Vernon’s Anne Cherkowski can add ‘world champion’ to her hockey résumé.
For the first time in five years, Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team won gold at the International Ice Hockey Federation U18 Women’s World Championship, defeating the United States 3-2 in overtime on Sunday in Obihiro, Japan.
Maddi Wheeler (Erinsville, Ont.) drove hard to the net and jammed home her own rebound just 1:34 into overtime, giving Canada its fifth world title and first since 2014.
“I picked the puck up in the neutral zone, Coopsy [Kendall Cooper] passed it off to me. We were on a 4-on-3 power play so I had some space,” said Wheeler to Hockey Canada after. “I drove wide and picked up my own rebound. We had a good net drive, so it was wide open.”
Cherkowski forced overtime, tying the game 2-2 with less than nine minutes remaining, set up by Julia Gosling (London, Ont.) and Pursuit of Excellence teammate Danielle Serdachny (Edmonton).
Canada jumped out to an early lead just under eight minutes in when Serdachny picked up the rebound of an Alexie Guay (Magog, Que.) shot from the point. Gosling also recorded an assist on the goal.
The United States tied the game late in the second period before taking a 2-1 lead just over six minutes into the third.
“We are incredibly proud of our team’s effort and our athletes’ ability to overcome adversity when we found ourselves trailing in the game,” said head coach Howie Draper of Edmonton. “It’s a great feeling to win a world championship and bring a gold medal back to Canada, and I couldn’t be more proud of our athletes and staff for this amazing accomplishment.”
Goaltender Raygan Kirk (Ste. Anne, Man.) finished with 25 saves in the win and earned tournament Most Valuable Player honours.
Following the gold medal game, the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship awards recipients were announced. Guay was named Top Defenceman and earned a spot on the all-star team, while Gosling, Serdachny and Kendall Cooper (Burlington, Ont.) were named the top three players for Canada.
Cherkowski and Serdachny teamed up to get Canada to the gold-medal match with a 4-3 overtime semifinal win against Team Russia.
“Julia [Gosling] dropped it down to the corner and Anne [Cherkowski] pinned the girl against the wall, so I just saw the opportunity to walk [out to the front of the net],” said Serdachny. “Their defence was in front of the net, and I just saw an opening and shot it.
“I think we all felt pretty nervous but we all had trust in each other that we could do it and we could win. Everyone was pretty excited [to get the win].”
Kirk turned aside 10 shots in the win.
Cherkowski is expected to arrive at Kelowna Airport around 9:30 p.m. Monday.