Month: March 2018 (page 1 of 2)

Gold #3 for Malaysia Men’s team wins on home ice as well

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Winning gold is nice. Winning it with three different national teams in a season is great. And doing so three times on home ice, that’s sweet. Malaysia ends its first season with a full-size ice rink with all it could ask for in the three IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments the country participated.

The season with the new Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadion at the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur started in August with the arena’s inauguration at the Southeast Asian Games where the home team took bronze.

Since then the Malaysians have seized on their opportunity to practice and play the sport on a regular-size ice sheet for the first time. The juniors beat countries usually stronger than them in senior hockey such as the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines to win the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia. Earlier this month the women’s team won the Challenge Cup of Asia’s Division I competition on home ice as well and now the men repeated with Division I gold.

Malaysia confirmed its top-seed position and swept through the preliminary round with wins against Indonesia (12-0), Macau (7-1) and India (10-1). It then beat Indonesia 12-4 in the semi-final where it faced Macau.

Macau, a special administrative region of China that was part of Portugal until 1999, had a bad start into the tournaments with losses against India (3-0) and Malaysia (7-1). But the players who normally compete on a small-size rink in an amusement park improved as the tournament went on. They beat Indonesia 5-2 and then avenged the opening-loss by beating India 4-2 in the semi-final game.

Macau opened a 2-0 lead when Chong Man Kong and Kim Hei Mok scored two first-period goals within a span of 43 seconds. India tied the game with third-period goals from forward Rigzin Norboo and Tsewang Dorjay but a five-minute major penalty against Rinchen Tundup with 5:52 left was the beginning of the end for India’s dreams of the final. Chon Kong Leong and Chou Tek Fong scored power-play goals to lead Macau to a 4-2 win.

The final game was a fast-solved affair. Three goals between 3:49 and 4:15 gave Malaysia a three-goal lead and the home team was never in danger of losing it, eventually skating away with a 7-2 gold medal game victory against Macau to win the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I.

Indonesia took the bronze medals after beating India for third place, 4-1. Ronald Wijaya scored two goals including the opening marker in the first period and the fourth with 19 seconds left in the game.

As the tournament, also the scoring stats were dominated by Malaysia with the top-five entries. Ban Kin Loke was the scoring leader with 19 points (10+9) in five games, same as tournament MVP Chee Ming Bryan Lim (8+11). Macau’s Chong Man Kong was the best non-Malaysian scorer, sixth with six points (3+3). Rinchen Tundup, the “Indian Gretzky” wearing number 99, was sixth in goal scoring with four goals.

The season in the series of Asian tournaments will end with the top division of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia that begins on Tuesday. It will be the first IIHF tournament ever played in the Philippines. Mongolia, Thailand, Singapore, Kuwait and the Philippines will battle it out at the SM Mall of Asia Ice Skating Rink in Manila.

PH ice hockey team to compete in Challenge Cup of Asia

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By ABS-CBN News

The Philippine ice hockey team hopes to make the country proud when it competes in the 2018 Challenge Cup of Asia next week. 

The Philippines will host the Challenge Cup of Asia on April 3-8, with all games to be held at the SM Skating Rink at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City. 

 This is the first time that the country will sponsor the annual international ice hockey tournament that is sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). 

“We are very proud and excited to host, for the first time, the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia which has been held in different countries since it was founded in 2008,” said Chris Sy, the president of the Federation of Ice Hockey Philippines. 

This also marks the first time that the Philippines will compete in the men’s top division of the annual tournament, along with some of the best ice hockey teams in the region. 

Riding the momentum of its gold-medal finish in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine ice hockey team is eyeing a podium finish in the five-nation tournament.

They play Thailand on April 3, Kuwait on April 5, Mongolia on April 6, and Singapore on April 8. All of the Philippine team’s games are scheduled at 7 p.m.

Other Challenge Cup of Asia games will feature Singapore vs Mongolia on April 3 (3:30 p.m.), Mongolia vs Kuwait on April 4 (7 p.m.), Thailand vs Singapore on April 5 (3:30 p.m.), Mongolia vs Thailand on April 7 (3:30 p.m.), Kuwait vs Singapore on April 7 (7 p.m.), and Kuwait vs Thailand on Aril 8 (3:30 p.m.).

