Tag Archives: Women’s Hockey

Women’s Sledge Hockey Makes Its Mark

USA Women's Sled Team [Photo from USA Hockey]

USA Women’s Sled Team [Photo from USA Hockey]

Up until recently, for female sledge hockey players, their only opportunity to represent their country at an international level was as part of a men’s team that “allowed” female players to join them. However, very few women successfully managed this – there are only two currently listed on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) website; Caroline Bonner from GB and Stine Frydenlund of Norway.

However, this month, something significant has changed in this respect.

Brampton Ontario is the home of the Cruisers Cup, an annual ice sledge hockey tournament open to teams from across North America. This year, the Cruisers Cup has an additional tournament happening alongside – the inaugural IPC Sledge Hockey International Women’s Cup.

This is the first time that women’s sledge hockey has been played at such a high level, and while there are only three teams competing this year, it is hopefully just the first time of many. The format of the event has the three teams – USA, Canada and Europe – play against each other twice in a round robin format. This is then followed by the playoffs in which the 2nd and 3rd place teams face each other, with the winner going through to play the 1st place team for a gold medal. This means that no matter the outcome of the round robin stage, it’s still possible for any of the three teams to win the gold.

The competition started off with the match-up that everyone wanted to see – Canada vs USA.   Both teams have extremely strong women’s teams, but two players stood out from the start. Kelsey Di Claudio and Erica Mitchell of USA combined to score all five goals in their first game, which ended with USA beating Canada 5-2.   Team Canada’s goals were scored by Ashley Goure (you’ll hear that name a lot in this review too!) and Corin Metzger.

There were three games each day, which meant all three teams playing twice. The luck of the draw meant that Canada went on to a second game a couple of hours later, this time facing the underdogs of the competition, Europe. Fielding a team of players from a number of countries, Europe fought their way hard through every game. Their first game had them scoring first from Annika Santanen but Ashley Goure followed soon after, netting the first goal for Canada. Another two from Goure, two from Corin Metzger and one each from Danica McPhee and Geneva Coulter finished the game 6-1 to Canada.

The third game of the day saw Europe in their back-to-back, now facing USA. Europe were unable to find the back of the net in this game, which saw USA finish with 9 goals, including four each for Erica Mitchell and Kelsey DiClaudio. The final goal of the game was scored by Robynne Hill.

Day two of the tournament had Europe against Canada again. Annika Santanen and Stine Frydenlund combined to score the three goals for Europe, including the only goal in the second period of the game. Ashley Goure, Geneva Coulter, Ally Godin and team captain Christina Picton came away with six between them to win the game for Canada.

USA and Canada lined up against each other for the fifth game of the tournament. It was clear how strong the rivalry was getting when you looked at the penalties on the game – the previous four games had only three penalties throughout; this game had five of them, including two which led to power play goals! Canada had suffered an unfortunate blow when Christina Picton was ruled out of the lineup with an injury. Despite this, Canada controlled the majority of the game, but couldn’t quite manage the win. Unsurprisingly, the same names appeared on the scoresheet for this game; Ashley Goure had a hat-trick for Canada, as did Kelsey DiClaudio for USA, with Morgan Hosbrough also scoring for USA.

The final game of the round robin stage saw USA and Europe facing each other once more.   Playing with only six skaters, Europe refused to give up. USA scored six goals before Europe managed to find the back of the net in the last few minutes of the game, thanks to Maren Norheim. Kelsey DiClaudio got herself another hat-trick, with the other goals scored by Nina Nissly and Susan Kluting, who scored two.

The results of the round robin meant that Canada and Europe battled against each other once more, fighting for the opportunity to compete in the gold medal game against USA. Closer than any of the previous games, Canada were boosted by the knowledge that their captain was returning to the ice. It took less than five minutes for the first goal, unassisted from Ashley Goure, but Europe held Canada back until the third period, when Goure scored her second of the game, cementing Canada’s advancement through to the final with a 2-0 win.

The gold medal game was as fast and furious as everyone hoped. No matter the hockey variation or the gender of the players, USA vs Canada is always going to be a fun game, and this was no different. USA dominated the scoring with Kelsey DiClaudio scoring three in the first period (although her first goal was originally credited to Erica Mitchell), and Erica scoring the fourth for the team. The second period was goal-free, despite a power play opportunity for USA after a holding penalty. Shortly into the third period, Canada had a power play chance, but couldn’t convert. A few minutes later, they had their own penalty to kill. USA failed to score on the power play, but an unassisted Kelsey DiClaudio goal followed. Canada managed to pull one back near the end of the game, thanks to Ashley Goure, but it wasn’t enough.

USA were undefeated throughout the tournament, in large part to DiClaudio and Mitchell, who teamed up for an amazing 24 goals and 9 assists, and they thoroughly deserved the gold medals they received. Apparently the two helper dogs that travelled with the team also received gold medals with their teams!

However, winning was only a small aspect of this tournament.

While all-female sledge hockey teams are still rare, this tournament proved that there is a place for them. There are so few women who are part of the mixed gender teams, which may indicate there is a difference in skill level at the moment. This isn’t a negative comment on women’s sledge hockey at all, merely a factor that needs to be considered. If women can’t reach the same level as their male counterparts to compete internationally, there needs to be a separate category for them to compete in.

