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Team USA Shuts Out Sweden, 4-0, in Semifinals

01/14/2016, 4:00pm MST
By USAHockey.com

U.S. Advances to U18WWC Gold Medal Game

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — The U.S. put 43 shots on net and Beth Larcom (Middletown, R.I./Mass Spitfires) earned a shutout to help the U.S. Women's National Under-18 Team to a 4-0 win against Sweden in a semifinal matchup at the 2016 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship. Team USA will play in the gold medal game at 7:30 p.m. ET tomorrow (Jan. 15) against the winner of the Canada versus Russia semifinal.

“We put a lot of pucks on net and had some timely goals and key saves to keep the momentum in our favor, win the game, and put ourselves in a position to do what we came here to do,” said Joel Johnson, head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team. “It’s a quick turnaround for tomorrow and we'll be ready to play our best and go for gold.”

Natalie Heising (Maple Grove, Minn./Wayzata High School) opened the scoring for Team USA when she intercepted a pass and put the puck in the top corner of the net at 6:24 of the first period. Shortly after Heising’s goal, the U.S. and Sweden exchanged power plays, but neither team was able to convert on their man advantages.

Five minutes into the second frame, Sweden had its best chance of the period with a slap shot from the left circle, but a save by Larcom kept Sweden off the board.

At 13:10 of the period, Sydney Brodt (North Oaks, Minn./Mounds View High School) scored on a backhander during a U.S. penalty kill to double Team USA’s lead.

With 10 seconds remaining on the clock, Emily Oden (Edina, Minn./Edina High School) caught a pass from Jesse Compher (Northbrook, Ill./Chicago Mission) from behind the net and put it home to make it 3-0 heading into the final period.

Taylor Heise (Lake City, Minn./Red Wing High School) buried a wraparound at 6:30 of the third stanza to account for the 4-0 final.

Tomorrow’s gold medal matchup will be streamed live on NHL.com.

NOTES: Natalie Heising was named the U.S. Player of the Game … The U.S. outshot Sweden, 43-9 … Team USA has outscored its opponent, 20-1, at this year’s tournament. For complete game statistics, click here … The U.S. is defending its gold-medal finish at last year’s IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship. The U.S. has played in the gold medal game in all eight of the previous events, capturing the event’s top prize four times (2008. 2009, 2011, 2015) … For more information on the 2016 U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team, including a full roster, click here

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In any game, from 12U to pros to adult hockey, a single turnover can change the complexity of the competition, especially in crunch time. Make a poor pass at neutral ice, lose focus on a line change, get outworked on the forecheck or backcheck, and quite often the end result will be the puck in the back of your own net.

Simply put, a key for any team that wants to be successful is to be on the “right” side of the puck possession battle – to avoid losing the puck and excel at stealing it. It only makes sense that if you possess the puck more than your opponent, your chances of winning will increase. According to former NHLer Lance Pitlick, creating turnovers and regaining puck possession is a skill and one that can be learned, regardless of your age or stage of your hockey-playing career. 

“If you don’t have the puck, you can’t score,” said Pitlick, who played 12 seasons in professional hockey, including time with the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers. “A point I try to drive home to players is that we want to get out of the defensive zone as quickly as possible because those are hard minutes. Let’s get into the offensive zone, where the minutes are easier. Once you create those turnovers and spend more time with the puck on offense, it’s a better return on your (physical) investment.”

Pitlick is currently an off-ice stickhandling, shooting and puck possession guru, who has worked with over 1,000 players of all ages and skill sets, through two websites – onlinehockeytraining.com and sweethockeycoach.com. His web-based programs provide a step-by-step teaching model, with a library of video drills organized into instructional modules that can be accessed on any digital device.

Pitlick offers the following tips for adult players to get better at creating turnovers and regaining the puck as quickly as possible:

Take away time and space – For a less experienced player, an easy first approach is to try to take away time and space on the ice. Work on trying to get to the player with the puck as quickly as you can, forcing them to make decisions a lot sooner than they want to. This may make them bobble the puck and hopefully create a turnover.

Practice the tenacious forecheck – It’s not always the most talented team that comes out on top, it’s the team that outworks the other one. The forecheck is where most turnovers take place, either in the offensive zone or when there’s a rink-wide pass. It’s about gaining quick proximity to the puck and winning battles, especially along the boards. If you get close enough to a player with the puck, try to lift his/her stick with your stick, steal the puck and skate away as fast as possible.

Keep your stick on the ice – You always want your stick blade in what you think is the passing lane, so your opponent has to pass over or around it. If you have good angles and anticipation and keep your stick down, there’s a good chance you’ll disrupt things.

Come back to the house – When your opponents have possession, regardless of what they’re doing on the exterior, you know that eventually they’ll be coming to the net. So, tighten everything there, make sure they have to skate, pass or shoot through bodies to get a good scoring chance. It’s important on defense to “gap up” so it’s tougher to enter the offensive zone and possess the puck.

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