Golden Tribute

U.S. Rallies To Capture U18 Women’s Title As Hero Honors Fallen Friend

Meet Natalie Snodgrass, the newest American hero.

In the title game of the 2016 Under-18 Women’s World Championship, it was Snodgrass who sparked the comeback victory against the Canadians. She scored both the tying goal and the overtime game-winner, earning recognition as the U.S. Player of the Game and an IIHF gold medal.

However, Snodgrass’s heroics didn’t end on the ice. Throughout the tournament, she displayed the number 96 on her stick to honor Patrick Schoonover, a 14-year-old hockey player from her hometown of Eastview, Minn., who lost his life in 2014 to previously-undiagnosed heart defects.

“It definitely felt like Patrick was there during the game with us, pushing us,” she said. “It was an awesome feeling to be able to honor him.”

She dedicated the win to Patrick, his family and to her hometown.

“It was amazing to win for my country and my community,” she said. “I hope I did them proud.”

After being swarmed by her teammates on the ice, Snodgrass was approached by Rob Koch, the team’s director of communications, to donate her stick to the Hockey Hall of Fame. At first, she was hesitant. It was, after all, the stick that scored the golden goal. She later laughed when she recounted asking her parents about it.

“I went up to my parents to tell them, because it was a brand new stick,” Snodgrass said. “My dad jokingly asked if we would be reimbursed for it.”

Snodgrass was happy to donate her stick, which will go on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame, celebrating both her performance and her tribute to Patrick.

This marked the second year in a row Team USA has taken home top honors at the Under-18 Women’s World Championship. Once again Team USA steamrolled the competition, allowing a single goal in the four games leading up to the gold-medal contest against Canada.

As is often the case when the two countries meet, the title game was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Canadians jump out to a 2-0 lead in front of a partisan crowd at the Meridian Centre in St. Catherines, Ontario.

“I was kind of getting nervous,” said Snodgrass, who credits her coach, Joel Johnson, for keeping the team relaxed and focused.

Team USA got onto the scoreboard in the closing minutes of the second period on a goal from Alex Woken, which cut Canada’s lead in half and revitalized the Americans.

During the intermission Snodgrass thought about how far the team had come to go home without the gold medal.

“In the back of my mind, I was thinking about how close we were to the gold medal and how much we wanted it,” she said. “I trusted in my teammates and my amazing coaches to pull out the win.”

And while Snodgrass came up big at the right time, she knows that she had a lot of help from her teammates and a guardian angel.

“It was the best night of my life all because I had the greatest teammates,” she said. “It was a team win and a team effort.”



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