Category: Women (page 1 of 8)

Kim St-Pierre breaks ground for female goalies in Hockey Hall of Fame

Kim St-Pierre celebrates after winning gold at the 2006 Olympics

By Donna Spencer · The Canadian Press

Netminder posted a 1.17 goals-against average and save percentage of .939 over her 13-year career.

A young Kim St-Pierre saw magic in that plain, brown goaltending equipment.

But she lost the first game she put it on.

Parents Louise and Andre encouraged her to continue, even though there were no girls’ teams in Chateauguay, Que., in the 1980s.

The first female goaltender — and eighth woman — to earn induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame played with and against boys her first decade in the sport.

“Being the only girl, it was never easy,” St-Pierre said. “I had to really fight every day not to become the best, but to play amongst all the boys.

“It made me the person I am today, to never give up and always be ready every time I had a chance to step on the ice.”

Her first foray into women’s hockey with the McGill University Martlets coincided with the debut of women’s hockey at the 1998 Winter Olympics.

“My transition to the women’s game, I was about to quit hockey, but thank god for McGill University giving me a chance to play for another five years and transition to the women’s game,” St-Pierre said. “It made me have a chance to be a part of Team Canada down the road.

“It was a dream for me to be on the that team one day.”

St-Pierre earned three Olympic gold medals and five world championships with the Canadian women’s hockey team.

The 41-year-old is Canada’s all-time leader in games (83), wins (64) and shutouts (29).

St-Pierre posted a career 1.17 goals-against average and save percentage of .939 over her 13-year career with the national team.

She enters the Hall alongside NHL players Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson and builder Ken Holland in the class of 2020 announced Wednesday.

“Hopefully this will let people know about the accolades Kim has,” Canadian teammate and goaltender Sami Jo Small said.

“She’s often overlooked because she’s quiet, because she’s not really in the public eye. She just had this quiet resolve to her.

“She just went out her business winning lots of games and playing for Team Canada for a long time, which as a goaltender is not an easy feat.”

St-Pierre was Canada’s starter in world championship finals from 2001 to 2008. She was named the tournament’s top goalie in both 2001 and 2004.

Her 25-save performance in the 2002 Olympic women’s hockey final was electric.

Canada claimed gold in an emotional 3-2 win over the United States in Salt Lake City, after losing the final to the Americans in 1998.

St-Pierre was named the Canadian Women’s Hockey League top goaltender three times in her career. She twice hoisted the Clarkson Cup championship trophy with the Montreal Stars.

She grew up idolizing Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, as well as Manon Rheaume who appeared in a pair of NHL pre-season games with the Tampa Bay Lightning when St-Pierre was a teenager.

Angela James and Cammi Granato were the first women the Hall inducted in 2010, followed by Geraldine Heaney (2013), Angela Ruggiero (2015), Danielle Goyette (2017), Jayna Hefford (2018), Hayley Wickenheiser (2019) and now St-Pierre.

“When I first found out women would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame with Cammi Granato and Angela James, it made it so special for me to be a women’s hockey player and now to join and be the eighth women in the Hockey Hall of Fame makes it very, very special,” St-Pierre said.

“My message for all the young goalies is to never give up and to always keep it fun.”

Trailblazing Grkovic

Since making her debut at the at the U18 Women’s Championships in 2014, Jelena Grkovic has played an integral part in Hungary´s spectacular rise to top of the women’s game

By Henrik Manninen –

Growing up as the lone female player in an entire country is a daunting challenge in a team sport. But Jelena Grkovic has proved her critics wrong on her way to the pinnacle of the women’s game.

If things would have gone as planned, Hungary’s women’s national team would just have completed their baptism of fire at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada this month. The Central European debutants were scheduled to take on the Czech Republic, Denmark, Japan and Germany in Group B contested in Truro, Novia Scotia.

The ongoing spread of COVID-19 pushed ahead Hungary’s entry to the big stage until next year. As the news of the postponement broke through on 7 March, Grkovic temporarily downed tools in her recovery work from a knee injury sustained while skating for her club team, KMH Budapest.

“I am sad about not going to Canada, but I think everything happens for a reason. We had a lot of injuries this year, but now instead we have to fully prepare mentally, make even further progress as a team and then be completely ready when the moment arrives,” said Grkovic.

Hungarian women’s hockey is currently on a roll. This season, Grkovic’s club KMH Budapest successfully defended their title in Central European cross-border league EWHL while also lifting the EWHL Supercup and winning the domestic championship.

The success came in the wake of last April’s top place finish at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A on home ice in Budapest. Winning gold in front of 1,944 jubilant supporters, Pat Cortina’s team deservedly booked a place to compete against the top-ten nations of the world.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment and something you only dream of. I’m born in a country where women’s hockey didn’t even exist when I started so now to be playing in the top division feels unreal,” said Grkovic, who made her debut for Hungary’s senior national team as an 18-year-old at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships Division I Group B in Asiago, Italy.

