OSTERSUND, Sweden -- Among the biggest upsets in the history of the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship, the United States suffered its first-ever semifinal loss earlier this month. Opposing host country, and fellow Group A member, Sweden, a visceral 2-1 loss on Saturday, Jan. 14, saw power-play opportunities prove highly costly for the Americans. Witnessing a highly compelling contest, the fans at sold-out Ostersund Arena roared with obvious strong feelings of national pride from the home team.
In preliminary round play, the U.S. defeated the Swedes dominantly in the opening game of the tournament, prevailing in a convincing 6-3 final, as 12 different skaters for the victorious team logged at least one point apiece.
Home team Sweden stunned the United States with a 2-1 semifinal win at U18 women's worlds (Courtesy of USA Hockey)
Finishing in third place in Group A, the only win of the preliminary round for Sweden involved a 6-1 triumph over Finland, led by Hilda Svensson’s impressive three points.
Qualifying for the gold medal game with a combination of great goaltending and timely scoring, it was the U.S. that grabbed the first lead of the game. In a first period which saw the Swedes outshot by a 12-10 mark, Lucia DiGirolamo broke the scoreless deadlock, finding the back of the net at the 17:16 mark.
Early in the second period, the U.S. found themselves at a disadvantage. Peyton Compton was called for cross-checking, while Ava Lindsay served a hooking call, allowing Sweden to enjoy a five-on-three power-play opportunity. Alternate captain Mira Jungaker tied the score, as only 38 seconds remained in the power play, with a clear flood of emotion overcoming players and fans inside the rink alike.
Merely 67 seconds after Jungaker’s goal, the Americans found themselves in further penalty trouble. Team captain Joy Dunne served a penalty for an illegal hit, allowing Sweden another power play. Taking full advantage, Astrid Lindeberg, whose 23:13 minutes of ice time paced all Swedish skaters, provided the hosts with their first lead of the game as a passionate crowd erupted in cheer.
Later in the period, the Americans were faced with another five-on-three disadvantage, but Sweden could not add to their lead. Goaltender Annelies Bergmann stonewalled the opposing offence, recording a total of 11 saves in the period. The third period resulted in Bergmann only recording four saves, as the U.S. pelted Felicia Frank with 12 shots.
With team captain Stella Lindell serving a holding call at 48:43, it marked the only power play of the period for a determined U.S. squad. In spite of their best efforts, hitting the crossbar added to their woes on offence. Frank assembled the greatest performance of her promising career.
Preserving the Swedish lead, Frank made 37 saves in a 2-1 triumph, marking Sweden's first-ever defeat of the United States in elimination round play, one of the most highly emotional results, in tournament history. By the tournament’s end, Frank gained tremendous acclaim, joining Jungaker as members of the IIHF's Tournament All-Star Team, both earning Directorate Awards for their positions, gaining a treasured place in Swedish female hockey lore.