Amanda Thiele Gets Gold at IIHF U18 World Championships

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

All Milford High School athletes would be excited to push their team to victory, but rarely does that triumph come while representing their country. Those who play at the national level have opportunities to be part of a growing community of dedicated, passionate athletes. Milford High School Senior Amanda Thiele secured Team USA’s victory at the IIHF U18 World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, which took place from Dec. 26-Jan. 2. Years of preparation, countless practices and games, and tireless effort led to Thiele’s success. “[The Championship] has shown me that anything is possible,” she stated. “It pushes me to keep striving to get better.”

On a team with 22 other gifted athletes, Thiele was given the chance to represent her country while engaging with teammates whom she relied on. Throughout her experience, she cherished both winning gold and developing relationships with staff and players, and was confident in her abilities. “Practicing and playing against the best players in the world was my favorite part. They take the top players from each country to come play against each other,” she said. 

Before the five games Team USA participated in, Thiele and her teammates began their journey in Pezinok, Slovakia. There, they spent six days practicing in a pre-camp, scrimmaging the Slovakian team. During this time, each U.S. goalie got a period to play, contributing to the girls’ 11-0 win against Slovakia. After arriving in the event’s host city, Bratislava, Slovakia, the teams practiced until the first game on December 26th, against Finland. 

Thiele started in the net on December 27th, against the Russian team. There, she had 20 saves and won the game, 1-0, with a late goal in the third period. Combined with her team’s earlier success against Finland, the girls advanced straight to the semi-finals. 

On January 1st, Thiele was back on the ice to face the Russians once more. With 15 more saves and a final score of 3-0, she and her team moved onto the final game against Canada. The young international champions took home the gold on January 2nd against Canada, with a close win in overtime, 2-1. 

Thiele discovered her love for the sport at a young age, and was drawn to its uniqueness and pace. At just 5 years old, she was on the rink, building the foundation and skill set needed to stand out in the sport. “When I was younger, I would go to the rink and watch my older brother play,” she explained. Another MHS hockey player, Junior Aaron Guibord, shared a similar perspective: “My dad played hockey, and shortly after I could walk, he put me on skates and I loved it from the start.” These athletes are trained to be quick, agile, and fierce in a sport unlike any other, in hopes of gaining opportunities that develop recognition and success among coaches and colleges. 

As a goalie for her team, Thiele has harnessed the support of friends, family, teammates, and coaches to make her goals a reality. Years of training on her own, as well as with a specific goalie coach, have accentuated her talents on the ice. “My family inspires me and pushes me to do my best. My parents have been there through it all,” she explained. “Also, my teammates help me excel in hockey every single day.” Along with their guidance, Thiele is inspired by her competitiveness and love of the sport every time she steps on the rink, and believes she will further pursue her passions even more in the future. 

The process of getting accepted as a member of the 18U Women’s National team required patience and discipline. Thiele first began with tryouts, to determine what camp she would make. She made 16/17 (for 16 and 17-year-olds) before getting invited to the 18U camp; both were in St. Cloud, Minnesota. From there, she was invited to Festival, in Lake Placid, and made the series team. On the series team, she played a three game series against Canada’s team. Finally, Thiele was invited to join the Worlds team and ventured to Slovakia. Traveling for her sport is a constant, but the distance opened new doors and expanded Thiele’s reach in the hockey community. 

Thiele is not alone with her aspirations for hockey. Both Guibord and Traverse City West High School Junior Lily Wisniewski hope to play in college at a school that fits them well. Wisniewski, who plays for the Belle Tire team in Detroit, has competed against Thiele, and recognizes the willpower and strength that it takes to make such remarkable feats. Both athletes learn from others within the community of young females and aim to improve and in the sport they love. All three intend on growing friendships and bonds with other players, as many athletes across states, and even countries, are connected by shared experiences. 

The goal of playing in college, especially at a Division-I school, instills a strong work ethic in all optimistic hockey players; the hard work needed to achieve this is followed by personal and athletic growth, on and off the ice. “My goal in the future is to become the starter at Ohio State,” Thiele shared. “I plan to go to Ohio State in the summer to skate, train off the ice, and get some school done.” Already committed to play for Ohio State, Thiele is excited by the challenges and differences that skating for a D1 school will bring. 

Simply put, most athletes continue to play because they strive to excel and enjoy the sport of their choice; for Thiele, it is no different: “I love to play hockey. When I’m on the ice I feel in my element as it challenges me to be the best I can be.”