300 kilometers further south from her current home in Budapest, Grkovic spent her formative years in Novi Sad in neighbouring Serbia. Monica Seles had started her journey towards becoming a future world number one in tennis in the same city. For Grkovic, who also dabbled briefly with tennis, it was hockey that won her over at the age of six.

“We were five girls who started at the same time, but shortly after they had all stopped. Being the only girl continuing to play for years, one of the coaches once told my mum that I was only taking a pair of skates from another boy,” said Grkovic, who had no plans to throw in the towel.

“Hockey fits my personality 100 per cent. It’s a challenging, fast and aggressive sport and a great way to handle my huge energy. But I didn’t have a future in Serbia being the only female hockey player. So we as a family decided that I should move and Hungary was a good opportunity for me,” she said.

Hungary’s capital Budapest had back then become a popular destination for Serbian hockey youngsters on the boys’ side. Aged 14, Grkovic arrived north of the border as the first female hockey player enrolling in the Serbian school in Budapest. Out on the ice, the conditions in her new surroundings were in stark contrast to what had been on offer in Serbia.

“The investments in Hungary are far bigger in ice hockey, or actually in any other sport if I am honest,” she said. “At first I continued to play on boys’ teams until the age of 16. After that only with girls.”

Her younger brother Dusan soon followed suit to Budapest. But when he was able to skate for Serbia’s national team program, Jelena made her debut for the Hungarian U18 national team in 2014.

She has since been ever-present in the Hungarian national team set-up. Now in her ninth year in Hungary, Grkovic combines university studies with hockey and has become the live wire inside the national team locker room.

“For me, it was never hard to go away from home and I have always been curious about the world. When moving to a new country you need to accept the culture and learn the language. I now have lived in Hungary for years and thanks to my social skills I am totally fluent in Hungarian. I am the one who speaks up for the team, constantly makes jokes and never shuts up,” she said.

With Grkovic reaping rewards in Hungarian hockey, across its southern border, the women’s program in Serbia is starting to make progress. Participating numbers show a growing trend with currently 75 female hockey players around the country and Serbia participates in international initiatives such as the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend.

“I sometimes go to see my family, but my hockey schedule keeps me pretty busy. Even though I am not effectively there and physically doing something, I hope I do give them motivation. I would like to help if I can and there are more girls playing hockey now in Serbia. I was also happy to see that there recently was a girls’ day in the rink where I made my first steps,” said Grkovic.

Currently working hard to recover to full fitness for next season, Grkovic believes Hungary only needs a bit of fine-tuning to be able to spring a surprise one year on when the team will have its top-level debut at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship that could – formal approval by the IIHF Congress pending – take place in Halifax and Truro, the cities that have been scheduled for this year.

“Ahead of this season half of our players from KMH Budapest joined a new women’s team MAC Budapest so we need to work pretty hard on our team building. As a national team, we are not that big physically, but we are good, fast skaters and playing fair while being aggressive. But I’m a very optimistic kind of person and I think it will be a great challenge and of course. I think we could stay up,” she said.

Hockey’s Prünster in Goal for Colby and Austria

Nina Prünster

By Kristin Yorke – Colby College

Ice hockey isn’t the most popular sport for girls in Nina Prünster’s native Austria, but that didn’t stop her. She just played with the boys. Goalie Prünster ’22 would go on to play for the all-girls Under 18 Austrian National team—a team she made at age 14.

When she first suited up for the national team, Prünster was speechless. “It is obviously a great honor and such a privilege. The first time I played it was an amazing feeling. Putting on that jersey, I couldn’t believe it.” Starting in 2013, Prünster spent four years on the Austrian U18 team before coming to Mayflower Hill.

This December, between playing games for Colby, economics major-Prünster got another shot at representing her country. She successfully made the adult Austrian National Team, where, she says, “I have the privilege to represent Austria at the Women’s World Championships in France in April.”

Nina Prünster before the NESCAC women’s hockey quarterfinal match against Bowdoin Feb. 29, 2020

So how did someone who has played in four total U18 World Championship tournaments find her way to Mayflower Hill? After playing at a camp in Sweden, college coaches recommended Prünster do a year of prep school. She played during her post-grad year at Kent School in Connecticut. Shortly after she got to Kent, her coach connected her with Colby women’s ice hockey coach Holley Tyng, and Prünster came for a visit. It wasn’t a hard decision after that. “I met the whole team, toured the campus, and fell in love with it”

Clearly, she’s found success here in Maine. With a record of 9-3-4, Colby women’s hockey is second in the NESCAC. This past weekend Prünster shutout Bowdoin to help the Mules notch a quarter-final victory. The Colby women advance to the semi-finals and will head to Middlebury this weekend to play Amherst in the second round of the NESCAC tournament. Should they advance, they’ll have the chance to take on the winner of fourth-ranked Hamilton and top seed Middlebury. Despite her impressive run with the world’s best, Prünster has confidence in her Colby teammates. “It’s really amazing,” she said, “being on this team.”

