By Andy Potts –IIHF.com
Ahead of the big Canada vs USA rivalry series that starts Tuesday in London, Ontario, Europe’s top teams continued their preparations for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship with the final stage of the Euro Hockey Tour in Russia. Elsewhere, France and Denmark enjoyed success at two Four Nation tournaments, while Korea celebrated the anniversary of last February’s Olympics by winning a Legacy Cup in Gangneung.
Russia triumphs on home ice
Russia hosted the final stage of the women’s Euro Hockey Tour and came out on top in a six-team tournament in Dmitrov in the Moscow Region. The Russians topped their three-team group ahead of Sweden and Switzerland, with an impressive 5-0 victory over the Swedes. That took the host to a gold-medal game against a Finland team that pipped them to Olympic bronze this time last year.
This time, though, Russia came out on top. The home team made a fast start and got an early lead thanks to Alyona Starovoitova’s goal in the fourth minute. Midway through the first period Anna Shokhina, who was named as the top forward in the competition, doubled the lead and prompted the Finns to call a time-out.
That pause helped Suomi. Susanna Tapani pulled a goal back late in the first frame and the second period was a tight contest that produced no further scoring. Finland began the final stanza with a storm on the Russian net, but Nadezhda Morozova held firm and Yekaterina Dobrodeyeva struck on the counter-attack to make it 3-1. A late power-play goal from Rosa Lindstedt kept the game in the balance until the final hooter, but Russia held on to take gold.
Third place went to Sweden after a 2-1 victory against the Czechs in Saturday’s play-off game. Adela Skrdlova gave the Czechs a seventh-minute lead, but second-period markers from Julia Ostlund and teenager Maja Nylen-Persson earned the Tre Kronor the win. Switzerland beat Germany 3-1 in the fifth-place play-off thanks to third-period goals from Dominique Ruegg and Isabel Waidacher.
France flexes its muscles ahead of the Worlds
The French women’s team enjoyed a confidence boost ahead of April’s Women’s World Championship debut after winning all three of its games in a four-team tournament in Epinal. Les Bleues started with a 3-0 success against Hungary then defeated Norway 4-2. In the third and final game of the competition, Slovakia took the lead in the 29th minute through Tatiana Istocyova. However, France replied within four minutes through Clara Rozier and went on to win it with two goals in the third period. Lara Escudero’s short-handed tally broke the deadlock on 48:01 and Athena Locatelli wrapped up the win with a third late in the game.
A similar competition in Austria saw Denmark come out on top. The Danes were impressive on defence throughout the event, allowing just three goals in three games. Cassandra Repstock-Romme, Amalia Joa and Lisa Jensen shared the goaltending duties and each allowed one goal. At the other end, Josefine Jakobsen (4+3) and Nicoline Jensen Sondergaard (1+6) led the scoring as Denmark enjoyed 3-1 wins over Austria and Italy and 5-1 success against Kazakhstan. The Italians took second place after defeating Austria in the last game of the competition in Tefls. Kazakhstan failed to get a single win.
The Netherlands hosted two exhibition games against Poland and won both. The first was a 2-1 victory and the second finished 5-1.
The Olympic legacy lives on in Korea
In Korea, celebrations of the first anniversary of the PyeongChang Olympics continued with the Women’s Olympic Legacy Cup. Read more about Korea’s Olympic legacy here.
The Korean women’s national team took on Latvia and a Hungary U25 roster with the top-two teams from the round-robin meeting again in the final on Tuesday. The host nation won both its group games, edging Latvia 2-1 on goals from Eunji Lee and Jongah Park before beating Hungary 6-0. However, the Hungarians bounced back to defeat Latvia 3-2 in a shoot-out and advance to the tournament final.
In that final, Korea brought home the gold medal. A 5-1 victory for the host nation secured a perfect record in this mini-tournament. The next challenge for the Koreans will be a Division IB World Championship campaign in Beijing, where the team is seeking to improve on last year’s second place finish as it looks to climb the world rankings in search of another Olympic appearance. At the same time, the Korean roster continues to develop talented youngsters. Heewon Kim, 18, and Jiyeon Choi, 20, were among the leading scorers for Korea in this tournament, highlighting the depth of emerging talent that Korea can call upon.