With yesterday’s 3-0 defeat against Chinese Taipei, the New Zealand Ice Fernz faced a formidable challenge against Team Iceland in game 5 of the IIHF World Championship. The Icelanders arrived at the Olimpic rink, buoyed by their win over Team Romanian in a 9-5 goal frenzy last night.
It is said a game of hockey has a start, a middle and an end. The first 20 minutes of play encapsulated all three. Having won the first faceoff, Iceland showed patience and control.
They moved the puck deftly up the ice, finding an unmarked Kolbrun Gardarsdottir who put Iceland ahead with a mere 33 seconds on the clock.
What followed was an intense 19 minutes of hockey. In a hard, stoic contest, possession and control changed hands many times, with both team tussling to control the puck and Iceland pulling ahead in the penalty count.
It took the Ice Fernz 1 minute 45 seconds into their third powerplay for Rebecca Lilly to settle the puck, move it up the right wing to Hannah Shields, who connected with Jasmine Horner-Pascoe and finally find the back of the Iceland net.
The second period saw the same level of intensity, with the New Zealand team tiring and struggling to complete plays. The Ice Fernz shot blocking improved noticeable, but too many pucks were left for Goalie Grace Harrison to clean up, and New Zealand was woefully outshot 16-2. The Ice Fernz were lucky to go to the break still tied 1-all.
Iceland remained dominant in the third period but were again hamstrung by a series of penalties, reducing their ability to put shots on the New Zealand goal. The Ice Fernz struggled to control possession in the neutral zone and a number of unforced errors had the big Kiwi Goalie scrambling to tidy up the loose puck.
With just over 2 minutes to run, Iceland were called for a body check penalty, giving the Ice Fernz a chance to overturn the flow of the game. The duty fell to Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, who skated the puck up the right wing, beat the opposition defence and somehow found the back of the net. From the restart, Iceland pulled their goalie for a sixth player, and continued to pepper the New Zealand goal. The Ice Fernz defence remained resolute, continually blocking shots and resorting to trench warfare at the ground level. At the final faceoff, Hannah Shields again showed her dominance, winning the puck and allowing New Zealand to maintain control of the puck while the clock ran down.
At the final whistle the New Zealand bench erupted with sheer joy, thrilled with a win against the odds and flow of play. The IIHF statistics report Iceland outshot 31-25, a figure which seemed to significantly under-represent the volume of shots Iceland fired on New Zealand. Unsurprisingly the NZ game MVP award went to Goalie Grace Harrison.