Americans win Rivalry Series

Hilary Knight (right, with Alex Carpenter and Dani Cameranesi), who topped the points race en route to gold at the 2019 Women’s Worlds, led the way again as the U.S. women won four out of five Rivalry Series against Canada

By Lucas Aykroyd –

February looms large on the international women’s hockey calendar, and the U.S. showed it’s still the big-time favourite heading into the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada (31 March to April 10 in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia).

The Americans finished up with four wins in the five-game 2019-20 Rivalry Series against Canada. Relying on speed and puck possession, coach Bob Corkum’s team dictated the play and outscored their cross-border foes 15-9. The U.S. are the defending Olympic champions and have won five straight Women’s Worlds.

Meanwhile, in the Euro Hockey Tour playoffs, Finland triumphed with three straight victories, blanking host Sweden 4-0 in the final. The Finns made history with a silver medal on home ice at the 2019 Women’s Worlds in Espoo.

U.S. superstar Hilary Knight led that tournament with 11 points (7+4=11), and the two-time Women’s Worlds MVP (2015, 2016) paced the Rivalry Series with three goals and an assist. Alex Carpenter (2+2=4), who was profiled by the New York Times prior to Saturday’s 4-3 series-closing win in Anaheim, and Kelly Pannek (0+4=4) also had four points.

Of Knight’s continuing prowess, Corkum said: “Not surprised at all. She’s been doing it for a long, long time. She’s one of the many, many leaders we have in that dressing room, and she certainly answered the bell.”

Victoria Bach was the top-scoring Canadian (2+1=3), and 2018 Olympic MVP Melodie Daoust and Halifax native Jill Saulnier also totalled three points apiece (1+2=3). Bach, who was the 2019 CWHL rookie of the year with the Markham Thunder, won U18 gold in 2014. However, the slick 23-year-old forward, a former Boston University star, has yet to make her official IIHF debut.

In a worrying reminder of Espoo, Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin sat out the concluding 4-3 overtime loss at the Honda Center with an undisclosed injury. The lone woman to score in three Olympic finals, Poulin, 28, only hit the ice for a grand total of 4:44 at the last Women’s Worlds, where Canada settled for its first bronze medal ever.

Both teams struggled to convert with the power play during the Rivalry Series. Special teams will be particularly crucial for new Canadian coach Troy Ryan’s team as it quests for its first Women’s World gold medal since 2012.

Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Rivalry Series

The Rivalry Series, now in its second year, kicked off with a pair of December games. The U.S won Game One (14 December) 4-1. Amanda Kessel scored the winner and added an assist, and goalie Alex Cavallini (nee Rigsby) shone with 31 saves in Hartford.

In Game Two (17 December) in Moncton, Carpenter’s first-period goal lifted the Americans to a 2-1 win. Goalie Aerin Frankel (Northeastern University) won her national team debut with 27 saves. U.S. newcomer Abby Roque (Wisconsin) scored a goal in each December game.

Game Three (3 February) in Victoria attracted a capacity crowd of 7,006 to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, reminiscent of the vibe during the 2019 World Juniors. Bach sent the Canadian fans home happy when she tallied the 3-2 overtime winner on a beautiful set-up by Nova Scotia native Blayre Turnbull.

“It was so exciting,” said Canadian veteran Brianne Jenner, who opened the scoring on a shorthanded breakaway. “Every goal tonight, the bench just went wild. Especially when it’s one of our younger players, to see them get a goal, we’re pretty excited.”

In Victoria, Knight got her 200th career national team point on a second-period power play goal. She would play an even bigger role in Game Four (5 February) in Vancouver.

This was the first time the Americans had played there since the 2010 Olympic final, and Knight, 30, hadn’t forgotten that bitter 2-0 loss. First, she fed Hayley Scamurra for the winner, and then she shushed the partisan crowd after adding a late empty-netter to clinch the Rivalry Series with a 3-1 victory. It all happened in front of Knight’s childhood idol, Cammi Granato, who had welcomed the U.S. team for dinner at her North Vancouver house the night before.

Asked afterwards about what she recalled about the back-and-forth with Canadian fans following the Olympic gold medal game, Knight didn’t hold back: “We were told to go back to our country and die. So I took it pretty personally. It’s salt from 10 years ago. We could play these guys 100 days out of the year and it would still be the same. And I think that’s what the fans feel – they feel that fabric of the competitive rivalry.”

The blinding speed of the U.S. trio of captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker, and Dani Cameranesi gave the Canadians fits as the series wore on.

Game Five in Anaheim (8 February) was far from a formality. With an attendance of 13,320, it was the largest U.S. crowd ever to witness a national women’s team game. The previous record of 10,158 was set on 6 January 2002 when the U.S. beat Canada 7-3 at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

Megan Bozek potted the 4-3 power-play winner just 42 seconds into overtime. Canadian starter Genevieve Lacasse made a stellar glove save on Bozek’s initial howitzer and then flailed Dominik Hasek-style to sweep the puck out of the crease. But Lacasse couldn’t recover in time to stop the hard-shooting American blueliner’s follow-up.

