HIGHLIGHTS: Ice Fernz overcome Iceland onslaught for upset win

Video by Puck Yeah / Report by Paul Harrison

With yesterday’s 3-0 defeat against Chinese Taipei behind them, the New Zealand Ice Fernz faced a formidable challenge against Iceland in their second game of the 2019 IIHF Div2B Women’s World Championship.

The Icelanders arrived at the Olympic Ice Arena buoyed by their win over Romania 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 while Iceland pulled ahead in the penalty count.

It took the Ice Fernz 1:45 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 starting 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 Harrison scrambling to tidy up the loose puck.

With just over 2 minutes to run, Iceland were called for an illegal body check, giving the Ice Fernz a chance to overturn the flow of the game. The duty fell to 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 an extra attacker, 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.

The New Zealand bench erupted with sheer joy as the clock struck zero, thrilled with a win against the odds and flow of play. The official IIHF statistics report Iceland outshot 31-25, a figure which seemed to significantly under-represent the volume of shots Iceland fired on New Zealand’s net.

Unsurprisingly the NZ game MVP award went to netminder Grace Harrison.

HIGHLIGHTS: Ice Fernz shutout in tournament opener

Video by Puck Yeah / Report by Paul Harrison

Despite a difference in size and stature, Chinese Taipei utilised their speed and skill to record a 3-0 victory against the New Zealand Ice Fernz in the first game of the IIHF Division 2B Women’s World Championship in Brasov, Romania.

From the drop of the puck, the Chinese Taipei team set the pace and intensity of the contest. The first 10 minutes saw New Zealand pinned down in its own territory, weathering numerous shots on goal, but with Ice Fernz goalie Lochlyn Hyde remaining resolute in her crease.

New Zealand went on the penalty kill with 5 minutes to run in the first period. Chinese Taipei controlled the puck with poise and clarity, deftly probing for any gap in the Kiwi defence. The initial shot from Hsu Ting-Yu was blocked, but the follow-up tap from Teng Yu-Ting and the momentum of players in the crease was enough to usher the puck across the line and put Chinese Taipei 1-0 ahead.

Having shaken off the first period jitters, the New Zealand team started with more confidence in their play, finding space in the neutral zone and connecting with longer passes.

New Zealand seemingly had the advantage when Chinese Taipei were penalised after 6 minutes of play, but the Chinese Taipei team apparently didn’t get the penalty kill memo, and pressured New Zealand with three consecutive breakaways before Yeh Hui-Chen managed to sneak the puck beneath new goalie Grace Harrison’s blocker.

Despite the improved performance of the Kiwis, Chinese Taipei still outshot the Ice Fernz 14-11 in the second frame.

Chinese Taipei consolidated their lead in the final period with a third goal during a powerplay when Hsu Ting-Yu Goal deflected a shot from inside the blueline behind Harrison.

With just under 2 minutes to play, Coach Park pulled the goalie, but the Ice Fernz were unable to capitalise on the extra-player advantage and the game rolled to a 3-0 result.

Despite the Ice Fernz being on the losing end of the scoresheet, there were plenty of positives to come out of the game: Hannah Shields excelled at the faceoff circle, winning 75% of the 16 puck drops. Jasmine Horner-Pascoe and Caitlin Heale each had 5 shots on goal, with both unlucky to score.

New Zealand’s MVP award for the game went to Jaime Jones, who played
with confidence and presence.

“She did the things we asked her do: shoot the puck, play a physical game, and skate it up if she saw the opportunity” said Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park.

Despite the result Coach Park was philosophical about the loss. “The effort that we needed to bring was there. It was obvious how badly the girls had wanted (this win). But we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

“It didn’t go in our favour but I couldn’t have asked any more from them. They gave it what they had,” said Park.

If New Zealand can find a way to further improve upon their combinations, the goals will come. They won’t have much time to dwell on the ‘what-ifs’ however, next up is Iceland on Wednesday (2:30am NZ time).

New Zealand Under-18s relegated after loss to Bulgaria

The New Zealand under-18 men’s ice hockey team have ended their 2019 IIHF World Championship campaign with a 5-1 loss to tournament hosts Bulgaria. The result sees the Kiwi side relegated back down to Division 3 Group B after failing to secure a win in their five games.

The end result doesn’t tell the full picture however, as the Under-18s showed a significant amount of promise for the future with close games against Israel, Turkey and Mexico.

Considering how bunched this competition was, if those three outcomes – decided by overtime, a last-minute goal, and the shootout respectively – went the other way in New Zealand’s favour, then Steve Reid’s squad could have been looking at a potential medal placing.

