By Derek O’Brien – IIHF.com
The 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification went down to the very last game in Taipei City, with Belgium and host Chinese Taipei entering the game with perfect records. On the strength of two power-play goals by defender Liu Chih Lin late in the second period, Chinese Taipei won 2-1 to finish first in the five-team event and earn the promotion in its first ever participation in the Women’s World Championship program.
After a scoreless first period, in which Chinese Taipei dominated with a 17-9 shot advantage, the Belgians struck first just 23 seconds into the second when Sonja Frere swept in a rebound. Four minutes later the Belgians thought they’d added another goal from a scramble around the net, but the whistle had blown prior to the puck crossing the goal line.
In the game, the tournament’s two most dominant players went head to head – Chinese Taipei sniper Yeh Hui Chen, who scored 11 goals in the first three games, and Belgian goaltender Nina van Orshaegen, who had 59 of 60 shots saved in the tournament through the end of the first period of this game. In the dying seconds of a power play midway through the second period, Yeh picked up the puck and her own blue line, skated through three Belgian penalty-killers and skated right in on van Orshaegen, who denied her with a pad save.
However, the Belgian penalties kept coming and the Chinese Taipei power play struck twice in the last six minutes of the middle frame. First Liu managed to sweep in a loose puck on a scramble, and later blasted one in from the point after an attacking-zone faceoff.
That was all the offence Chinese Taipei needed, as the Belgians just weren’t able to get things going in the third. They did get three power plays, but two of them were cancelled within 20 seconds by penalties of their own. In the end, Chinese Taipei was 2-for-8 on the power play and Belgium was 0-for-4.
What Belgian shots did get through were handled by Hsu Tzu-Ting, making her second start of the tournament as Chinese Taipei alternated goalies. Ting stopped all nine shots she faced in the third period and 33 of 34 in the game, while at the other end van Orshaegen stopped 36 of 38.
With one assist in the last game, Yeh finished with 15 points, giving her a decisive win atop the tournament scoring, beating her nearest challenger – linemate Hsu Ting-Lu – by five points.
Earlier on the tournament’s last day, Bulgaria and Hong Kong met, still looking for their first points of the tournament, and it was Bulgaria prevailing 6-2 to claim fourth place. As it is a qualification tournament, no team is relegated.
Finishing in third place was South Africa, who were idle on the final day. The South Africans were right in the middle with two wins and two losses – losing to both Belgium and Chinese Taipei and beating Bulgaria and Hong Kong. They were led offensively by Chloe Schuurman, whose nine points ranked third in the tournament.
By finishing first, Chinese Taipei advances to the Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in 2018.