While the 2019 Ice Fernz squad features an experienced and battle-tested leadership group hungry to win a gold medal, there’s also a strong rookie presence this year with six.
For Terryn Bruce, who was initially named as part of the non-travelling squad before receiving the late call up, the feeling of representing New Zealand at the senior level for the first time is surreal.
“This is my first year playing with the Ice Fernz, very excited. It’s my first time going to Austria and Romania, so I can’t wait to play with the team and see the sights, all that kind of stuff,” said Bruce.
While Terryn has previously played for the NZ Under-18s, the Bruce family name will be familiar amongst inline hockey circles as well. Her father Bruce represented the country as recently as last year, playing in-goal during the Vets World Championship in the Czech Republic.
In the NZWIHL, Terryn plays for the Auckland Steel and this year her coach Rachel Park, who also happens to be the new national head coach, issued Bruce a challenge – to shift from the blue line and play forward instead.
“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a change,” Terryn joked. “I think I played pretty well. I enjoyed it, definitely a different challenge. Playing forward was really exciting being in the thick of it.”
When comparing her stats during this transition phase, the numbers would suggest that the experiment has indeed worked as intended.
Playing 12 games on the backend during the 2018 season, Terryn scored two assists, registered two shots and was a -2. Then as a forward in 2019, playing the same amount of games she scored 4 goals, 1 assist, while taking 23 shots and finishing up as a +6.
In a campaign where the Steel’s dominance of the league was being challenged by the inevitable 2019 champion Southern Storm, that level of progress should be encouraging for the young Aucklander and Coach Park stands behind the decision.
“She’s an absolute force in front of the net. She draws in players, draws in the penalties and you just can’t get her out of there so it’s great,” said Park.
Bruce isn’t the only Ice Fernz rookie that has changed positions to fit within Park’s system for the upcoming IIHF Division 2B Women’s World Championship in Brasov, Romania.
Danielle Strayer has come off a strong NZWIHL season with the Storm, finishing as the top-ranked goaltender with an undefeated 5-0 record, .959 SV%, 1.02 GAA plus a shutout against Auckland. However with Grace Harrison and Lochlyn Hyde already taking up the two goalie spots, Strayer has been challenged by the head coach to play defence instead.
That sort of decision-making has the potential to turn into a stroke of genius for Park if either Harrison or Hyde fall to injury or illness and need to be rested – Strayer can serve as an emergency backup without missing a step.
It’s a vision that the players are getting behind and they’re not afraid to test themselves if that means the Ice Fernz become a stronger side for it.
“It’s really different learning the systems all over again as a forward instead of a D, but it’s good because you have a lot of support on the ice as opposed to when you’re (playing) defence or goalie – you’re the last port of call. As long as you backcheck and rectify the mistake, you’ll be sweet,” said Bruce.
There is a definite air of excitement amongst the team, one that will serve them well if the Ice Fernz manage to gel together during their six-day training camp in St Polten, Austria. If everything clicks there, then the possibility of coming home with a gold medal around their neck is an obtainable goal for this 22-strong squad.
2019 Ice Fernz Game Schedule
April 1: NZ v Chinese Taipei at 11pm
April 3: NZ v Iceland at 2:30am
April 5: NZ v Turkey at 2:30am
April 6: NZ v Romania at 6am
April 7: NZ v Croatia at 11pm
Depending on the availability of live streams, Puck Yeah will have game highlights available on our YouTube channel.
Main photo: Paul Harrison