Silver medalists Iceland, bronze medal winners Israel, plus Turkey all finished with 9 points. If New Zealand capitalised on their opportunities they could have finished with 7 points rather than 2. Unfortunately, that’s a scenario that just wasn’t mean to be this time around.

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In their final game they were up against a much stronger Bulgarian side who ended the week undefeated. The hosts were dominant throughout, only allowing 11 goals while scoring 21, resulting in a gold medal-worthy performance and promotion to the IIHF’s U18 Division 2 Group B.

Bulgaria jumped out to a two-goal lead over New Zealand after the first period with goals coming from Alexandar Nikolov and Kaloyan Vachkov.

NZ starting goalie Rhett Wilson doing all he could to keep his team in the game, only allowing a powerplay goal to Konstantin Dikov in the second period.

Moussa Abdi made it 4-0 to Bulgaria five minutes into the third, before Auckland’s Max Vesper scored on the man-advantage to try spark a comeback with less than ten minutes remaining, only for Bulgaria’s Simeon Tsitselkov to answer back 36 seconds later – securing the 5-1 victory in front of an emphatic home crowd at the Winter Sports Palace in Sofia.

Queenstown’s Noah Gregory finished the tournament as New Zealand’s top scorer, tallying four goals and two assists in their five games. Alternate captain Jack Robbie was awarded team MVP honours.

For a young side that displayed a willingness to compete with plenty of fight, these were hard lessons to learn, but the results will come eventually. As they say in professional sport, trust the process.

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Photos: Kostadin Andonov

New Zealand Under-18s drop crucial game to Iceland

The New Zealand under-18 men’s ice hockey team’s status in the IIHF Division 3A World Championship is hanging by a thread after a fourth loss in Bulgaria.

Steve Reid’s squad allowed five goals in the second period, including three in an unfortunate 38-second stretch, to fall to 6-3 to Iceland at the Winter Sports Palace in Sofia on Friday (Saturday NZ Time).

Noah Gregory scored two goals for New Zealand, his third and fourth of the tournament, while Josh Hurley lit the lamp for the first time with a powerplay marker assisted by Gregory and Jack Robbie, who finished with two assists on the day.

After four losses – the previous three coming in overtime (4-3 vs Israel), via a last-minute goal (3-2 vs Turkey) and in a shootout (5-4 vs Mexico) – New Zealand has two points, tied with Mexico but in last place on head-to-head tiebreaker.

Their chances of escaping relegation to Division 3B in 2020 largely rest on defeating currently unbeaten hosts Bulgaria in their final game on Sunday (Monday 2.30am NZT). New Zealand could also avoid the drop with an overtime loss if Mexico lose their final game against Iceland in regulation.

Gregory opened the scoring against Iceland at 4:27, linking up with fellow Queenstown teammate Jack Robbie, as New Zealand took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

Iceland tied and then took a 2-1 lead on back-to-back power play goals, the first coming just 12 seconds into the man-advantage. Their second goal, at 26:22, was followed by goals at 26:39 and 27:00 on a couple of lucky bounces. Iceland, who have the tournament’s top-two players in points, added another to lead 5-1 after the second period.

Hurley’s goal early in the third period made it 5-2 but hopes of an unlikely comeback were snuffed out a minute later by Iceland’s sixth tally. Gregory added a consolation goal in the final minute.

New Zealand’s under-18 men have not avoided relegation in Division 3A since 2013, when they finished second. They suffered the drop in 2014 and 2017.

Main Photo: James Allan

Helen Murray calls in from Ice Fernz training camp

With the IIHF Worlds fast approaching, New Zealand Ice Fernz captain Helen Murray calls in from Austria. So, how’s the mood in training camp?

Head coach Rachel Park echoes Murray’s positive sentiments as the Ice Fernz’s training camp at the Sports Zentrum facility in St Pölten winds down.

“Yeah, I’m really encouraged by the team’s performance, and commitment to training” said Park.

As well as twice-daily ice time practices, the team has spent a lot of time discussing tactics and engaging in exercises to help build team cohesion.

“I’m thrilled with how the team is starting to gel. Despite the intensity of the training, there’s a positive vibe amongst the players. There have been some really good insightful and honest discussions.”

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During a rest day the Ice Fernz check out the sights of Vienna, including this good dog. Photo: Helen Murray

The first three days of training culminated in a practice game against local Austrian team, the EHV Sabres, which allowed Park to assess player development and try out a number of different line combinations.

