For the first time, France is going to the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship.
Two days before the United States regained its world title with an overtime victory over Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team in Buffalo, N.Y., the French ensured they will be part of the 2016 tournament in St. Catharines, Ont., by winning gold on home ice at the Division I championship.
France had long been competitive in Division I, winning three silver medals (2009, 2010, 2014) and one bronze (2013), but had not stood atop the podium and earned promotion until a perfect run in Vaujany.
The key game for the French was their very first; Estelle Duvin scored on the power play in regulation time and had the lone goal in the shootout, and Margaux Mameri turned away all three Norwegian shooters to give France a 2-1 victory.
After wins over Slovakia (8-3), Germany (4-3) and Austria (5-1), the French needed just a single point in their finale against Hungary to edge Norway and clinch their spot in the top division for the first time.
But Hungary struck quickly, with Kinga Jokai-Szilagyi scoring just 4:44 in for an early 1-0 lead.
It took France until the 16:15 mark of the second period to tie the game off the stick of Jade Vix, and Vix was the hero with just 5:01 left in the third, scoring the winner and sending France to St. Catharines.
Duvin was the offensive star for the French; she led the tournament with 13 points in five games, and scored more goals (nine) than any other player had points. Her performance was highlighted by a four-goal, six-point effort against Slovakia, and a hat trick against Austria.
Not surprisingly, Duvin was named Top Forward by the IIHF directorate.
France will join Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship next January.