During the Challenge Cup, the Olympic-size ice skating rink at the SM Skating Mall of Asia will be the battleground of the competing ice hockey teams. It is equipped with complete facilities such as a digital scoreboard, players’ boxes, scorekeeper and penalty boxes, locker rooms, and a 200-seater stands located around the rink.

Spain Wins Women’s Worlds Division IIB Gold

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Spain Women claim Gold on home ice.

By National Teams of ice Hockey

Spain’s women took top spot in 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B, by winning promotion to Division II Group A for the first time ever. And the gold medal on home ice. Spain won all Five games beating New Zealand 5-2 on the last day. 

Alba Gonzalo and Elena Alvarez took best goalkeeper and best defenceman In the tournament, Spain only gave up 5 goals in five games.

Taiwan’s women’s national ice hockey team stunned hockey fans and themselves when it finished second in Group B of Division II of the 2018 Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships this past week.

Having just qualified for Group B last year, Taiwan’s team of mostly college students in their early 20s and a high school seniors won four of its five games.

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Taiwan’s women’s national ice hockey team stunned Division II Group B.

Woden Sun, general secretary of the Chinese Taipei Ice Hockey Federation was quoted in a phone interview Sunday “that for a country that barely sees snow, the national team’s success was a true Cinderella story”.

“The second place finish came as an even bigger surprise given the fact that the team has only existed since 2014 and gets an average of only three hours of practice a week on ice” he said.

“There is only one standard ice rink in Taiwan,  the Taipei Arena, and the women can only practice there after the arena is closed at 9:30 p.m. once a week,” Sun said.

“On other occasions, they practice on roller blades at a roller rink”, he said.

The team now has a 16-1 record in international competitions.

After a 4th place finish in last years tournament Iceland Improved this year by winning the Bronze Medal.

Iceland’s Silvia Bjorgvinsdottir was name the the best forward of the tournament.

Sheffield Steelers’ Kirk takes step closer to living the NHL ‘dream

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Eighteen-year-old Liam Kirk is hoping to become the first
British-born and British-trained player to earn a place with a team
in the National Hockey League.

By Phil Harrison – Yorkshire Post

For several months now teenager Liam Kirk has had to deal with being British ice hockey’s great hope.

Since the turn of the year interest in the 18-year-old Sheffield Steelers’ forward has intensified from teams in the National Hockey League, the world’s premier competition.

Scouts from more than 20 NHL teams have taken the time to follow up word-of-mouth recommendations and video of the Rotherham-born forward in action. They made the trip to the UK to see first-hand what all the talk is about to report back to their bosses in North America.

Clearly there is significant interest in his future. On Thursday Kirk was informed that he was being extended an invitation to the NHL’s annual Scouting Combine event in Buffalo, New York, in May.

There Kirk will have the opportunity to talk with all 31 teams as well as go through a series of rigorous skill and physical tests from which the teams will then take the information to inform their decision-making when it comes to the NHL Entry Draft event in Dallas on June 22-23.

Steelers coach Paul Thompson says he will be “flabbergasted” if Kirk – ranked as a ‘C’ Prospect, thereby placing him in the fourth, fifth and sixth round of picks – is not drafted.

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Liam Kirk in action for Sheffield Steers against Cardiff.

Should he find himself as one of the chosen ones and subsequently go on to play in the NHL – or ‘The Show’ as it is often referred to – it will make Kirk the first British-born and British- trained player to do so.

Other British-born players have played in the NHL over the years, but they have largely done so after their training and development took place outside of the UK.

In recent memory, Tony Hand and Colin Shields were two British-born and trained players to be drafted although neither made it through to the top.

Therefore being drafted does not guarantee anything, as a number of Kirk’s current Steelers’ team-mates will testify, but there is a clear determination in the youngster to seize the opportunity he has in front of him, with one aim being a role model for other British youngsters playing what is, for many in the UK, a minority sport.