“It was good for us. They were a great team; they were very fast, they were agile and they skated the puck down the ice, and they could shoot. Their shooting was hard and accurate, which disrupted our defence zone.”

The Ice Fernz lost that warmup game 6-3, but came away with some valuable lessons moving forward.

“Our powerplay was solid, but our penalty kill could do with a bit more improvement, especially our forechecking. I think we need to do some more work on shooting from inside the blue line, and more emphasis on our defence zone structure.”

“From an offensive perspective, I want to focus more on triangulation in our attack and certainly putting more pucks in front of the net will help.”

The Ice Fernz’s World Championship campaign gets underway in Brasov, Romania with Chinese Taipei providing the first test on Monday (11pm NZ time).

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The 2019 rookies. Back row (L-R): Danielle Strayer, Harriet Fuller, Terryn Bruce. Front row (L-R): Hannah Cross, Rikki-Lee McLean, Reagyn Shattock.

Main Photo: Kathy Gaze

New Zealand Under-18s suffer heartbreaking shootout loss to rivals Mexico

The New Zealand men’s under-18 ice hockey team may have earned a new nickname in Bulgaria: ‘The Hard Luck Kids’.

Stephen Reid’s young squad battled valiantly again, coming within 41 seconds of their first win at the IIHF Under-18 Division 3A World Championship before falling 5-4 to Mexico in a shootout on Thursday (Friday NZ Time).

That followed on from a 4-3 overtime loss to Israel and a 3-2 loss to Turkey on a goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation in their opening two games in Sofia.

Similar to their tournament opener against Israel, New Zealand played from ahead for much of the game against Mexico, holding 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 leads.

However, Mexico found an answer to every go-ahead goal from New Zealand, the final game-tying goal coming at the 59:19 mark with an extra attacker on the ice for the last 90 seconds.

After a scoreless overtime period, New Zealand were stonewalled by Mexico’s goaltender Marcello de Antunano on their four shootout attempts, losing 2-0.

Earlier, Noah Gregory, plus Alex Regan on the powerplay, scored to give New Zealand a 2-1 lead after the first period before Mexico tied the scores early in the second period. Will Sheard put New Zealand ahead again late in the second but Mexico drew level before the second intermission, just 23 seconds into a power play.

Lochlan Butler scored at 42:43 to give New Zealand the lead again, but despite defending desperately and killing off two power plays in the third period, they could not close the win out.

Kiwi netminder Finley Forbes, who stopped two of Mexico’s four shootout attempts, finished the game with 24 saves.

New Zealand now sit in sixth place with two points and are in danger of relegation after Iceland beat Turkey 5-2 in the second game of the day. Mexico move up to fifth, also on two points, after their first win of the tournament. Meanwhile hosts Bulgaria remain undefeated after completely the 3-2 overtime comeback against Israel, they were trailing 2-0 after the first.

The Kiwis won’t have much time to contemplate their recent close calls however, they face Iceland tonight (12am NZT) in a game that could decide whether or not New Zealand is relegated to the Division 3B World Championship in 2020. They close out the tournament against Bulgaria on Sunday (Monday 2:20am NZT).

Main Photo: James Allan

NZ Under-18s face steep path ahead after two late losses

The New Zealand Under-18 men’s ice hockey team have suffered two agonising losses to open their world championship bid in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The Young Ice Blacks fell 4-3 in overtime to Israel in their IIHF Division III Group A tournament opener on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time), before losing to Turkey 3-2 after allowing a late goal on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT).

New Zealand had 2-1 and 3-2 leads against Israel in the second period as Noah Gregory and Jack Robbie combined for their second while Christian Regan added the other. After Israel tied the game with just a second remaining on a powerplay late in the second, a scoreless third period sent the game into overtime, where Israel found the game-winner 40 seconds in.

The Kiwi side outshot Israel 30-23 as NZ netminder Rhett Wilson had 19 saves.

Finley Forbes made 29 saves in the second game but couldn’t deny Turkey the game-winner in a frenetic final minute.

Forbes was pulled from net for an extra attacker with three minutes remaining and New Zealand trailing 2-1. Carlin Baumgartner looked to have sent the game into overtime scoring a goal with 59 seconds to play but Turkey’s Timur Turut lit the lamp for his hat-trick with 15 seconds on the clock.

Levi March scored earlier for New Zealand and provided the assist on Baumgartner’s goal, while Jackson Flight had his third assist in two games on March’s second period tally.

