Canada punched its ticket to the gold-medal game

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hockey wom canada

WENDY GRAVES

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – Ashton Bell (Deloraine, Man./Westman, MFMHL) scored twice and Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team held Russia to 12 shots in a 4-0 shutout Thursday night to advance to the gold medal game of the 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship.

Canada also got goals from Ryleigh Houston (Winnipeg, Man./Balmoral Hall School, JWHL) and Kayla Friesen (Winnipeg, Man./St. Mary’s, CAHS) in a game in which it outshot Russia 43-12 and dictated play throughout.

Emma Maltais (Burlington, Ont./Oakville, PWHL) had a two-point night with a pair of assists.

Édith D’Astous-Moreau (Laval, Que./Stanstead, CAHS) picked up her second shutout in as many starts.

For the ninth straight year, Canada will face the United States for U18 women’s worlds gold.

Canada got on the board first on Thursday when Bell’s one-timer from just outside the face-off circle eluded Valeriya Tarakanova midway through the opening period.

The play was set up moments earlier when Codie Cross (Airdrie, Alta./Warner School, JWHL) intercepted a clearing attempt at the blue line; her ensuing shot was deflected out of play, setting up an offensive zone face-off.

Having already dominated the opening 20 minutes, Canada started the second period with nearly a minute on the five-on-three. With 15 seconds left in the second penalty, Houston swept in a rebound in front of the crease to make it 2-0.

As the second period went on, Canada seemed to be almost playing a game of keep-away, its speed allowing it to get to the puck faster and its crisp passes permitting it long stretches of possession.

Despite Tarakanova proving steady to the Canadian challenge, stopping 27 shots through the first 40 minutes, it was Valeriya Merkusheva starting the third period for Russia.

Only 2:31 into Merkusheva’s tenure, Kristin O’Neill (Oakville, Ont./Stoney Creek, PWHL) forced a turnover down low and sent a pass out front to Bell, who buried her second of the game.

Twenty-five seconds later, Friesen – set up at the bottom of the face-off circle –one-timed a pass from Céline Frappier (Tecumseh, Ont./Toronto, PWHL) to make it 4-0.

With the win Canada improved its all-time record versus Russia to 6-0.

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