The 2021 Women’s World Championship has concluded after a long two-year hiatus. In a thrilling comeback victory against the Americans, Team Canada claimed their first gold medal dating back to 2012. Following the final buzzer, the annual awards were handed out at centre ice to the most valuable player, the tournament’s best forward, defender and goaltender. After each international event, the IIHF conducts a vote amongst its accredited media to determine the media all-star team, which is comprised of three forwards, two defenders and one goaltender.
Best Forward and MVP: Melodie Daoust
Playing at only her second-ever Women’s World Championship, forward Melodie Daoust took centre stage at Winsport Arena. The 29-year-old led the charge for Team Canada with a team-leading 12 points in seven games to bring home the gold. The Valleyfield, QC native racked up six goals, while adding six assists. She led her team in both goals and points, while finishing tied for first place across all teams in goals and second place in assists. She also led the entire tournament in overall points. Daoust was ultimately named MVP of the tournament for her efforts in helping guide Canada through their perfect quest to becoming world champions.
Best Defender: Lee Stecklein
Lee Stecklein had a tournament to remember. Her game only seems to have gotten stronger over the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in regards to her offensive game. The 2021 World Championships were Stecklein’s sixth time partaking in the tournament and it was clearly her best effort yet. The former Minnesota Whitecaps defender was the highest scoring defender to hit the ice at the tournament, tallying seven points in as many games. Not only was she the highest scoring defender in the tournament, but she was Team USA’s leading scorer as well. She earned the praise of new head coach Joel Johnson, who hailed her as one of the team’s best players.
Best Goaltender: Anni Keisala
At just 24-years-old, Anni Keisala is already considered by many in women’s hockey circles to be one of the best goalies in the world, let alone Europe. She only proved this case through the 10-day World Championships. The backstop played in five games for Team Finland and amassed a staggering save percentage of .948, with a goals-against-average of 1.43. The Lohja, Finland native only allowed seven goals through the tournament. As well, the long-tenured national team member also posted two of her country’s three shutouts. Keisala’s success between the pipes was a key factor in Finland’s first place ranking in both goal keeping, as well as penalty killing. Prior to 2021, Keisala had been with the Finnish National Team at the World Championships on two other occasions, having only played in one official tournament game.
Media All-Star Team
Aside from Melodie Daoust, Lee Stecklein and Anni Keisala, two other forwards and one defender were named to the all-star team, as voted by the media.
Forward: Natalie Spooner
Spooner is no stranger to the Women’s World Championships, having now played with Hockey Canada in eight tournaments. The forward has already found herself on the all-star team once before, but this time, is ultimately more special with her efforts in helping guide her team to a gold medal. The former Toronto Furies captain was among the highest-scoring players in the tournament, as she racked up nine points across seven contests. Only Brianne Jenner and Melodie Daoust finished the tournament with more points than Spooner did.
Forward: Petra Nieminen
Finland’s Petra Nieminen certainly had herself a tournament to remember. The forward’s goal scoring prowess helped her team secure the bronze medal after a slow start to the Women’s World Championships. Nieminen tied Daoust for the tournament lead in goals, recording six markers in seven games and added one assist to maintain a point-per-game pace. The Tampere, Finland native was her country’s highest scorer on a team that struggled to find goals outside of their top-six, which resulted in Nieminen’s abilities to be more heavily relied on in their quest for a medal. At just 22-years-old, the five-foot-seven centre has a long career ahead of her and is already one of Finland’s best and most exciting players in the system.
Defender: Erin Ambrose
Alongside Lee Stecklein, Canadian defender Erin Ambrose was unsurprisingly voted by the media to the all-star team. Ambrose is known for her play at both ends of the ice and she proved why once again. The Keswick, Ontario native recorded five points in seven games, while adding to that a Plus/Minus rating of +10. 2021 was Ambrose’ third time at the tournament, and as a top-two defender at the tournament, she has surely proved that she is ready for her first-ever chance to represent Team Canada at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Ambrose is one of the smartest defenders in the world and has an intelligent and patient style of play that has propelled her to the top of her game.