More international level play will lead to more visibility for female players and the more young women will be inspired to try the sport themselves. Once there are more women involved, the competition level will naturally increase, bringing it in line with the more popular male teams.

The eventual hope is that Women’s Sledge Hockey becomes a sport in its own right, maybe as soon as the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games. Only the IPC can make this decision, and they need to know that there is enough interest and potential participation to make it worthwhile.

For more information on Sledge Hockey, visit the IPC website: http://www.paralympic.org/ice-sledge-hockey
For more information on the Cruisers Cup, visit their website: http://www.cruisers-sports.com/cruiserscup/home.shtml

Advertisements

It’s the final countdown

We’ve had our flight times confirmed and the inevitable early start on Sunday is looming.

The larger hockey bag has been dragged out of the shed and extra tape of all sorts and sizes has been ordered.

The schedule for the week has been released to us and it’s a doozy. I thought last year was busy, but this year is chocka.

I sometimes get comments at work that I’m going on a holiday out to Finland. Trust me when I say that I’m not.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re just going out to play hockey. Sure, we’re training once a day and playing 4 games. On top of that we’ve got off ice testing, Strength & Conditioning (so I’ve been told) sessions, and other off ice activities!

We’ll be up at 8am most days and curfew is at 11pm (thereabouts) but I’ve no doubt we’ll all be knackered at the end of each day. Luckily we’ve got 4 meals a day!

Here’s a look at our schedule 🙂england 2014 finland schedule

Trials and Tribulations

Where does it all start? How do you even begin to think about trying out for the Women’s England squad?

Obviously, make sure you play ice hockey & hold a British passport! It also helps to be a lass and be registered with a club. It doesn’t matter if you play for a div 2, div 1 or premier club. What matters is your attitude and effort level.

It’s an oft repeated motto in hockey & exercise circles but it is perfectly true, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

The current set up for the selection of the squad is as follows.

  • Attend North or South trials (dependent on your location)
  • Be invited to attend Combined North & South trials
  • Be invited to attend team training
  • Be selected for the England squad

I make it sound so easy, right?

Here’s what I have personally experienced and how I first got involved.  (I am of course, only speaking for what happens in the South. I understand the North team trial out of Sheffield, but I’m not 100%.)

One of my teammates wanted to try out for the South squad and didn’t want to go by herself. She talked me into going along with her and I’m really glad she did.

Off we trekked to the Lee Valley ice rink in London late on a Saturday night when training started at 10:45pm until 12:15am. Yup. You’re not reading that wrong. We’re then rushing to shower, pack up and get out of the rink and head back home.

I’m glad it’s at the weekend (so that I’ve got time to recover before the working week starts again), I view it as it extra ice and it’s only £10 for an hour & a half of hockey on a decent sized rink.

Previously, the South & North teams would be selected and then there would be 2 games of North vs South. It has only been from this year that there has been combined training with the 2 squads, which is probably more beneficial from the coaches point of view. However, I know many players, including myself, feel as though they perform better in a game scenario. Of course, games aren’t conducive to viewing a players skill sets by a coach in a controlled situation.

Once selected for Combined training, the trials are held up in Sheffield. Still for an hour and a half of ice and still for just £10. Depending on the available times, it is often another late start and a finish of midnight. Cue more rapid showering and getting out of the rink as quickly as possible. After that, the long drive home. 4am finishes have become all too routine for me sadly!

You might think I’m painting a bleak picture but this is what it takes to represent your country. To pull on a shirt for Team England & play hockey requires commitment and dedication.

Waiting for emails to find out if you’ve made the cut can be a bit nervy!

It’s worth it though. You get an incredible opportunity to represent your country, to play hockey in a place you may never have played before, against teams you would never normally get the chance to play against and have experiences that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

BWIH Friendship Tournament

In my recent discovery of women’s hockey in the UK, I was told about an event that happens every year in Swindon, called the Friendship Tournament.

Never one to let something that intriguing slide, I decided to find out more.

The first thing that I found was that this tournament is now in its 18th year.  That’s a hell of a long time in hockey terms, and only goes to prove that women’s ice hockey is a lot more rooted in the UK than most people think.  There are 18 teams participating this year, with two Under 12s teams made up of a mix of players from around the country, and a similar Under 16s team, as well as 3 other Under 16 teams and 12 senior teams.

The tournament consists of 84 round robin games, each of which is 13 minutes long, but they are played without stoppages.  The finals, which all take place on Sunday, are slightly longer, but will no doubt be the highlight of the weekend, and result in two trophies being taken home – one in the U16 category and one in the seniors category.

Team participating this year are: Basingstoke Bison, Blackburn Thunder,  Bracknell Ice Bees (U16), BWIHFT Team (U16), Coventry Phoenix, Guildford Lightning, Manchester Phoenix, Milton Keynes Falcons, Oxford Midnight Stars, Sheffield Shadows (U16), Solihull Vixens, Streatham Strorm, Swindon Topcats (A & B teams), Swindon Topcats (Under 16s) and Wrekin Raiders.

If you’re interested in going along to watch (and after watching the playoff weekend, I highly recommend that you do!), tickets for the event are only £3 per day, or £5 for the whole weekend, which includes a programme.  For more information, check out the Facebook group!

And if you do go, keep me updated please!

