Team USA has struck gold with a fifth consecutive IIHF World Championship. The win came after a controversial call in overtime that would have given the host country of Finland its first championship in the tournament’s history. The Finnish squad historically reached the final game after a brave victory over Canada in the semi-final matchup.
The US went on to win in the shootout, capping off a fantastic fortnight that was full of monumental achievements. Four Buffalo Beauts represented their countries in Espoo - Emily Pfalzer, Dani Cameranesi, and Hayley Scamurra for the US and Shannon Szabados for Canada. Draft pick and Patty Kaz winner Loren Gabel also joined the Canadian club.
Szabados and Gabel took bronze back to the great white north - a huge surprise to fans, for Canada had been in the gold medal game every year prior. The event was Gabel’s coming-out party to the world. The young star accumulated seven points in seven games, good enough for a fourth place tie with some of the biggest names in women’s hockey. Her six goals were second only to Hilary Knight; two of which came in the bronze medal game. It was her first World Championship; her first international action came fewer than six months ago at Four Nations. Clarkson head coach Matt Derosier has been tracking Gabel’s growth in her four years with the Golden Knights, through her performance at Worlds. He told Hockey Canada, “Elite scorers are hard to come by. Loren has a bright future ahead of her if she continues to keep progressing and growing like she has,” he says. “If she can do that, she is going to be an elite player for Team Canada for a long time.”
Szabados split time with both Genevieve Lacasse and Emerance Maschmeyer. She finished with a 1.34 goals against average, a .915 save percentage, and one shutout. Her tournament came to an end with an uncharacteristic three goals against in the semi-final loss to Finland.
On the American side, Dani Cameranesi continued to shine on the international stage. She also had seven points in the tournament, good enough for third among US scorers. Cameranesi spent time on the top line with Knight and Kelly Pannek. She picked up a big assist in the opening goal of the round-robin matchup against Canada, which may have been her most important contribution on the scoresheet.
Pfalzer also had herself a tournament. The diminutive defender racked up six points, which is her best output at a world championship in her four appearances. She finished third among blueliners in scoring, along with teammates Cayla Barnes and Megan Keller.
Power forward Hayley Scamurra finished her first Worlds with a goal and an assist. She earned her spot after proving her mettle in her first two seasons in the NWHL and competing at USA Hockey camps with the women’s national team. She may not have seen the minutes that her Beauts teammates did, but surely she will have the opportunity again.
Despite Canada’s disappointing bronze, the tournament was a success for all of the Beauts (and potential future Beauts). With the return of the national team players, there is an outside chance that fans will start hearing of NWHL teams beginning to build their rosters, as general managers will seek to lock down these superstars. All players in the league signing one-year contracts, and league leadership announced there will be no restricted free agency this offseason - everyone is up for grabs for the coming year. This exciting time begins...right...NOW!