The New Zealand Women’s Ice Hockey team beat Croatia 5-1 today but they had to wait until the outcome of the Chinese Taipei vs Iceland game to find out the colour of their medal.
Chinese Taipei eventually triumphed against Iceland 5-2, giving the Chinese Taipei 5 wins from 5 games and the gold medal, while the Ice Fernz with 4 wins and 1 loss had to settle for silver. The Ice Fernz started this game as firm favourites, with the Croatian team securing only one win so far in the tournament. From the drop of the puck it was obvious both teams were affected by the duration and intensity of the tournament.
The first 15 minutes of play was lethargic at best and the Ice Fernz allowed the Croatians to determine the pace of the game. The Ice Fernz rallied and managed to orchestrate a number of shots on goal, but the Croatian goalie was equal to the task. It took until the second period and the 28th minute of the game before the Ice Fernz finally lit up the net.
With the Kiwis defending against a 5-on-4 penalty kill and against the run of play, Reagyn Shattock skated up the left wing, slipped the puck between the defenders’ legs, then held it just long enough to confuse the goalie and find her five-hole for New Zealand’s first goal. New Zealand scored again two minutes later, when a Caitlin Heale shot was fumbled by the goalie and went loose in the circle.
With the mere sniff of a chance, Hope Gregory went digging, her efforts soon rewarded when the puck magically appeared and she had only to flick it home to put New Zealand 2-0 up. With the momentum starting to build, the Ice Fernz started the third period intent on finishing the job.
Harriet Fuller executed a beautiful sprint up the left wing, with an indecisive Croatian defender to beat. An exquisite wrist shot by the big Wellingtonian found the gap between the post and the goalie, and Fuller had her first-ever IIHF goal. Abbey Heale added her maiden IIHF goal too, when 4 minutes later a Horner-Pascoe shot was rebounded, and the younger Heale sibling had no problems in burying the puck to put the Ice Fernz 4-nil up. After a sustained period of pressure, Croatia finally scored with a wrist shot that found the top right corner of the New Zealand net and denying Lochlyn Hyde a chance of an IIHF shutout.
But it fell to seasoned Ice Fernz defender Jaime Jones to restore calm and serenity in the Kiwi camp. After several moments of scrappy and frustrating play in front of the Croatian goal, Jones stepped up, took control of the puck, surveyed the gaps and fired a slap shot at the goal. The puck ricocheted off the Croatian goalie’s blocker and into the net.
In the final minutes of the game Croatia threw all their reserves at the New Zealand play, losing one of their players to a 10-minute penalty for boarding. However, they were unable to stop a New Zealand team that steadily built up momentum and confidence.
The game MVP award went to Abbey Heale, who played an outstanding role on the left wing. The best New Zealand player award for the tournament went to Jasmine Horner Pascoe, who finished the tournament with 5 goals and 5 assists, enough to secure 2nd place on the overall points table.
The Ice Fernz will attend the awards ceremony tonight at the conclusion of the final game of the tournament at approximately 10.30 tonight, before departing for home tomorrow.