Every year British youngsters head away from the UK to improve their game, either to Europe or North America. But Kirk, despite opportunities to go abroad, has remained in Britain, his performances for GB junior teams first bringing him to the attention of Thompson at Sheffield.

After a week’s training with the Steelers, Thompson knew he wanted to sign up Kirk, along with fellow teenage prospect Cole Shudra.

Both were given three-year apprenticeships – this season being joined by Bradford-born forward Kieran Brown on a similar deal – and it is Kirk who has emerged the quickest, with the Steelers resigned to seeing the youngster continue his career and hockey education elsewhere, most probably in North America.

For Kirk, the speculation and headlines that have followed him around in recent months are something he has taken in his stride.

“When you’re a kid from Britain playing hockey people laugh at you if you mention the idea of playing in the NHL, or even getting drafted,” said Kirk, who has had conversations in recent weeks with representatives from the Chicago Blackhawks, the San Jose Sharks, the Detroit Red Wings and the Edmonton Oilers, among others.

“So all I’ve done is try to keep improving in the hope of making it a reality. Everybody has dreams and that is one of mine.

“It’s the same for a kid starting out playing football, they want to play in the Premier League – it’s no different for me as a hockey player.

“It is a dream of mine, but I don’t see it as pressure, just an exciting opportunity. I’ve just got to keep playing hockey.

“It’s one thing to be playing in a great league like the EIHL in the UK, but to get the chance to go and play in the best league in the world is what you dream of as a kid, so I’ve just got to keep working hard to try and make it happen.”

Kirk’s progression is something of which Thompson is rightly proud and, although the youngster’s intended three-year apprenticeship will essentially remain incomplete, the former GB head coach insists Kirk is fully deserving of his opportunity.

“Since the turn of the year Liam really has elevated his game to another level,” said Thompson. “He’s been fantastic, every time he’s on the ice there is something happening – he’s using his speed and all his skill – and he is, without doubt, one of our top forwards right now.

“He has thrived on the extra responsibility we have given him, but he has earned that responsibility. We always play people on the back of how they are performing and Liam has taken that responsibility and added to it and improved every day.”

This season Kirk has posted 16 points in 59 appearances, nine of them goals. But it is not just the production from one so young in a senior league that has brought him to the attention of team bosses in North America; it is more his mature, skilful performances.

NHL director of central scouting Dan Marr believes that Kirk’s achievement in creating a regular spot on the Steelers’ roster this season, with his ice time increasing as the season has progressed, has made him a player worth investigating further.

Essentially, it is the job of Marr and his staff to compile the Entry Draft List and tell clubs which players they are going to be recommending, leaving it up to the team bosses to decide who they wish to look at in more depth.

“There have been a number of clubs who have gone over to watch him play,” said Marr, “and what he has shown is that he has got some very natural instincts for the game – he’s always able to read the play and be in the right place at the right time. That type of hockey sense is hard to teach.

“He’s also got very good awareness with his vision which, again, is down to his hockey sense.

“But he’s certainly shown that he’s got the playing skills and the finesse skills of passing and being a playmaker and he has good offensive instincts.”

Marr said Kirk would get a further chance to impress NHL teams at the Scouting Combine prior to the draft, but said his performances for the GB national team at next month’s World Championships would also provide him with a chance to shine.

“There will be a lot of scouts attending that event to see him play,” added Marr.

“Any exposure he gets by playing with the GB national team is a feather in the cap for any 18-year-old.

“What makes Liam unique is that he is doing it in a non-traditional hockey market, as far as a market where NHL prospects are scouted.

“Liam seems to really have a passion for the game and is doing what it takes to get to where he’s hopefully going to thrive at it one day.

“I think he’s very excited that he could be somebody who hails from Great Britain and goes on to play in the NHL.

“That ambition in itself will garner respect from the NHL personnel because you certainly want to have those kind of driven and motivated people in your organisation.”

Sophie gunning for GB ice hockey gold

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By Jon Moreno – Isle of Wright County Press

ISLE of Wight ice hockey talent Sophie Herbert will be wearing the national shirt with pride at this year’s world championships in Slovenia following her selection for the Great Britain team.