Monique Lamoureux-Morando tipped in the 3-3 equalizer for her first Rivalry Series goal with 11 minutes left. She is vying to solidify her return with the Stars and Stripes, along with her sister Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. The 30-year-old twins took time off to have children after leading the U.S. in the 3-2 shootout win over Canada in the 2018 Olympics final.

The U.S. gained momentum as this series went on, and if the shots on goal totals in the last two games (26-12 and 30-20) are any indication, Canada’s netminding needs to be elite if the Americans are to be dethroned in Halifax.

Euro Hockey Tour Playoffs

Ranked third in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking as the best European team, Finland lived up to its advance billing in this six-nation tournament. Coach Pasi Mustonen’s team had a perfect 3-0 record and a 15-3 goal difference in the final event of the current Euro Hockey Tour, held in Tranas, Sweden.

The Finns never trailed, beating Germany 3-1, Switzerland 8-2, and Sweden 4-0 in the final. Forward Petra Nieminen led the tournament in scoring (3+5=8). The 20-year-old is enjoying a breakout season with the SDHL’s Lulea HF (24+30=54 in 34 games for third in league scoring). Established stars Susanna Tapani (1+7=8) and Michelle Karvinen (4+3=7) placed second and third respectively in the points race.

All things considered, coming second was a worthy feat for Sweden. 2019 was tumultuous for the Damkronorna.

The Swedes were shockingly relegated for the first time ever at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship after a 3-2 loss to Japan left them in ninth place. The blue-and-yellow women’s players also staged a protest in search of better treatment from the Swedish federation. That resulted in the cancellation of the annual 4 Nations Cup, originally slated for Lulea in November.

It wasn’t a totally consistent performance for the hosts. The Russians outshot coach Ylva Martinsen’s troops 29-19 in their opener, but goalie Sara Grahn’s strong performance helped the hosts to a 3-1 win. However, the Czech Republic’s Natalia Mlynkova scored twice, including the shootout winner, to lift her nation to a 2-1 victory over Sweden. Czech goalie Klara Peslarova sparkled in this tournament, surrendering just two goals on 53 shots in her two starts for a 0.96 GAA and 96.2 save percentage.

That said, the Swedes are favoured to secure promotion back to the top division in April. They will face Austria, the Netherlands, Norway Slovakia, and host France in Angers in April’s Division I Group A tournament.

The resurgent Russians topped Switzerland 3-1 in the third-place game, sparked by a pair of assists from team scoring leader Anna Shokhina (1+4=5). The Swiss are still looking for answers after the post-PyeongChang retirements of key players like goalie Florence Schelling and defender Christine Meier.

Long-time Czech captain Alena Mills stepped up with the winning goal and added an assist as her team edged Germany 2-1 for fifth place. There was a significant historical highlight in Transa for the German women, however.

Andrea Lanzl became the all-time leader in international appearances among German national team players (both male and female) when she suited up against Finland. It was her 322nd international game, surpassing Udo Kiessling (321), who was also the first German NHLer in 1982-83 with the Minnesota North Stars. Lanzl, a 32-year-old forward, has played in eight top-level Women’s Worlds, starting in 2005, and two Olympics (2006, 2014).

IIHF Council Member Franz Reindl, the President of the German Ice Hockey Association, extended his congratulations: “Andrea Lanzl has achieved a milestone in ice hockey, but also in German sport, thanks to her attitude, great successes, and sporting and human qualities that are revealed through the record number of 322 international matches.”

Ukraine to Debut in Women’s World Championship

For the first time ever, the Ukrainian Women’s National Team will compete in an IIHF Women’s World Championship in February 2020

By Nathaniel Oliver – Hockey Writers

The Ukrainian Women’s National Hockey Team will be playing in an actual IIHF World Championship for the first time ever. Nearly a year ago, the Ukrainians competed in the 2019 Division II B qualification tournament. Going up against South Africa, Belgium, Hong Kong and Bulgaria, the Ukrainians allowed a mere five goals through four games and went undefeated.

This was a victory that we had to make,” said Ukrainian defender Maryna Kobchuk. “We cried, we rejoiced, and we congratulated each other.”

Completing that successful qualification run, the team will now head to Akureyri, Iceland at the end of February. From Feb. 23 through 29, they will partake in the
2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division II B.
This is something that Kobchuk – who will turn 21 years old on Jan. 15 – has been working to achieve since the age of 15 when she first began organized hockey.

“It will be difficult – but our team is ready,” Kobchuk said. “Listening to our coaches’ assignments is critical. This group of teams that we will be going up against includes Turkey, Iceland, Croatia, Australia and New Zealand.”

Building Skill and Chemistry With HK Ukrainochka

Kobchuk, along with many of her national teammates, plays for HK Ukrainochka in her homeland. The Ukrainian Women’s Hockey League is quite small and consists of just three teams – Ukrainochka, Pantery Kharkov, and Avtomobilist Kiev. The league itself came to fruition in 2016, and has been the primary training bed for women’s hockey in this country.

“This past season our team HK Ukrainochka became champions of Ukraine,” Kobchuk smiled. “All of us were very happy to see how far we have come along as a team and as a league.”