Interview with Team GB’s Olivia Mason

As a member of Solihull Vixens, Olivia Mason played 13 games this season and came away with as many points, while as a member of Team GB, she helped her team bring home the silver medal in the Women’s World Championship (Division 2A).

She very kindly agreed to answer some questions for me regarding her UK and International careers, as well as women’s hockey as a whole.

Me: So let’s start at the beginning: What got you into ice hockey?

Olivia: I went ice skating for my little brother’s 7th birthday and we both became addicted.  From there we were fixated with the Coventry Blaze and my brother then joined the junior development system with the Blaze. I was jealous of all the attention he received so I decided to give it a go and have never looked back! Neither of us have.

Me: I’ve been doing some reading up, and learnt that you went over to Canada to study and play hockey at the prestigious Athol Murray College of Notre Dame.  There are some huge names in the NHL who played for their team.  How did that amazing opportunity come about?

Olivia: I was looking into schools abroad just randomly and came across Notre Dame, and it turned out that my brother-in-law who was playing for the Blaze at the time (Danny Stewart who is now coaching Fife Flyers) actually went to school there for four years and played junior hockey there. I took it upon myself to find sponsors to help fly me over to look around and after being there for a week and skating with a few of the girls, I fell in love with the place, received a scholarship and left for the year a few months later. I was only 16, so it was a huge adjustment, but I loved every single minute of my time there and it will always be a huge part of my life. I strongly encourage anyone to do it.

Me: You’ve been playing on an international stage for Team GB since you were a teenager, as part of both the Under-16 and Under-18 teams.  How does that differ from playing for the Women’s Senior team?

Olivia: I played for England U16s for a few years before heading to Canada, and was part of the U18 GB squad while I was away but I didn’t experience world championships until this year. Playing for the GB senior team is obviously massively different from playing England U16s – not only was that seven years ago, but the talent and the standard of women’s hockey here has improved drastically so it’s pretty incomparable. Saying that, a lot of the girls who I played with in the U16s were part of the GB team this year so it was nice to see so many girls still involved. GB Senior Women is the highest level of women’s hockey in this country, so coming from any league or team is a big jump. I found it challenging at first to adapt from Women’s Premier League to World Championships, as I’m sure a lot of the girls not only on GB but other teams at worlds did too, because the hockey was obviously a lot faster and physical compared to what I’ve ever played. So it was a great experience and gave me chance to see where I’m at individually as well as the team on a whole.

Me: Speaking of which, obviously losing the gold-medal game at the Worlds this year must have been a disappointment – even though everyone is so proud of the silver medal you brought home – but overall, how was the experience?

Olivia: It was definitely disappointing. I mean, losing any game in a competitive sport is hard, but being one goal away from winning gold was most definitely heart breaking.  As a squad we began training early in the season and in the first camp we were told by the coaching staff that our ‘motto’ if you like, was “Gold Medal Thinking”. Gradually throughout the season, as camps became harder and the team selection got closer, we became more and more determined and fixated on winning gold. We wanted to prove a point, which was that we are a very talented and hard-working team, who quite simply deserved gold. Although we didn’t achieve what we set out to do, I know we worked our absolute hardest from start to finish of every single game and we most definitely proved a point – as well as making us even hungrier for next year! Nothing beats the feeling of standing on your blue line after a win, screaming your national anthem with 21 of your best friends.

The entire experience is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. We had an absolutely incredible group of girls who all became best friends pretty much – you’d think after spending 26 hours on a bus and 12 days continuously with the same people would become boring and irritating, but I can honestly say it was absolutely the opposite. On and off the ice we made amazing memories – it’s actually difficult to put it into words how great it was. The hockey was obviously fantastic and I know the other teams there were worried about playing Team GB, which is always nice!!

Me: And the reason the two of us started talking originally: Women’s hockey in the UK.  I know you agree that the sport needs a lot more promotion and support in order to get it the attention it deserves.  How do you see that happening?  What can be done to spread the word?

Olivia: I think the main issue with Women’s hockey in the UK right now is funding. A lot can change with funding – maybe more games in the league? I for one don’t feel like 14 games in a season is enough. More money allows teams such as Whitley Bay Squaws from the Division 1 league to come up to the Premier league, as they dominate their division, but can’t afford to travel down to places like Streatham, Bracknell, Slough, Guildford and Milton Keynes. More competition means the hockey has chance to improve.

In terms of promotion, I feel like the GB team especially had a decent amount of promotion before we left for Italy, but as for the women’s leagues we get next to none. I think the problem is that women’s hockey is stereotyped in terms of standards – not only in the UK but all over the world. People would rather travel to watch the men, because the hockey is faster and more physical. I’m not quite sure what the solution is for that, other than maybe getting women’s teams out on the ice between periods of men’s games to show everyone what we’re capable of?

As I said before, support especially is slow progressing, especially for the GB women’s team. I’m really hoping that if we win the bid to host World’s in Scotland next year, [Note from Kim: we did win the bid!] we will see a lot of fans there to support us. I’m also hoping that by medalling and receiving a lot of support on Twitter especially over the week of World’s, people will be more encouraged to come out and watch a bit more women’s hockey.

Last note on support and promotion: I think the guys playing in the EIHL and EPL especially, have a lot of ‘power’ over the fans in UK hockey and it would be nice to see them encouraging their fans to support the girls.