The 24 year old forward from Ryde, who plays for the Bracknell Queen Bees, went through a long selection process up and down the country to make the 22-strong GB squad for the Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships in Maribor, Slovenia, announced last week.

She said: “I was over the moon to hear I had made the team. This year’s trials were extremely competitive and it was great to be on the ice with such good talent.

“I couldn’t be more excited to travel to Slovenia and compete in the championships. It is always a great honour to put on a GB shirt and to represent the country.

“This year has been an incredibly tough year for me to train and prepare for it. Unfortunately, our home rink in Ryde has been closed and has been completely unused since October 2016.

“This has had a detrimental effect on not only myself, but for all the Island’s skaters. It has been tough having no way to train on ice, yet I have so much passion and desire to bring home a gold medal for my country.

“For me, I only hope I can encourage athletes to pursue and follow their dreams — no matter what the circumstances are.”

Sophie, part of the Isle of Wight Council’s talented athlete programme, grew up skating and playing ice hockey at Ryde.

“Ice hockey has always been a huge part of my life. I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with this sport, played for ten different hockey teams and taken part in four world championships, winning a bronze medal and two silvers,” she added.

“I owe a lot to this sport and I couldn’t be more grateful to have this opportunity to play for my country.

“Ice hockey for me has always been a sport of determination, passion and pure grit, and bringing home the gold medal is all that is in my sights.”

GB, looking to build on their bronze medal in South Korea last year, will compete against countries in the tournament, which starts on March 31.

Portugal Finishes 2nd place In Holland

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Portugal captured second place at the VII Gladiators Ice Hockey tournament that took place this weekend in the Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Portugal national team finished second in the tournament with 15 points one point behind the champions Kuwait Mooseheads.

On the last day of the tournament Portugal picked up a draw against the French side Les Crocodiles (1-1) and two victors against Nijmegen Gladiators 2 (6-0) and  UK Lions 2 (9-0). The national finish with record of 4 wins 0 losses and 3 ties.

This is the 2nd trophy for Portugal, the first was in Andorra at the development cup a bronze medal.

Next up will be the Mr. Taxi Tournament in Spain.

Islington’s Kerbouche keen to build up ice hockey in his native Algeria at Arab Club Cup

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Head of Algerian hockey Karim Kerbouche.

By Jacob Ranson – East London Advertiser

The 35-year-old, who is head of Hockey Algeria and led the country’s first-ever representative team to a creditable third-place finish in the inaugural African Club Cup in 2016, is looking to keep progressing the nation in his beloved sport.

Kerbouche will be taking his Algerian team (Algiers Corsaires) to compete in the Arab Club Cup which also features Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and the UAE, and is due to be televised on Abu Dhabi sports channel early next month.

“It’s a nice place to go, I lived there for a little while, and I’m excited to be going back there,” Kerbouche said.

“This will be the first time I’m taking my club out there and it should be fun, there is a good amount of teams and the competition should be good, I’m expecting some decent players to be at the tournament.

“Especially from Lebanon their team should be packed full of Canadian juniors with Lebanese descent so it should be a decent level of hockey and it will be a good chance to publicise it in the international media.”

Kerbouche, who attended Central Foundation School in Bow, managed to obtain funding for his team to represent Algeria and scored their first-ever goal, against Morocco in 2008.

He went on to play as a forward for Lee Valley Lions and Streatham Redskins in the English National Ice Hockey League – as well as working for leisure provider GLL at Streatham ice rink.

At that same time, Kerbouche continued his determined efforts to spread the growth of the sport in his parents’ homeland – quite a challenge with only one permanent ice rink and minimal government backing.

And he is now hoping the tournament will be a success, adding: “I’m hoping for it to be an annual thing or a semi-annual thing so it happens every couple of years. There’s a lot of expenses involved, but it’s definitely something I’d like to continue.”

Kerbouche is also keen to keep building up the sport, saying: “There is an appetite for it, it’s just the logistics of getting equipment and coaches out there as I can only be out there for a certain amount of time a year.”

Georgiev impresses with Rangers, joins wave of Russian goalies to NHL

By Kevin Woodley – NHL.com

New York Rangers rookie Alexandar Georgiev is the latest in a line of Russian goaltenders to turn heads in the NHL.