Going 6-12-18 in scoring through 12 games this past 2018-19 season, Kobchuk was the second highest scoring defender in the league. She would also be named the league’s Best Defender. Across 36 career games for Ukrainochka, Kobchuk has scored 13 goals, 26 assists and 39 points.

Possessing a left-handed shot, she also has ideal size for a rearguard and skates well in and out of the zone. Kobchuk stands 5-foot-8 and is over 150 pounds. Her solid build is an advantage she is quite comfortable using, and she prefers playing an aggressive, physical game.

Marina Kobchuk earned Best Defender honors for the 2018-19 Ukraine Women’s Hockey League season

Looking Ahead to Iceland

The Ukrainians will bring more firepower to Akureyri than what people may realize. They possess a good amount of depth as well.

The oldest players on the country’s national team are 47-year-old twin sisters Inna Kozub and Elena Vansovich. The 5-foot-4 winger Kozub totaled two points (1G, 1A) in Ukraine’s 5-2 victory over Hong Kong on Jan. 17, 2019. Both women’s experience and motherly presence for this otherwise young squad adds a great deal of reassurance.

32-year-old Olena Tkachuk is one of the team’s top scorers. She went 3-3-6 through the four qualification games. Tkachuk is also a former member of the HK Pantera Minsk of Europe’s prestigious Elite Women’s Hockey League (EWHL). One of her teammates in Minsk was current Metropolitan Riveters forward Kelly Nash.

The Ukrainians’ main sniper is 18-year-old Darya Tsymirenko. She was the Ukrainian Women’s League’s top scorer in 2018-19 with a whopping 39 goals, 17 assists and 56 points in a mere 12 games.

“The women’s team – and this is a fact – has seen each player grow in her own way,” said Kobchuk. “At this time, we have added new, young players – just 16 or 17 years old – who did not play with us last year. Each of these girls has trained with men’s teams.”

The team’s top goaltender is 5-foot-9, 150-pound Viktoria Tkachenko. Through the four qualification games, Tkachenko came out of Cape Town, South Africa possessing the best goals against (1.29) and save percentage (.917). Not surprisingly, she was also named Best Goaltender for the tournament as well.

How Will the Ukrainians Fare?

How the Ukrainians will perform in Iceland remains to be seen. While they are a talented bunch, they are going up against well-established countries, namely the Icelanders and the Australians.

Kobchuk and her teammates know that they are in for a challenge.

Ladakh hosts World’s highest altitude women’s ice hockey tournament

By The Bridge Desk – The Bridge

The Ladakh Women Ice Hockey Foundation (LWIHF) organised its second yearly Ice Hockey tournament at Phobrang village in Changthang.

The Ladakh Women Ice Hockey Foundation (LWIHF) organised its second yearly Ice Hockey tournament in collaboration with Pangong Youth Cooperative Society for Environment and Care (PYCSEC) at Phobrang village in Changthang. The village lies at an elevation of 14,635 feet above sea level in Ladakh from 15th to 18th December 2019. 

LWIHF was formed by the female Ice hockey players of Ladakh in 2015 and has been engaged in various activities since then to promote Ice Hockey in the region and the country. It is the highest altitude game of ice hockey in the world. 

The ice hockey season in Ladakh lasts for roughly two-and-a-half months. In this period, different clubs and village associations organise winter camps and tournaments. But most of these tournaments are open only for the men teams and individuals. Keeping the scarcity of tournaments for women, LWIHF decided to organise a tournament specifically for the women teams in January 2019 together with Chuchot Sports and Welfare Association in Leh, where four teams participated.

Keeping the positive impact of the 1st tournament, LWIHF organised the 2nd tournament in which 6 teams participated, namely Lalok team, JKP team, Kargyam team, SECMOL team, YAGM team and SAVE Changthang team. A total of 85 girls participated in the tournament. The tournament was funded by the District Administration – District youth services and Sports, Leh under the Khelo India Scheme: Sports for Peace and development. Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) supported the tournament by providing dry ration for the players.

The final match was played between Lalok team and Kargyam team

The girls moved from Leh to the destination on 14 December and two buses were arranged, a community hall was arranged for the participants where the teams stayed together during the tournament period.

The final match was played between Lalok team and Kargyam team. The Lalok team emerged as the champions by scoring 6 goals and conceded none.

The Hockey Foundation earlier raised $30,000 for charity and donated the supplies used for the attempt to the Ladakh Winter Sports Club to help them finish the construction of their first full-sized ice hockey rink, helping to bring jobs and activities to the locals in that region of India.

Swiss women surprise

Swiss forward Lara Stalder led the Four Nations tournament in Fussen in goals and points

By Martin Merk –

About three months away from the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship various teams used the December international break to test against their competitors.

In Hartford, Connecticut, the Rivalry Series between the United States and Canada began with a 4-1 home-win for Team USA thanks to a 31-save performance from Alex Cavallini and multi-point efforts from Alex Carpenter, Amanda Kessel and Kelly Pannek. Victoria Bach scored Canada’s goal.

