Team Canada celebrates its gold-medal win Sunday (Jan. 13) at the 2019 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Obihiro, Japan. Surrey’s Jennifer Gardiner is pictured in the back row, second from left. (Photo: Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)

HOCKEY: Surrey’s Gardiner among Team Canada’s golden girls in Japan

Cloverdale player wins with nation’s U18 team in OT victory over U.S. squad

Surrey’s Jennifer Gardiner is among Team Canada’s golden girls after winning the International Ice Hockey Federation’s U18 Women’s World Championships in Japan on Sunday (Jan. 13).

In the city of Obihiro, the Canadians beat Team U.S.A. 3-2 when Ontario’s Maddi Wheeler drove hard to the net and jammed in her own rebound just 94 seconds into overtime.

It was fifth world title for Canada’s U18 women’s team, and first since 2014.

Gardiner, a five-foot-five forward with the Greater Vancouver Comets of the B.C. Female Major Midget League, played four games with Canada during the championship tourney. She didn’t register a point, but netted a pair of goals in two pre-tourney games.

“Thank you @HockeyCanada @HC_Women for an unforgettable 17 days,” Gardiner tweeted after the game. “It was an honour to represent Canada alongside my 22 teammates, truly a surreal feeling to bring home the gold.”

Gardiner, a Grade 12 student at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, has committed to play for the University of Ohio hockey team next winter. She’s due home on a flight from Japan at 6:20 p.m. Monday (Jan. 14).

• RELATED STORY: HOCKEY: Olympic dreams for Surrey teen now with Canada’s U18 team, from Sept. 2018.

In Sunday’s gold-medal game, Wheeler picked up the puck in the neutral zone after getting a pass from Kendall Cooper, of Burlington, Ont.

“We were on a 4-on-3 power play so I had some space,” Wheeler said in a Hockey Canada release. “I drove wide and picked up my own rebound. We had a good net drive, so it was wide open.”

Other Team Canada goals were scored by Danielle Serdachny (Edmonton/Pursuit of Excellence) and Anne Cherkowski (Vernon/Pursuit of Excellence). Goaltender Raygan Kirk (Ste. Anne, Man./Eastman) finished with 25 saves in the win and earned tournament Most Valuable Player honours.

“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. “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.”

In late December, prior to flying to Japan, Team Canada practiced at Delta Planet Ice and played an exhibition game against the Valley West Giants’ Minor Midget squad.

In February, Gardiner has been selected to play for Team B.C. at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.

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