He is 3-2-0 with a .929 save percentage in his first six NHL games, including a win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

It wasn’t always that way for Georgiev as a goalie; just as goalies from the Russian system have not always been in fashion in the NHL.

here have been nine such goalies picked in the NHL Draft the past four years, compared to 22 from Russia or the former Soviet Union in the previous 30 years.

In the NHL, Russian goalies are among the elite at the position. Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets became the first Russian to win the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL in 2013, Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche was the Vezina runner-up to Tuukka Rask in 2014, and Bobrovsky won it again in 2017. Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning is considered a Vezina front-runner this season, leading the League in wins (40).

Three of the top goaltending prospects in the world are Russian: Ilya Samsonov of the Washington Capitals, Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders and Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers.

Things have changed greatly for these goalies in the past decade, and Georgiev is a great example of their development.

Georgiev doesn’t have the fondest memory of his first experiences stopping pucks as a 7-year-old in Russia.

Maybe it’s because he rarely got to stop any.

Georgiev, 22, was born in Bulgaria but moved with his family to Russia soon after (he is a dual citizen and has played for Russia internationally). When he started playing goalie, he was placed with players three years older.

“The guys would be practicing and I would be off to the side doing shuffles from one end to the other and back the whole hour. I was crying after some practices, it was so tough,” said Georgiev, who eventually worked his way into practice after mastering fundamentals. “I would be happy to make one save in that practice. I would celebrate because those guys were so ahead of me.”

Georgiev’s path from Russia to the Rangers was hardly a straight line. It may not have been possible without an early detour to Finland to find more modernized coaching.

“By the time I was 10, the goalie coaches in Russia were not up to date, so they would teach you stuff [Vladislav] Tretiak would do, like skate saves,” Georgiev said, referring to the legendary Soviet goalie. “It probably improved my skating a lot, but at that point we started looking for something abroad also and my dad found a goalie school run in Finland by (former Columbus Blue Jackets goalie) Fredrik Norrena.”

Taipei’s U18 girls win gold

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

One year ago the New Zealand U18 women’s team joined the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia and won it. This year they had a new competitor with the Chinese Taipei U18 women’s national team that finished the event with gold.

The tournament also included the senior teams from Singapore and Thailand while four more teams played in the Division I competition. Both tournaments were held at the new Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

The team from Chinese Taipei started with a 5-3 win over last year’s silver medallist Thailand before playing the New Zealanders in a game that eventually determined the gold medallist. A hat trick from Thai captain Nuchanat Ponglerkdee wasn’t enough against the strong Taiwanese offence.

Also against New Zealand the Chinese Taipei U18 team tried to dictate the game from the beginning. Two late goals in the first period paved the win against the junior Kiwis. With a penalty against New Zealand just expired, Yun-Chu Huang gave Chinese Taipei the lead with 92 seconds left and with three seconds left before the first intermission Ting-Yu Hsu made it 2-0. Two third-period goals from Hsuan Wang – the 14-year-old was the youngest player of the tournament her after one month younger linemate Ya-Ching Jan – sealed the 4-1 victory and gold.

On the last day Chinese Taipei beat Singapore 12-1 to finish the tournament with a clean record. The New Zealand U18 women’s team beat Thailand 1-0 with Beth Scott scoring the only goal and Lilly Forbes earning a shutout with 25 saves to earn silver. The Thai had their only win against Singapore, 10-1.

Wang was named Best Forward of the tournament while the other awards went to Thailand. Wasunun Angkulpattanasuk, who had the best save percentage of all starting goalies with 94.12%, was named best goaltender while Sirikarn Jittresin was the best defender. Nuchanat Ponglerkdee, who led the tournament in points (8) and goals (6), was named Most Valuable Player. She scored six of her team’s goals and was on the ice for all 13 goals.

For six of the Chinese Taipei juniors the international season will continue soon as Chinese Taipei is the promoted team in the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B that will be played in Valdemoro close to the Spanish capital of Madrid.

Driven New Zealand women’s team comes to train in ‘hockey heaven’

The Globe and Mail

By J.P. Moczulski – The Globe and Mail

New Zealand’s national women’s hockey team wanted an experience that would challenge, prepare and inspire them before they compete in the world championship.

