Report by Paul Harrison
The New Zealand Ice Fernz have finished their 2019 IIHF campaign with a 5-1 over Croatia on the final day of play, good enough to claim the silver medal, while Chinese Taipei win gold after finishing the week undefeated.
The Ice Fernz started this game as firm favourites, with the Croatian team securing only one win so far in the tournament.
However, it took until the 28th minute before the Ice Fernz finally lit up the lamp. With the Kiwis defending on the 4-on-5 penalty kill and against the run of play, Reagyn Shattock skated up the left wing, slipped the puck between the defenders, then held it just long enough to confuse the goalie and find her five-hole for the opening score.
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 flicked 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, to tally Fuller’s first IIHF goal.
Abbey Heale added her maiden international 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 a 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.