Me: Canada is getting closer to a women’s professional league with the CWHL, but even they’re still quite a way off.  Do you see anything similar ever happening in this country?

Olivia: Unfortunately I can’t say I do – not any time soon anyway. If Canada are only JUST putting a professional women’s league together after years and years of success with women’s hockey not only in the midget and college level, but international level too; I think the UK might have a ways to go. It’s where funding comes into play again – in order to have a professional women’s league there needs to be money to accommodate to players, ice time, travel etc… I’m hopeful that maybe one day there will be a possibility.

Me: Potentially a controversial questions, but there’s been a lot of talk recently, thanks to women such as Shannon Szabados and Noora Raty, about the possibilities of women playing in men’s leagues, including the NHL.  Do you feel that this is the right aim, or should we be looking for women’s leagues to simply gain equal footing with men’s?

Olivia: I mean if they’re skilled, strong and capable hockey players I don’t see why women can’t play with the men. I’m on the fence about it, because I know leagues such as the NHL host the best players in the world. Not only that, it’s an extremely physical league and I can’t say I can see a girl being able to comfortably play. Lower leagues I think there’s absolutely a possibility – but whether it happens or not? I don’t know. I think the aim right now is to gain equal footing with the men. It’s probably the more realistic approach to improving women’s hockey.

Me: What are your long-term hockey goals?  Do you want to stay with the WPL, or would you look at moving abroad for more opportunities?

Olivia: Long-term I want to play for as long as I can and at the highest standard as possible. I have one year left of my degree and I’ll then consider looking at teams abroad – more for the experience of travelling and experiencing leagues outside of the UK and Canada.

Me: Other than your own, of course, which hockey teams (UK or abroad) do you support?

Olivia: I’ve grown up in the Coventry Blaze system, so that’s a given. I’m also a fan of the Fife Flyers due to my brother-in-law coaching up there. However, I’m neutral when they play against one another!   I’ll always support the Notre Dame Hounds, as they are my Alma mater.  And I support both St Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs – having friends from Notre Dame on both teams.

Me: Who is your hockey role model?

Olivia: I would say my little brother – David. He’s a great player and an incredible leader and he’s always there giving me advice whenever I need it. He’s part of the GB 20s and has gone through the England and GB system since he was 11 years old. He came to Notre Dame and made his way from the bottom boys team in his first year, to the top AAA team in his last year – as well as winning Athlete of the Year in his senior year at Notre Dame (which is pretty impressive). He’s now playing junior hockey in Utah and is doing extremely well – for a 19 year old boy he’s achieved so much already and he’s such a great role model for young British hockey players. He’s definitely my best friend and we’ve always been competitive, so I hope one day I’ll at least beat him on the ice somehow!!

Me: You wore #10 for GB and wear #19 for Solihull.  Why those numbers?

Olivia: I remember my brother wore 10 when he first started hockey, so I chose the same number and it stuck with me. Funnily enough, we didn’t choose numbers for GB this year and it just so happened I was given that number! There isn’t any exciting story behind number 19, unfortunately as a rookie on the team I got last pick of numbers!

Me: Do you have any pre-game superstitions or rituals?

Olivia: Not really, I always put my equipment on the same way – left skate before right every time, left leg tape before right etc. I’ve also always taped my stick black, because the first time I ever used white I scored an own goal and thought it was because I switched to white! I was only U12s but I’ve never gone back!

Me: What’s your favourite hockey-related memory?

Olivia: I have far too many to list them all; Notre Dame is classed as a hockey-related memory and it was the best thing I ever did. I really wish I’d gone earlier than I did!  Obviously playing for GB Women will always be one of the best memories!  Meeting Hound Alumn Vincent Lecavlier was pretty cool too!  Being the first girl to ever play in a Varsity game for Coventry University this year, as well as scoring their first goal was something I won’t forget either.

Me: What would you say to any young girl who is considering ice hockey as a sport?

Olivia: What are they waiting for!? I’ve met people ALL over the world through hockey- male and female, some of which I will be friends with for life. I think I know at least one person in every country from playing hockey in different places (or near enough anyways!). It’s an extremely exciting sport – the adrenaline rush you experience when you play in front of a big crowd or for your country is indescribable. It provides you with so many opportunities to travel and see new places and experience new things. I strongly encourage it. It really is the best sport in the world.

Thank you again to Olivia for taking the time to talk to me, and I’m looking forward to seeing her on the ice next season – and in 2015 at World’s, of course!

 

Review of the EIHA Women’s Trophy Weekend 2014

This was the first time I’d had the chance to watch live women’s hockey, and the first time I’d been to a weekend-long tournament. I had high hopes, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  I had one of the best weekends, met some amazing people – both players and supporters – and got to talk to a huge amount of new people on Twitter.  All alongside watching some of the best hockey I’ve seen in a long time.  Win!

So anyway, with only 4 games on Saturday, rather than the 5 on Sunday, it was a slightly later start, with the first game starting at 12:15.  The schedule had all four of the semi-finals on Saturday, with the two 3rd-place games and three finals on Sunday.

The majority of spectators appeared to be directly connected with one of the 8 teams playing, with an especially loud contingent from both Bracknell and Swindon.  While there wasn’t a lot of crowd interaction, there was clearly more when it came to the Premier games, as opposed  to the Division 1 games.