So the team members chose to spend 10 days in Toronto, training in a Canadian university arena, playing in a big Toronto tournament, shopping in Canadian equipment stores and attending every pro hockey game they could get into.

There are only six arenas in all of New Zealand, and 250 registered female hockey players. It’s a country where rugby, cricket and soccer rule, and the word ‘hockey’ more commonly means field hockey. But yes, New Zealand has a national women’s ice-hockey team, better known there as the Ice Fernz.

This team of women, ranging in age from 16 to 27, doesn’t play in the same events as teams such as Canada, the United States and Finland, who just competed in the Pyeongchang Olympics. New Zealand plays a few levels down, and is heading to Valdemoro, Spain, to play in the Division II, Group B International Ice Hockey Federation’s women’s world championships.

Yet the passion these Ice Fernz exhibit for hockey is up there with any Olympic medalist. Every player on this 22-woman team spent 5,000 New Zealand dollars (about $4,700 Canadian) of her own money to get this intensive Canadian hockey experience and then go off to compete in Spain. It’s necessary for a squad that has such limited opportunities to train back home.

During this visit, they’ve held daily training sessions at York University, played exhibition games against local Toronto women’s teams and competed in one of the city’s largest female hockey showcases, the Leaside Wildcats March Break Madness Tournament. They watched the Toronto Maple Leafs and Marlies as well as the Calgary Inferno and Markham Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. They visited the CN Tower and the Hockey Hall of Fame, and marvelled at the massive assortment of equipment at Pro Hockey Life.

“It’s like hockey heaven,” said Helen Murray, a 27-year-old neuroscientist who captains the Ice Fernz. “We don’t have enough competition back home.

“Coming over here to play teams who really challenge us is what we need before worlds. These teams are probably better than the ones we will play in Spain.”

The Ice Fernz competed in a women’s Senior A division at the Leaside tournament, but did not pick up a win against teams from Brampton and Durham.

Still, the New Zealand program has seen huge improvement since it formed in 2005.

It has benefited from a relationship forged over the past several years with the Leaside Girls Hockey Association, which has played host to 21 girls from New Zealand on hockey exchanges since 2012.

Those 21 girls have each come to Toronto for between six to eight weeks during a summer break from school (November to February) and are billeted by a Leaside family while they register and play a stint for a Leaside Wildcats team, an association of 1,600 players that touts itself as the world’s largest female hockey association. Nine members of this New Zealand team participated in that Leaside exchange at some point.

The idea to help other countries bolster their female hockey talent came to the Leaside association after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics when Canada and the United States outscored their opponents by a combined 88-4.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said at the time, “we cannot continue without improvement.”

“We wanted to do our part to help,” said Andrew Smyth, a board member for the Leaside Wildcats, who is himself a New Zealand ex-pat. “It’s a logical way to help other countries, by sharing the kind of hockey experience that our Canadian girls get here. If other Canadian girls hockey associations want to help another country, we’d love to share our playbook with them and show them how we’ve arranged it.”

In the most recent IIHF women’s rankings, New Zealand is No. 31. At the worlds, it will face nations including Spain, Iceland, Turkey, Romania and Taiwan. Yet, the players say like any other women’s hockey team in the world, they, too, were glued to the recent Olympic gold medal final where the United States beat Canada in a heart-stopping shootout.

“The goal some day is Olympic participation,” said the Ice Fernz general manager Jonathan Albright, a Montreal native who moved to New Zealand in 2002. “The skill level of this team has grown immensely.

“It’s hard to gauge our progress because other countries are getting better too. I know there’s not a lot of attention on teams outside of Canada and the U.S., but other nations are putting in a lot of effort and they’re definitely growing a lot.”

Last year, New Zealand earned a bronze medal at its DII, Group B world championships, and this year it is aiming for Gold.

“Every little girl that plays hockey dreams of the Olympics no matter where you live in the world,” Murray said. “If we win gold in our world championships, we would move up one more step. We’d still be a long way from competing in the top division with Canada and the U.S., but it would be a big step for us.”

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