“I thought everybody played well and we played at a high compete level tonight,” said Team USA head coach Bob Corkum. “We managed the puck much better than we did in Pittsburgh. It was a great environment here in Hartford and we’re thankful to all the fans who came out and supported us.”

The series continues tonight in Moncton, N.B. and with three games in February in Victoria, B.C., Vancouver, B.C. and Anaheim, Calif

Switzerland wins in Fussen

Back in Europe it was time for the traditional tournaments during the international breaks where Switzerland had one of its best performances in years.

Since winning bronze medals at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the Swiss haven’t reached the top-4 anymore in five attempts. And they haven’t beaten Finland during seven-and-a-half years and 12 games.

Not so this month as the Swiss opened the Four Nations tournament in Fussen with a 5-4 shootout win against the Finns, who have been the best European team in the last three seasons.

Susanna Tapani and Noora Tulus each scored a pair of goals for Finland but the Swiss came back from a two-goal deficit with goals from Lara Stalder, Dominique Ruegg, Alina Muller and Rahel Enzler for a 4-3 lead. Eventually the Finns tied the game at four and it went to overtime and shootout where Stalder scored the game-winning goal.

Switzerland continued with another tight win, 5-4 in overtime against host Germany. Again the Swiss came back from a 2-0 deficit. Laura Zimmermann scored two goals in regulation time and Stalder again had two goals including the game-winner at 3:54 in overtime.

The Swiss confirmed the tournament win with a 4-0 blanking of Sweden on the last day, which for the Swedes continued a nightmarish year that started with the first relegation of a Swedish ice hockey national team in any World Championship category. Alina Muller scored two goals for Switzerland in that game.

Stalder was named best forward of the tournament with a tournament-leading four goals and six points while the Swiss also had stellar goaltending. 19-year-old Saskia Maurer helped the Swiss in their upset win against Finland with 36 saves followed by a 31-save shutout against Sweden in her other game.

“The sensational team spirit and professional attitude were the main reasons for the success,” said head coach Colin Muller. “We played indeed well. It was noticeable that compared to the previous tournament we had an experienced team here. We did a step forward but still have potential for improvement.”

Finland also lost its second game, 4-1 to Sweden, but thanks to a 3-2 win against Germany reached four points, which was enough for second place before Germany and Sweden

Young Russians wins in Sochi

Further east Russia hosted a Six Nations Tournament at the Olympic park in Sochi. Even though the Russians tested a B squad rather than the official women’s national team, they won the tournament.

The Russians beat Norway (4-2) and Denmark (6-0) in the group stage before celebrating a 3-1 win in the final against the Czech Republic, the other group winner.

The tournament was also an opportunity for the two newly promoted Women’s Worlds teams to test against higher opposition. Hungary with a 2-1 record and third place fared better than Denmark, which eventually got its first win in the game for fifth place against France.

Cornell Sophomore Min Shin ’22 Shines as Member of Korean National Women’s Ice Hockey Team

Sophomore Min Shin’s dreams of playing for Korea’s National Women’s Ice Hockey team came to fruition as she prepares for the 2020 IIHF Championships in Poland

By Renee Hoh – The Cornell Daily Sun

At just 12 years old, Min Shin ’22 appeared on Korean national television declaring her dream to one day play for the Korean National Women’s Ice Hockey team. Now, seven years later, the Cornell sophomore can finally don the Korean jersey.

Shin’s determination to play college hockey and for Team Korea has jetted her across various states and countries. Most recently, Shin travelled to Ottawa, Ontario for a two-week training camp with her new teammates in preparation for the 2020 IIHF Championships in Poland. Balancing hockey and school work, Shin brought all of her studying materials and returned to Cornell from the camp a few days early –– just in time for her Introductory Oceanography prelim.

“Playing college hockey at Hamilton [College] before I came here really taught me to stay on top of my work, because as a college athlete, you’re always really busy,” said Shin, who transferred into Cornell this semester.

Shin was born in South Korea, but spent her childhood in Ithaca. Growing up, Shin’s parents used to drive her to ice rinks in Lansing, thinking that she would pick up figure skating. Shin, however, had other ideas.

“My brother was playing hockey, so obviously I wanted to also play hockey, not figure skate,” Shin said with a laugh.

Getting serious about ice hockey, Shin moved back to Korea, where she played alongside boys for club teams and was invited by the Korean national team to participate in training camps by fifth grade. However, the opportunity to play high school hockey prompted the goalie to return to the U.S. and attend the Groton School in Boston, where she captained the varsity ice hockey team during her senior year.

Still, every summer, Shin would lug her hockey gear back to Korea with her, dedicating her time to showcases, camps and tournaments. Shin tried out for Team Korea during her high school junior year, but narrowly missed out on playing in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and was the “last goalie cut in the final roster.”

“I was pretty bummed out about it,” Shin said. “I was planning on quitting hockey after that.

“And to end on a good note because, my senior year, I was voted captain and we beat our rival school in more than six years,” Shin continued. “It was such a great final game and I was good with ending my [hockey] career here.”