Full details of all of the goals and penalties can be found on the EIHA website.  I apologise for my lack of photos from Sunday, but I didn’t have my camera and was limited to using my phone.  For some great photos though, I recommend following @Flyfifer on Twitter or Dave Steadman Photography on Facebook.

10369551_297537597076951_1859542141_n

Photo credit: CarolinaKaniac.wordpress.com

Division 1 Semi-Final: Whitley Squaws vs Cardiff Comets (12-0)

Sadly, from the start, it was clear that Cardiff was outmatched.  Whitley Bay’s first goal of the game came at 1:03, unassisted from Amy Campbell.  It would take another 12 minutes for the next goal to come, during which time, Cardiff had taken 3 penalties and were starting to struggle.  When the fourth goal for Whitley Bay hit the back of the net – Stephanie Towns from Kaitlyn Butterfield and Ashleigh Holland – at 20:09, it was the beginning of the end for Cardiff.

Goals came in regularly between then and the end of the game, including a power play goal at 21:12 from Stephanie Towns again, and two goals within 3 minutes for Sarah Smith.  Cardiff fought with everything they had, but the speed of Whitley Bay had them chasing their tails, and by the time Ashleigh Holland completed her hat trick (with all three of her goals being assisted by Kate Ord) at 41:50, Whitley Bay were up 12-0.  Kate Ord came away with 6 points, with Ashleigh Holland on 4 and Helen Emerson, Jamie Kraft and Stephanie Towns with 3 points apiece.

WTW14a 002

Photo credit: CarolinaKaniac.wordpress.com

A special shout-out has to go to Gemma Davies, netminder for Cardiff.  She faced an incredible 56 shots and never once looked like she was giving up hope.  Gemma more than deserved the player of the match award that she received.  Player of the match for Whitley Bay was Stephanie Towns.

Division 1 Semi-Final: Swindon Topcats vs Coventry Phoenix (1-0)

This game was a lot more evenly-matched, and both teams came out fast, ready to fight for the win.  There was a lot of end-to-end play, with some fantastic interceptions and takeaways on both sides.

The only goal of the game came just before the end of the first period, unassisted from Rebecca Da Cova, but the change in the score didn’t seem to affect any of the effort that both teams were putting in.

Interestingly, some of the best chances that Coventry had were while they were on the penalty kill.  I don’t think it was actually the case, but it seemed to me that they had more shots on goal while short-handed than they did at equal strength, or even with the player advantage.  Even during the two 5-on-3 opportunities that they had, they seemed to struggle to make them count.

Unsurprisingly, the two players of the match were the netminders, Rachel Pullen and Tam Donaghue.

Premier League Semi-Final: Bracknell Queen Bees vs Guildford Lightning (4-3)

I was really looking forward to this game, as I’d heard a lot about Bracknell and wanted to see them in action.  The Queen Bees were already League Champions and played in the European Women Champions Cup this season.  They’re an extremely strong team and, the way the draw for the semis fell, they were playing against fourth place Guildford Phantoms.  In all honesty, I expected this to be a somewhat uneven match-up.  But I was happily proven wrong.

WTW14a 020

Photo credit: CarolinaKaniac.wordpress.com

I could see the difference in levels between Division One and the Premier League almost immediately.  The teams were much faster, with beautiful clean passes, and some slapshots from the blue lines that made me duck, despite them being nowhere near me.

Guildford actually scored first, thanks to Jordan Wilshire and assisted by Kristin Hissong, just prior to the midway point of the first period.  Bracknell tied the game a couple of minutes before the end of the period with a shot that seemed to bounce around on the ice before slipping past netminder Sam Bolwell.

A Delayed Penalty call on Guildford gave Bracknell a player advantage in the second period.  When a shot rang off Bracknell’s crossbar, they quickly picked the puck back up and ran it all the way down the length of the ice for Christine Newman to shoot and score.  That goal took Bracknell 3-2 up, but they didn’t keep their lead for long as a short-handed goal from Louise Adams equalised for Guildford.

Throughout the third period, it looked like the game was going to end up going to overtime.  One team would gain some momentum, and then the other team would steal it straight back.  But around 3 minutes from the end of the period, a second goal from Christine Newman pulled Bracknell ahead.  I honestly expected Guildford to find another one, but a penalty at 58:09 gave Bracknell the player advantage once more, and Guildford couldn’t quite find the back of the net.

A disappointing final result for Guildford, who played extremely well, but a well-deserved win for Bracknell.

Premier League Semi-Final: Kingston Diamonds vs Slough Phantoms (6-0)

This was the final game of the afternoon, and again one I was looking forward to, as Kingston are one of my local teams and I’d heard some good things about them.

Kingston dominated the game from the start, when they scored their first goal on a power play opportunity at just 2:16, coming from Sarah Hutchinson, with assists from Abbie Culshaw and Shannon Jones.  The goals eased off for the rest of the first period, although Kingston still managed 12 shots on goal – it was a testament to netminder Michaela Walker that no more went in.

The second period saw Kingston make an impressive 25 more shots on goal, with two of them slipping past the netminder – less than a minute apart.  But the third period was where things got interesting.  And by interesting, I mean messy.

