To be in front of those shots every day is something that’s going to bring your game up every day, no matter what. I’m challenged every day, we both are, and it’s definitely something were lucky to have because as soon as you step into a game situation, we know what we can do and we’re confident in our abilities because we’ve been up against the best players in the world.”
While both players said they have taken a tidbit or two from one another in order to improve their own game, their on-ice styles are quite different. The U.S. program allows for such flexibility and Schoedel indicated that’s one of the strengths of the system. There is never a concerted effort to alter a goalie’s style to keep things uniform.
In a sense, that freedom allows duos like Gulstene and Larcom to focus even more on pure moral and emotional support. The strength of their characters does the rest.
“Obviously they both want to play, they’re both competitive kids,” Schoedel said. “At the end of the day they want to take home a gold medal, if that means they’re on the ice or on the bench. They genuinely mean that. They set that example for the rest of the people.”
Head coach Joel Johnson suggested that Gulstene and Larcom will share playing time throughout the tournament unless one emerges and forces his hand in the medal round.
With each passing day, his confidence – as well as the confidence of each netminder – grows to the point where those daily decisions will not cause much of a headache.
“While you are competing for the same spot at the end of the day, above all, you’re teammates first,” Larcom said. “No matter who’s in net it’s not going to matter because at the end of the day it’s going to be for the gold medal.”
The U.S. team has done just that in each of the first eight U-18 events, winning gold four times and settling for silver four times. With stability in net it is pointing in that direction once again.
STOCKHOLM - The U.S. Women's National Under-18 Team posted a 10-0 win over Sweden here tonight at Stora Mossen Arena to advance to the semifinal round of the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's U18 Championship. Team USA finished the preliminary round atop Group B with a 3-0-0-0 record and will play in the semifinals on Friday (Jan. 7).
Alex Carpenter (North Reading, Mass.) andEmily Field (Littleton, Mass.) each tallied two goals and two asssists, while Amanda Pelkey(Montpelier, Vt.) added four helpers in the win.
"We did a very good job of being consistent and staying on our game for the entire 60 minutes," said Jodi McKenna, head coach for Team USA. "Again, it was a good demonstration of the depth of our lineup."
The U.S. built up an early 4-0 lead in the opening frame, with the first goal coming at 5:31 when Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights, Minn.) beat Swedish netminder Sofia Carlstrom with a rebound from the left goal line. Twenty-one seconds later, after Sweden was called for tripping, Carpenter completed a give and go with Haley Skarupa (Rockville, Md.) to make it 2-0.
Carpenter then struck again at 10:28, as she stickhandled through the left faceoff circle around Swedish players and fired a wrist shot into the near corner. Brandt also notched her second goal of the period when she swooped in on a loose puck in front of the Swedish net during a U.S. power play and found the open right side of the goal at 13:27.
On a power play early in the middle stanza, Field knocked in Pelkey's rebound for a 5-0 score at 2:58. The Americans added a pair of goals in the closing minutes of the period to open their lead to 7-0. Sydney Daniels (Southwick, Mass.) netted her third goal of the tournament with a low shot at 16:57, then Paige Savage (Carrollton, Texas) notched her first when she sniped a shot from the left faceoff circle at 18:20.
The Americans added three goals in the third period, first from Milicia McMillen (St. Paul, Minn.) at the 5:00 mark. Layla Marvin (Warroad, Minn.) then put one in at 11:43 when she skated in from the blue line and took a low shot from the slot. Field closed out the scoring with her second goal of the game at 17:14 after Brandt sent her a pass from behind the Swedish net and Field knocked it high glove side.
Megan Miller (Long Grove, Ill.) stopped all four shots she faced for the shutout, while Carlstrom and Elin Moberg combined for 50 saves in net for Sweden.
NOTES: The U.S. outshot Sweden, 55-4 ... Team USA was 3-for-6 on the power play, while Sweden was 0-for-4 ... Thirteen U.S. players factored in the scoring, with six having multi-point games ... The eight-nation tournament, being played for the fourth time, includes Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States ... Team USA captured gold in each of the first two years of the tournament (2008, 2009), followed by a silver medal in 2010 ...Jodi McKenna, the head women's ice hockey coach at Wesleyan Univeristy, is serving as head coach for Team USA. She is assisted by Brian Durocher, head women's ice hockey coach at Boston University, and Jennifer Kranz, assistant women's ice hockey coach at St. Cloud State University ...Follow @USAHockeyScores on Twitter for live scoring updates during the 2011 IIHF World Women's U18 Championship. Scores will be designated with #U18wwc ... Follow the U.S. Women's National Program blog here... Find USA Hockey on Facebook at Facebook.com/USAHockey and Twitter at Twitter.com/USAHockey.
Scoring By Period
USA 4 3 3 -- 10
SWE 0 0 0 -- 0
First Period - Scoring: 1, USA, Brandt (Field, Pelkey), 5:31; 2, USA, Carpenter (Skarupa), 5:52 (pp); 3, USA, Carpenter (Burke), 10:28; 4, USA, Brandt (Pelkey, Field), 13:27 (pp). Penalties: SWE, Kjellbin (body checking), 1:24; SWE, Lowenhielm (tripping), 5:42; SWE, Daniels (tripping), tripping), 12:14; USA, Savage (tripping), 15:11.
Second Period - Scoring: 5, USA, Field (Pelkey, Burke), 2:58 (pp); 6, USA, Daniels (Boulier, Ness), 16:57; 7, USA, Savage (Carpenter), 18:20. Penalties: SWE, Hedin (delay of game), 1:56; USA, Trivigno (boarding), 8:16; USA, Sylvester (holding the stick), 9:48; SWE, Johansson (delay of game), 9:48; SWE, Peterson (cross checking), 19:46.
Third Period - Scoring: 8, USA, McMillen (Carpenter, Savage), 5:00; 9, USA, Marvin (Sylvester, Burke), 11:43; 10, USA, Field (Brandt, Pelkey), 17:14. Penalties: SWE, Lowenhielm (tripping), 1:57; USA, Stecklein (delay of game), 6:45; USA, Burke (body checking), 19:21.
Shots by Period 1 2 3 Total
USA 19 21 15 53
SWE 1 1 2 4
Goaltenders (SH/SV) 1 2 3 Total
USA, Miller, 60:00 1-1 1-1 2-2 4-4
SWE, Carlstrom, 38:20 19-15 17-14 x-x 36-29
SWE, Moberg, 21:40 x-x 4-4 15-12 19-16
Power Play: USA 3-6; SWE 0-4
Penalties: USA 5-10; SWE 7-14
Officials: Referee-Sylena Mutsaers (CAN); Linesmen-Jonna Partanen (FIN), Zsuzsanna Sandor (HUN)