Shin had the option to attend University of California, Los Angeles, but still could not give up the prospects of playing college hockey. Instead, she walked onto the DIII hockey team for Hamilton College in the NESCAC league before transferring to Cornell, where she intends to major in anthropology and minor in law & society.

“No! I want to keep going,” Shin said, when asked if attending law school would end her hockey career. “Playing hockey, playing for Team Korea, that has been my dream for as long as I can remember.”

Next semester, Shin will have a few more stops to hit. She’ll be traveling to Korea for the Legacy Cup, the Czech Republic for a training camp, and Poland for the World Championships. If Team Korea plays well, Shin may have the opportunity to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, flying out to another country and fulfilling yet another dream of hers.

While Shin does not currently play for the Cornell women’s team, she skated with the team to prepare for her training camp. Despite her already busy schedule, Shin said she would love to play for the team she grew up watching.

“When I was younger, I’d go watch the college hockey games at Lynah [Rink],” Shin said. “So, coming back here it’s been like ‘oh my gosh, if I could play for this team that would be so cool.’ Cornell’s ice hockey is amazing.”

Bulbul Kartanbay is first Kazakh athlete to play in National Women’s Hockey League

Kartanbay has become the first Kazakh athlete to play in NWHL

By Zhanna Shayakhmetova – The Astana Times

Left wing forward Bulbul Kartanbay has become the first Kazakh athlete to play in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) after signing Aug. 16 with the Metropolitan Riveters. 

“We are really proud to welcome Bulbul to the Riveters and the NWHL. Her skill, dedication to the game and incredible enthusiasm will make her a valuable player for our team and a favourite of the fans,” said general manager Kate Whitman Annis.

According to the release, Kartanbay, 26, has been in the Kazakhstan National Team system since she was a teenager, putting up six points in 10 games in a pair of U18 World Junior Championships. She made her senior team debut at 18, has competed in five World Championships and played for Tomiris Astana and Aisulu Almaty of the Kazakhstan Women’s League. Last season, Kartanbay had eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in 21 games with the Calgary Coyotes of the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association.

Kartanbay started playing hockey at age 13 at the sports school for gifted children in Almaty. At first, she played football, but since she could not combine training with study, her parents began to look for another school. 

“The start of the season is always exciting. I hope this season will be great for me and my team. I also hope the experience I get from playing games and practicing at this level will help with my development. I also hope the Riveters will be successful in our pursuit of winning the Isobel Cup,” Kartanbay said in an interview for The Ice Garden after signing the contract. 

Kartanbay’s assent started in 2017 when she met former Toronto Furies General Manager Sami Jo Small, who advised her to play in the American or Canadian hockey leagues.

“Unfortunately, I had some visa issues and I couldn’t play for the Boston Blades for the 2017-18 season. In 2018, I got the visa and I was invited to join the Calgary’s training camp. I played this season at the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association in Canada,” Kartanbay told The Astana Times. 

This summer, she participated in free agent camps with the Minnesota Whitecaps and Buffalo Beauts. 

“Actually, I was also offered a contract from a second NWHL team, but I decided to play for the Riveters,” she said. 

Kartanbay is currently involved in pre-season hockey training programmes in New Jersey.

“Of course, the trainings we have here are different from those we had in Kazakhstan. We have a training programme specially designed for ice and off-ice workouts. Our coaches, who are also rehabilitologists, pay attention not only to physical training, but also to mental health. I really like this approach. The workouts are diverse, intense and interesting,” she said. 

Adapting to her new surroundings was an easy process, she noted, as the team and coaches are friendly and ready to help in any situation.

“I enjoy playing hockey. I am happy to be a part of this team. This is my dream,” she said. 

On Women’s Equality Day, Kartanbay posted a message to thank NWHL sponsors and inspire female athletes globally. 

“Women’s hockey is not popular in my country. Many people told me ‘This kind of sport is not for girls,’ but I have my own opinion, my own right, my own views on life,” she said. 

In total, 171 Kazakh female players are registered with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). As of September, the national team is 19th in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking.

Launched in 2015, NWHL has five teams – the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters and Minnesota Whitecaps. The league’s main trophy is the Isobel Cup. 

The Metropolitan Riveters, previously known as the New York Riveters, are based in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey.

Swedish women’s hockey looking for relaunch

For the Future: Thea Johansson and the Swedish U18 women’s national team left the Czechs, Finland and Russia behind at a recent tournament while the senior women’s national team works with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association on better conditions

By Martin Merk –

Swedish women’s hockey has had mixed news recently in international ice hockey. While the senior women’s national team’s relegation last spring was one of the biggest upsets and ended up with a battle off the ice for better conditions, the U18 women’s national team surprised with a tournament win.

Never before had a Swedish national team been relegated in an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship event before but in spring it happened after Sweden’s “Damkronorna” lost to the Czech Republic, Germany and Japan. Four months later there was no such thing as a fresh start on the ice when the senior women’s national team was supposed to meet for a camp back home followed by the Euro Hockey Tour in Finland where – opposed to their status in IIHF play – they would have met the top nations.