The two teams seemed to receive penalty after penalty, with one clearing a PK just in time to go on the PP.  There were at least two periods of 4-on-4 play, and then Kingston made the score 5-0 with a short handed goal from Beth Scoon.  A brief 5-on-3 for Slough couldn’t make the difference, and when Abbie Culshaw fired in the sixth goal of the game on a Delayed Penalty call at 59:31, the end result was determined.

Something appeared to happen at the end of the game, at least according to the penalties listed on the score sheet, with three Slough players receiving a 10 minute misconduct and one receiving a game misconduct, but I’m afraid I missed what that was.

Gemma Watt and Shannon Jones received the player of the match awards, but Michaela Walker faced 50 shots and was extremely good, in my opinion.

Division One 3rd Place Game: Cardiff Comets vs Coventry Phoenix (1-3)

Traffic issues meant that I arrived shortly after the game had already started, but thankfully the teams were considerate enough to hold off on anything too exciting until I got there!

WTW14a 018

Photo credit: CarolinaKaniac.wordpress.com

This was the first time that Coventry had ever made the playoffs, and I know that they were thrilled to have made it as far as they did. While the result in the semi-final hadn’t been the one they hoped for, I didn’t think they were going to let go of this one easily.

The first goal of the game (and of the day) was unassisted from Hannah Worthington for Coventry 7:09 into the first period, giving them the early lead, and was followed 3 minutes later by one from Jennifer Adams.  While Cardiff fought back hard, the end of the first period remained 2-0 to Coventry.

In the second period, Cardiff came back stronger, netting their first goal.  The score sheet says it was Eleanore Berrow who scored, but a Twitter follower tells me it was Captain Jennifer Ball.  Either way, it halved Coventry’s lead and brought Cardiff back into the game.  The third period started with Coventry having the player advantage,  thanks to a late penalty from Cardiff and 2 minutes later, Hannah Worthington managed her second of the game, giving Coventry back their two-goal lead.

Two penalties for Coventry gave Cardiff just over a minute of 5-on-3 advantage, but even that wasn’t enough to get the game back.  They tried desperately to pull their netminder, but Coventry were keeping the pressure on right up until the last moment.

The final buzzer went, with the score at 3-1 Coventry Phoenix, making them the 2014 3rd place winners of Division One.

Players of the game were Megan Lawrence and Hannah Worthington.

Premier League 3rd Place Game: Guildford Lightning vs Slough Phantoms (2-1)

It took until the second period of this game for any goals to come about.  The first period was extremely evenly-matched, with both teams making some beautiful, clean passes and having some good shots on goal.  In fact, it wasn’t until 36 seconds before the end of the period that we had our first penalty, which went to Guildford, giving Slough a power play opportunity.  Which they lost when they took a penalty with 9 seconds remaining.

The second period started with 4-on-4 action, but neither team managed to break the stalemate. Shots on goal continued to come along, but none of them made it past the netminders.  At least, up until Jordan Wilshire broke through with a beautiful goal at 20:53.  Considering we’d waited more than 20 minutes for the first goal, I don’t think anyone expected the second to come just over 2 minutes later, but it did.  The unassisted goal from Louise Adams took Guildford to a 2-0 lead.

But apparently in this game, goals were coming in threes, although the third went to Slough, courtesy of Debbie Palmer Green at 25:36.  Both teams fought hard, but Guildford managed to hold onto their lead, all the way through the third period.

At the final buzzer, Guildford’s two quick goals won them the 2014 Premier League 3rd Place.

Players of the game were Debbie Palmer Green and Amy Lack.

Under-16s Final: Bracknell Ice Bees vs Kingston Diamonds (0-3)

These two teams have faced each other many times before, and this was guaranteed to be a great game.  I went into it thinking that maybe the Under-16s would be slower or less intense than the senior games, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The players were easily as fast as the senior players we’d been watching earlier, and just as fearless when it came to throwing their bodies in front of oncoming pucks.  The only difference was the size of some of them.  I kept forgetting that these players were the same age – or younger – than my daughter.

Unfortunately, I missed some of the timings of the penalties and one of the goals for this game, and the game sheet doesn’t seem to be available online for me to check.  Sorry.

After some 4-on-4 play in the first period, the first goal of the game came at 12:27 from Casey Traill, assisted by Beth Milne, taking Kingston 1-0 up.  Early in the second period, a bench penalty for Bracknell gave Kingston a power play opportunity, but some great defensive work by the Bracknell penalty killing team kept them from increasing their lead.

Shortly afterwards, Kingston managed their second goal, this time from Abbie Culshaw.  Their third goal came with exactly 5 minutes left on the period clock, and gave Casey Traill her second of the game.  The final period started with Kingston having a 3-0 lead, which they held onto for the entire 15 minutes.  Bracknell had one of their best chances on goal in the final minute of the game, but the Kingston netminder stood tall and kept them shut out.

Kingston lifted the 2014 Under-16 Championship Trophy, with players of the game going to Margeurite Laffitte and Abbie Culshaw.

10369316_236549216535882_757703606_n

Photo credit: CarolinaKaniac.wordpress.com

Division One Final: Whitley Bay Squaws vs Swindon Topcats (3-4 OT)

With the first goal coming at only 18 seconds into the game, and matching penalties for both teams less than 4 minutes in, it was clear what type of game this was going to be.  Fast, hard and brutal.  If you came to the Trophy Weekend to see some good hockey, this was what it was all about.

