If you were told there was a 14-year-old playing at the U18 World Women’s Hockey Championship, you’d probably think she might be a little tentative and just happy to be there.
But Nela Lopusanova is no ordinary 14-year-old. The Slovakian forward is not only contributing, she’s tearing it up with her extreme puck skill, and becoming an internet sensation in the process.
In Thursday’s quarterfinal against host Sweden, Lopusanova capped off her week of excellence, pulling off the lacrosse-style goal they call, “The Michigan.” She casually strolled behind Sweden’s net, scooped up the puck to rest on the blade of her stick, then deposited the puck into the top corner of the net. In doing so, she became the first female player at the IIHF level – of any age – to score a Michigan goal.
Unfortunately for Lopusanova, that was the only goal of the game for Slovakia, which was eliminated with a 6-1 loss to Sweden. She leaves the tournament with the goal scoring lead at 7 and the points lead at 10. And her Michigan goal wasn’t the only one that brought fans out of their seats.
Lopusanova had two goals and an assist in a 6-3 win over Japan, then a hat trick and an assist in a 4-1 win over the Swiss. She closed out the preliminary round with a goal and an assist in a 4-3 win against Czechia.
Not surprisngly, Lopusanova is also an amazing ball hockey player and her hands are just as soft and quick in that sport.
Lopusanova is even more dominant with MsHKM Zilina in Slovakia’s top women’s league, where she has totalled a jaw-dropping 10 goals and 15 assists this season…in six games! Is she the next great player in women’s hockey? Who knows? But it’s downright scary to think she may still be a decade away from being in her prime as a player and that she’ll be eligible to play in this tournament for at least three more years.
By Steve Warne