43 national team players joined a strike, many posted a message on social media on 14 August with the hashtag #FörFramtiden (“for the future”) where they declined the invitation to the camp. With heavy hearts but with reasons the players’ association SICO revealed two days later with ten demands.

One major one seems to be on the way to be solved when the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the (men’s) Swedish Hockey League announced a financial solution for the women’s national team program including compensation for loss of earnings when players join the national team camps that will be paid through the clubs of the Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL.

With more discussions scheduled between the association and the players representatives, that could solve a major stumbling block as the lack of compensation for the players, who in most cases play their club hockey as amateur players, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Since winning the historic silver medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games the results of the Swedish senior women’s national team have only known one way: down. 4th in Vancouver 2010, 4th in Sochi 2014, 7th in PyeongChang 2018 and 9th at the recent Women’s Worlds. The result at 2018’s Olympics also resulted in lost financial backing of the Swedish Olympic Committee for women’s ice hockey, which was the starting point of the financial issues for the funding of the program and financial support for the players.

“We have not seen any positive development in recent years. Compared to 2015, the programs are not stronger, the players are not physically better and the results are worse,” Swedish Olympic Committee CEO Peter Reinebo explained to Swedish broadcaster SVT. After the recent issues and negative press, they may be open to rethink the funding issue when meeting with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association in September.

“It has to do with whether you decide to invest in achieving international success. Our organization is not for a national team to function well, but to be able to win Swedish Olympic medals.

“Ice hockey is important in our country. After all, we got off because we were disappointed with the development. We want to turn it around, this is clear. I hope and believe that they can put the ambition together. But 2022 is a short-term perspective.”

Bad results caused funding from the Swedish Olympic Committee going away after the team hasn’t shown results. But this step is unlikely to improve those results as the relegation has indicated. It may even fuel the downward spiral. Next spring Sweden will have to travel to Angers but not to play the creme de la creme of women’s ice hockey but to play in the Division I Group A against host France, Norway, Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands to be able to get back to the top level. That will also prevent them from earning enough world ranking points to be automatically qualified for the 2022 Olympics. The “lady crowns” will have to go through a qualification tournament in the 2020/2021 season.

Last Thursday there was a first meeting between the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the players’ association SICO to solve the situation with the hope to end the strike soon.

“In general it was constructive and good. There were many good questions from them and I hope we were able to answer them. The representatives from SICO were satisfied with the answers for now but so far we have no final agreement,” General Secretary Tommy Boustedt told SVT after the meeting and mentioned that one major issue, the players income loss for playing on the national team, was solved. The players’ side will now work on a proposal for a three-year agreement. “I think we are close to each other in all the issues raised.”

The good news came the next day when the association found an agreement with the Swedish Hockey League that will contribute up to SEK 400,000 (€43,000) a year for the compensation of earning losses for women’s national team players through the clubs of the Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL during the next three years. A similar agreement had been set in place for 2018/2019 but expired. The Swedish Ice Hockey Association will also use SEK 450,000 for further investment in the development of Swedish elite women’s hockey.

“I’m pleased that we found a solution for the players of the women’s national team for compensation of lost earnings for the next three years but also that this is done with the agreements we have between us and the leagues. Some questions remain in our discussions with the players and SICO and that, thanks to the SHL, we can now solve one of the important parts about compensation also provides good conditions for our continuing discussions,” the Swedish Ice Hockey Association’s chairman Anders Larsson said in a statement after the announcement on Friday.

In a few weeks Sweden is scheduled to host Canada, Finland and the United States for a Four Nations Tournament in Lulea, 5-9 November. If everything turns out well, it will be the first tournament under the new agreement that will run until 2022.

Good news for the future

In the shadow of the conflict there was some good news for the future as well. The Swedish U18 national team has been medalling more regularly in IIHF competitions recently. It had to settle for 5th place last winter at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship but now hit the headlines with a win of the Four Nations Tournament in Jihlava in the Czech Republic. There the Swedes left the hosts, Russia and Finland behind.

The team started with a 3-0 loss to Russia, which scored all three goals in the last six minutes of play including two from Varvara Boriskova, but then got two wins that were enough to move up to first place.

Malou Berggren and Linnea Johansson scored the goals in the 2-0 win over the hosts while goaltender Ebba Svensson Traff earned her shutout with 29 saves.

While Russia lost the other two games, the Swedish juniors had a big win on the last day. Amanda Ahlm and Thea Johansson opened the scoring against Finland late in the second frame and Hanna Thuvik made it 3-0 late in the game to beat the Finns for first place in the tournament. Ida Boman had 23 saves for her shutout.

The Czechs had the scoring leader with Tereza Mazancova (2+2=4), Boriskova was the best goal scorer with three markers while two goaltenders led the goalie stats ending their one game with a shutout, Svensson Traff and the Czech Republic’s Viktorie Svejdova.

While there are still some discussions to be done to bring Swedish women’s hockey back to track, that was already a good sign on the ice for the future of Swedish women’s hockey.

« Older posts