As mentioned, Kate Ord got her first goal of the game before anyone was expecting it.  With assists from Helen Emerson and Ashleigh Holland, it set the tone for the game.  6 penalties were split between the teams in the first period, and for that first 20 minutes, it looked like Whitley Bay were dominating the ice.  Even during their power play chances, Swindon were struggling to get control of the puck, fighting off several good short-handed opportunities from Whitley Bay.

With a second 4-on-4 play, Kate Ord found the back of the net again, this time unassisted, giving Whitley Bay a 2-0 lead.  Swindon were clearly getting frustrated, and a penalty at the end of the first period meant that Whitley Bay started the second on a player advantage.  However, I can only assume that something significant was said on the bench during the break, as Swindon came back with a vengeance.  30 seconds after the penalty was killed, Rebecca Osman got Swindon on the score sheet with an unassisted goal.

Two more goals came from Swindon in the final minutes of the period – only 18 seconds apart!  Rebecca Osman got her second, and then assisted on Sarah Jane Fletcher’s goal.  To say the crowd was going wild isn’t much of an exaggeration.

The third period started with Swindon leading 3-2, but at 40:19, Kate Ord got her hat-trick and evened the score at 3-3.  A false alarm on one of Swindon’s power plays looked initially like a goal, but was deemed not, so the score stayed equal and the teams carried on fighting.  And fight they both did.

The netminder for Swindon, Rachel Pullen, appeared to be injured during the game, but in true hockey style, she stayed on the ice.  Both her and Rachel Jackson for Whitley Bay made some saves that were utterly amazing.  I can only imagine they’ve both got some interesting bruises to show for it today.

With only 0:17 left in regulation time, Swindon received a tripping penalty, and we went into overtime with Whitley Bay on the power play.  For those who don’t know, overtime is a 5 minute period of 4-on-4 play (or 4-on-3 in this case) which is sudden death – meaning that whoever scores first, wins.  It’s always nail-biting, no matter what level of hockey you’re watching, and this was no exception.  The Swindon penalty expired at 61:43.  At 61:55, Anne-Sheralie Chilcott found the back of the net, unassisted, and the game was over!

Swindon Topcats became the 2014 Division One Champions!

BogQhOjIYAAYfqv.jpg large

Photo credit: Flyfifer

Premier League Final: Bracknell Queen Bees vs Kingston Diamonds (1-2 SO)

Any match-up between these two teams was going to be a tough one.  Bracknell, the current league champions, against Kingston, the league runners-up and the current playoff champions.

The first thing I noticed about the game was how physical it was getting.  IIHF rules don’t allow bodychecking in women’s hockey, but there were still a lot of bodies hitting the boards in front of me with enough force for me to feel the vibrations in the floor.  NHL hockey talks about players “taking the hit to make the play” when they put their bodies on the line to get that perfect stick pass.  I saw enough of this happening early on in this game to make me realise that these women are every bit as dedicated and determined as their male counterparts.

First penalty of the game went to Kingston, and while Bracknell kept the puck firmly in the right half of the rink, the Kingston defensive players held them back. Almost as soon as the penalty was killed, Kingston received a second, this time an interference bench penalty and Bracknell got a second chance on the power play.  When Kingston got their third penalty, they gave Bracknell more than a minute of 5-on-3 advantage, most of which was wiped out by Bracknell’s penalty.

By the time both teams were back at full strength, I don’t think anyone knew what was going on anymore.  With the first period moving towards a close, and a total of 12 minutes of penalties already served, Leanne Ganney found the back of the net and gave Bracknell a 1-0 lead going into the second.  It was clear who had the momentum in the first period, with Bracknell making 12 shots on goal, compared to Kingston’s 3.

Both teams managed a few less penalties in the second period, but it started off very choppy, with a lot of takeaways and interceptions, and neither team getting any real shots on goal.  Halfway through the period and Kingston began to pick up the pace.  A frantic couple of minutes play saw shot after shot on goal, each one either going wide, or being stopped by the Bracknell netminder.  They were getting frustrated, and at 37:56, matching penalties were issued, taking it to 4-on-4 play, right up until Bracknell received another penalty and gave Kingston 55 seconds of 4-on-3 advantage.

As the simultaneous penalties expired, and just as the period clock was about to do the same, with Kingston still on the power play, Beth Scoon fired the puck straight into the back of the net and equalised the score at 1-1.  The clock on the wall was actually showing 0:00 remaining, but the referees confirmed that there was officially 00:01 left when the puck went in.  Talk about cutting it close.

With that goal, the third period started with both teams at full strength.  At least for a short time.  Kingston received a penalty.  Then 2 minutes after that one expired, Bracknell received one.  And again, 2 minutes after that expired, Bracknell received another.  The teams were getting frantic and it was showing with the penalties they were receiving.

Although, I do have to say that some of the penalties that were being called seemed a little ridiculous, if I’m honest.  When teams are playing a game this important, when it’s this close in score, to start calling penalties for seemingly minor infractions just adds to the frustration levels of the players.  But then I’m not a referee, so this is just my opinion.