The path to stay up in Division III Group A became a steep one after the losses, with games against Iceland, relegated from Division II Group B, and last year’s second and third-placed finishers Mexico and Bulgaria remaining.

A last-placed finish at the six-team tournament would see New Zealand relegated to Division III Group B, where they have yo-yo’d up and down from since their 2012 second division relegation.

However, Iceland and Mexico both find themselves in a similar situation to the Kiwis with two losses in two games. The saving grace is New Zealand salvaged a point in their overtime loss to Israel, but they currently sit four points behind the Israelis for the bronze medal.

Following a day of recovery, Steve Reid’s squad face Mexico on Thursday (Friday 12am NZT), Iceland on Friday (Saturday 12am NZT) and Bulgaria on Sunday (Monday 2.30am NZT).

The under-18s start a busy stretch for New Zealand ice hockey, with the Ice Fernz in action at the IIHF Div 2B Women’s World Championship in Brasov, Romania from April 1-7, the women’s under-16 team at the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in Abu Dhabi, UAE from April 14-19, and the Ice Blacks at the IIHF Div2B World Championship in Mexico City, Mexico from April 21-27.

Main photo: James Allan

PUCK YEAH 53: Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park

The international ice hockey window is hitting its busy period with four New Zealand national teams in play over the next month.

One such team is the New Zealand Ice Fernz, who are currently in the finals days of their brief training camp at the Sports Zentrum in St. Pölten, Austria.

Under the guidance of new head coach Rachel Park, the national women’s team are looking to push themselves to the next level of international competition when they take part in the 2019 IIHF Division 2-B Women’s World Championship in Brasov, Romania from April 1st.

The Ontario native joins the podcast this week to talk about her new role, the current state of the team and the women’s game in general, plus we discuss some of the adjustments she’s made to strengthen the squad within her first few months at the helm.

Puck Yeah Podcast is available to stream on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud with new episodes released every Wednesday.

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Main Photo: Elvar Freyr

HIGHLIGHTS: New Zealand U18s and Turkey go down to the wire

Looking to bounce back quickly from their OT loss to Israel in game 1, the New Zealand Under-18s were up against Turkey in their second game of the 2019 IIHF Under-18 Div3A World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

With both sides exchanging scoring chances in a close contest, it would take some last-minute heroics to decide a winner.

New Zealand now have a day to recover before facing Mexico next at midnight NZ time Friday. Watch the highlights above for a wrap of the action.

Main photo: James Allan

HIGHLIGHTS: New Zealand U18s and Israel close in tournament opener

The New Zealand Under-18s got their mission for gold underway overnight with a closely fought battle against Israel at the 2019 IIHF Under-18 Div3A World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Israel opened the scoring before the New Zealand powerplay was able to grab a lead with their opponents racking up the penalties. A surge of offence in the second period would lead to overtime for the decider.

Watch the highlights above for a wrap of the action. New Zealand face Turkey next at 3:30am NZ time tonight.

Main photo: James Allan

PUCK YEAH 52: This Team Is Ruining My Life with Steve Dangle

From hockey YouTuber, to podcaster, sports broadcaster, and now a published author – the media career of Steve ‘Dangle’ Glynn has enjoyed a strange path that is both fascinating and inspiring.

Dangle is a noted Toronto Maple Leafs fan, and while they are the team that is “ruining his life,” he joins the podcast this week to talk about the humbling process of writing his first book, being involved with Sportsnet’s coverage of the NHL’s trade deadline day, and other recent highlights.

His book ‘This Team Is Ruining My Life (But I Love Them)’ is available now from Booktopia and Book Depository for New Zealand and Australia.

This episode is dedicated to the 50 people who lost their lives on March 15th 2019 in the Christchurch terrorist attacks. Kia kaha, Christchurch.

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Dangle on the desk with Sportsnet’s Caroline Cameron.

PUCK YEAH 51: Southern Storming with Kellye Nelson & Angelique Mawson

The NZWIHL has wrapped up the 2019 season with the Southern Storm claiming the championship, ending both the Auckland Steel’s dominance and their own losing streak.

A highlight of their bounce back campaign has been the play of Minnesota native Kellye Nelson, who ran away with the league scoring race tallying 35 points in 12 games (25 goals, 10 assists). She joins the podcast this week to talk about the Storm, life in Queenstown, and how she came to be in a VISA commercial with Team USA star Hilary Knight.

Along with Kellye, we wrap up this week’s episode with Storm head coach Angelique Mawson, who also coaches the New Zealand Women’s Under-18 team that will be competing at the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia next month.

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