After two years of cancellations and postponements, the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships finally took place this past week. The tournament was originally set to be in Sweden, but was moved to Wisconsin due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The eight teams took the ice at both LaBahn Arena, home of the Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team, and Bob Suter’s Capitol Ice Arena, which hosts the USHL’s Madison Capitols home games. The Canadian team took home gold from this tournament by holding off Team USA in a 3-2 battle on Monday. Finland and Sweden faced off for the bronze medal, with the former winning in a shutout, 3-0.
For NCAA hockey, multiple up-and-coming stars made appearances for their respective national teams, including seven women who are committed to Hockey East programs. Forwards Reichen Kirchmair (Providence), Alex Law (BU), and Holly Abela (Northeastern), along with defender Brooke Disher (BU) and goaltender Mari Pietersen (BU) all played for the Canadian National Team. On the Team USA roster were BC commit Molly Jordan and future UNH goaltender Sedona Blair.
Abela began the tournament as the extra skater for Canada in the preliminary exhibition match against the Americans. The Brampton, Ontario native, who is set to turn 18 in August, found herself mainly on the fourth line throughout the tournament. Abela was often out on the penalty kill and showed some flashes of strong puck handling skills.
Her biggest asset on the ice was her forechecking and ability to apply pressure on her opponents. That pressure resulted in many opportunities in front of the net, however she was unable to convert on them. Her lone point of the tournament was an assist on a goal by forward Emmalee Pais in Canada’s 7-0 domination over Slovakia in the quarterfinal matchup. Abela has the potential to grow into a solid player that will slot in well in the Northeastern lineup, especially with the loss of so many forwards after this past season.
Like all the players in the tournament, Disher, a future Terrier, is an incredible talent. Additionally, Disher also shows leadership qualities as she was captain of the Canadian squad for the tournament.
“[W]e needed some energy on the penalty kill. Other times, my role might be to generate a bit of offense,” she told the Alaska Highway News when asked about her role on the Canadian team.
Disher showed poise and a great hockey mind throughout the tournament and received playing time on the power-play unit where she was often holding down the blue line. While she didn’t find her way onto the score sheet in Wisconsin, she was over a point per game in her last season of junior hockey for the Rink Hockey Academy in Kelowna, British Columbia.
The best news for BU is that Disher is capable of playing big-time minutes, as she held her own on the top pairing for Canada. With the loss of junior defender Grace Parker, who entered the transfer portal this past spring, Disher may be able to provide some support on the back end to replace the minutes BU is losing (Parker dressed in 31 of 33 games for the Terriers this year) as she develops in the NCAA.
During the tournament, Providence’s Kirchmair was fast on the puck and maintained control handedly once it found her stick. Like Abela, she showed some strength in the forecheck when caught in her own zone, and had flashes of speed when she was racing to get the puck away from her opponents.
After being shut out by Finland in the first game in the preliminary round, Kirchmair opened the scoring against Sweden by taking advantage of a scramble in the crease to put the puck into the back of the net. Kirchmair, a native of Oakville, Ontario, should be a solid offensive weapon for the Friars. Over two seasons in junior hockey with the Etobicoke Dolphins, she put up 50 points including 23 goals in 67 games.
Pietersen got her first start in the Canadian net in their second game against Sweden. She allowed only one goal on 34 shots for a .971 save percentage. She came into the last preliminary round game for Canada against the US where she gave up just two goals on 16 shots. She had a shutout against Slovakia in the quarterfinals on June 10 where she faced just five shots en route to the win. She followed that up with a nine-save performance against Finland where she again only allowed one goal en route to her third win, this time in the semifinals. She concluded her tournament with the 3-2 gold medal game win over the US, where she faced 31 shots.
Overall Pietersen finished with a 4-0-0 record and a tournament save percentage of .938. Her ability to track the puck and quickly work to be all over the crease when required aided her to that perfect record. Especially in the final period of the tournament, her awareness and skill with her pads kept the Canadian team on top as she made some key saves, particularly on future Wisconsin Badger forward and tournament MVP Laila Edwards from the US.
Connecticut native Jordan is still only 17, one of the younger members of the American squad, but provided stable minutes on the backend. She helped the US to a 4-1-0 record over the course of the tournament and scored the second goal from the Americans in their 7-0 round robin win over the Canadians off a beautiful shot from the point. She still has some time to develop, as she is not committed for this upcoming season, but her defensive capabilities will be a big help for the Eagles blue line.
Future Wildcat Blair did not dress for Team USA in the tournament. Over the last four years at Holy Family Catholic secondary school in her home state of Minnesota, Blair has posted a .944 save percentage in 64 games.
This upcoming season in Hockey East will see three of the aforementioned players joining their college programs. Abela, Kirchmair, and Disher are all committed for the 2022-23 season. Law, Jordan, and Blair are set to debut in 2023-24.
Pietersen was originally scheduled to debut for BU this upcoming year as she signed a letter of intent in November. Her plans for next year are unknown as she was not included in the Etobicoke Dolphins graduate honorees this past spring after playing 11 games. Regardless, she and the other six young women will be exciting to follow into their future careers.