Anyway, back to the game.  With only 20 seconds left on the period clock – and of regulation time – a player took a hit and went down.  At first I believed it was a Kingston player, due to the green jerseys I saw around her, but it turned out that it was Chrissy Newman of Bracknell, who was struggling to sit up and was holding her head.  She was taken off the ice by the medics, to a round of applause from both players and spectators, and Bracknell had to put their concern behind them.

The period ended, and for the second time in two finals, we were going to overtime.  The 5 minutes seemed to fly by, with both teams giving everything they had right up until the final moment.  When that buzzer went, it meant only one thing: the women’s premier league championship was going to be decided by penalty shots.

I hate, hate, hate, the idea of a game as important as this coming down to a battle of skill between one player and a netminder.  In NHL, the Stanley Cup Playoff games have 20 minute overtime periods.  And as many of them as they need for someone to score.  For reference, the longest ever Stanley Cup Playoff game ended up going 116 minutes (Detroit Redwings vs Montreal Canadiens in 1936.  If you’re interested, the game was finally won by Detroit).  But we play by IIHF rules, which means a 5 minute sudden death period, then best-of-3 penalty shots, and then continual penalty shots until someone gets a goal and the other one doesn’t.  So, penalty shots we had.

Bracknell won the coin toss and chose to go first.

Bracknell Shot 1: Saved
Kingston Shot 1: Goal
Bracknell Shot 2: Saved
Kingston Shot 2: Goal

That was all it needed.  Kingston Diamonds won in a penalty shootout, and their bench erupted.  Gloves, helmets and sticks went flying across the ice, as players and coaches hugged and congratulated each other.  The crowd was so loud that I couldn’t even hear the announcement of the goal, but confirmed that it had been Shannon Jones who made that final shot and won the Bill Britton Trophy for the Diamonds.

Players of the game were Samantha Donovan and Natalie Davies.

What I learned about women’s hockey (and the weekend in general)

  • It’s fast.  A lot faster than I expected.  Because it’s not as physical as men’s games, the players are more reliant on their speed and their skill, rather than their ability to cross-check.
  • If the Under-16s that I watched are examples of the quality of players we have coming into the senior leagues, I have high hopes for the future of Team GB.
  • Size isn’t important (although women have been saying this to men for years!).  Some of the best players I was watching were the smallest.
  • If I’m watching any hockey at Ice Sheffield, wear at least two extra layers of clothing. And take gloves.  I can’t believe how cold I was there.  I’m spoiled – I’m used to the Metropoint Arena which is a lot warmer!
  • Remembering to type “player advantage” and “player of the game”, rather than “man advantage” and “man of the match” was hard, but necessary.  For hockey to become inclusive, phrases like that need to be removed from hockey discussions, in my opinion.
  • Live tweeting that many hockey games is exhausting, and a challenge to keep up.  But every reply, retweet and favourite that I received made it worthwhile.  Knowing that I was helping fans – literally across the globe – who wanted to follow their teams, gave me warm fuzzy glows.
  • Related to that – the more I tweet during a game, the easier it is to write up these reports afterwards.  Note to self: do  that more.  It makes for much more interesting reading.
  • But most importantly, the players that I spoke to over the weekend are some of the friendliest, most welcoming, most dedicated athletes I’ve ever met.  They love playing the sport as much as I love watching it and it shows in every word they say. It was truly a delight to meet the ones I did, both in person and those I spoke to on Twitter.

Thank you to everyone who made the weekend possible, especially the EIHA.  And Congratulations again to all of the teams who made it to the playoff weekend.  You were all amazing x

Women’s World Championships 2015

I know that it’s not been long since we watched Team GB Women collect their silver medals in Italy, but today brought some great news for next year’s tournament.

The 2015 Women’s World Championships (Division 2A) are going to be held in Dumfries, Scotland, with Great Britain as the host nation.  Running from Monday 30th March to Sunday 5th April, this will be the fourth IIHF tournament held at Dumfries Ice Bowl.  Coming to join Team GB will be Kazakhstan (recently relegated from Division 1B), Korea, Poland, New Zealand and Croatia (promoted from Division 2B).

Aside from the obvious home-ice advantages this offers – primarily the increased number of GB supporters who will be able to attend – there is at least one other major bonus that I can see.

Holding an international tournament like this will, hopefully, bring the watchful eyes of the mainstream media to Dumfries.  We’ll be able to show people that there is more to ice hockey than just fights and goons; that it is a sport to be taken as seriously as any other in this country (and maybe more seriously than others!).

And when our women lift their gold medals – which I have no doubt they’ll do – and get promoted up a division, we’ll all be able to watch the ceremony on TV and see the photos in our newspapers, instead of being limited to Twitter updates and second-hand reports.

We have 10 months until it starts, so while we let the players work on the winning aspect, the rest of us can work on getting the attention of the media to this fantastic opportunity!


 

As an addendum, the 3 of the other 4 venues that affect Team GB have also been confirmed:

  • GB Men’s Senior team will head to Eindhoven for the Division 1B tournament
  • GB Men’s Under-20s are going to Tallinnfor their Division 2A tournament
  • GB Men’s Under-18s are also off to Tallinn for their Division 2A tournament
  • The venue for GB Women’s Under-18s Division 1 Qualification hasn’t yet been confirmed