Andrew Cox on RadioSport’s All Sports Breakfast

Earlier today, Andrew Cox surpassed Brett Speirs as the New Zealand Ice Blacks all-time leading scorer with a three-point performance against North Korea at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City.

New Zealand suffered another slow start, allowing their opposition to score three quick goals in the first period. It’s an issue that Cox identifies as something that needs to be rectified going into their final game of the tournament tomorrow.

The Ice Blacks’ high-powered offence managed to click as the game went on, erasing the previous deficit, before going on to win 8-5. Following the game, Andrew Cox called into RadioSport’s All Sports Breakfast with Nigel Yalden for the post-game reaction.

Listen to the full interview with RadioSport above.

Main photo: Mike Froger

Schneider, Cox spark comeback victory over North Korea

The New Zealand Ice Blacks overcame an early three-goal deficit to beat North Korea 8-5 in the penultimate round of games at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City.

Opting to rest number one goalie Rick Parry ahead of their game against Iceland, Ice Blacks head coach Anatoly Khorozov elected to give Vince Mitalas his first career IIHF start in net.

The decision initially appeared to backfire. Within the first seven minutes of the game, North Korea had slotted three shots past Mitalas, including a shorthanded goal, to give the New Zealand side an early scare with their opponents’ speed catching them by surprise.

But if there’s one thing the Ice Blacks don’t have trouble doing, it’s scoring goals, and the Queenstown combination of Matt Schneider and Ryan Strayer looked to erase New Zealand’s earlier mistakes by teaming up for a pair of goals later in the first period.

New Zealand continued to look threatening on the man-advantage with both goals coming on the powerplay after North Korea’s Ryu was penalised for hooking, followed by a two-minute bench penalty for having too many men on the ice.

Ahead by one goal heading into first intermission, North Korea opted to swap goalies with Kwang Su Jo coming in to replace starting netminder Il Pak.

New Zealand started the second period on the powerplay and it only took 31 seconds for Schneider to convert and tie the game, claiming his second goal of the night, assisted by Strayer and captain Nick Craig.

Following a string of penalties, the Ice Blacks found themselves on the backfoot again. While they managed to kill off the first two, Kwang Ho Kim breached their defences on the third opportunity to reclaim a one goal lead for North Korea.

Nick Henderson set up Benjamin Gavoille with a well-placed stretch pass to allow the Ice Blacks winger to best Kwang Su Jo in a one-on-one battle and lock the teams up 4-a-piece after two periods of play.

Facing a total of 36 shots on net, Mitalas allowed one more before the tides started to turn in New Zealand’s favour for the remainder of the game.

North Korea struggled to handle New Zealand’s combination of skill and physical play as the game worn on. By applying relentless forecheck pressure on the North Koreans, the Ice Blacks were able to take advantage of their opponent’s mistakes deep in their own end.

Four unanswered goals by Alex Polozov, Andrew Cox, Stefan Amston and Chris Eaden secured the 8-5 victory.

Schneider was awarded team MVP for his five-point effort, scoring two powerplay goals and three assists. While with a goal and two assists, Andrew Cox surpassed Brett Speirs’ previous record of 49 points to become the Ice Blacks leading all-time scorer with 51.

Mitalas also claims his first win for New Zealand, a significant achievement for the 40-year-old netminder from London, ON who was called into the side as an emergency backup and has filled that role admirably in support of Parry.

New Zealand’s final game of the tournament will be against Iceland, Sunday 9:30am (NZ time). Depending on the result in the preceding Israel v Georgia game, the Ice Blacks could be playing for either a gold or silver medal. If the Georgians are able to continue their current hot streak after beating Iceland 6-3 today, then gold (and IIHF promotion) is potentially up for grabs.

Scoring Summary

New Zealand: 8
Matt Schneider (Strayer & Polozov), Ryan Strayer (Schneider & Cox), Matt Schneider (Strayer & Craig), Benjamin Gavoille (Henderson & Challis), Alex Polozov (Cox & Schneider), Andrew Cox (Henderson & Schneider), Stefan Amston (Gavoille & Strayer), Chris Eaden (Heyd & Mawson).

North Korea: 5
IH Kang (KC Kim), CR Hong (SG Ri), HJ Kim (CM Ri & KH Kim), KH Kim (HJ Kim)

Main photo: Mike Froger

Ice Blacks powerplay stays hot against Georgia

In response to a disappointing 5-3 loss to Israel, the New Zealand Ice Blacks have bounced back in day three action of the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City, beating newcomers Georgia 6-2.

The Georgians surprised the Ice Blacks early on by opening the scoring thirty-seconds into the contest. For the next ten minutes the New Zealand side were battling to gain any meaningful possession, frustrated by the neutral zone trap set by their opponents.

The breakthrough came halfway through the first period when captain Nick Craig led by example to send the puck past Georgia starting goalie Andrey Ilyenko for the game-tying goal. French-Kiwi Benjamin Gavoille gave New Zealand their first lead of the game 93 seconds later.

Alex Polosov was whistled for slashing by the referees while battling for the puck in the corners, putting Georgia on the powerplay for the first time in the game. Artem Kurbatov wasted no time in converting the opportunity to tie the game 2-2 heading into first intermission.

From that point on, momentum slowly swung in New Zealand’s favour. With the referees looking to penalise both sides for any lazy stick infractions, the Ice Blacks’ potent powerplay found their chance to grab hold of the lead.

Chris Eaden scored his first of the game on the man-advantage, assisted by Jordan Challis after Georgia’s Mikhail Shalunov was sent to the penalty box for slashing. Martin Lee followed suit five minutes later, with Challis picking up another assist along with Craig.

Heading into the third period, the shaky start was well behind by the Ice Blacks now as they looked to finish off strong.

Back on the powerplay six minutes in with Georgia’s Kharizov called for tripping, Paris Heyd continued New Zealand’s impressive run of form on the special teams by scoring the third powerplay goal of the game, putting the game well out of reach for their opponents.

Eaden scored his second with 7:25 remaining in the game to seal the 6-2 victory and keep their chances of higher medal honours looking healthy with two more games to play. The win also marks Auckland-based defenceman Andrew Hay’s 70th IIHF appearance for the Ice Blacks.

NZ goalie Rick Parry was strong in net for the remainder of the game after allowing two in the first period, making 32 saves off 34 shots on goal. Team MVP went to captain Nick Craig for his efforts however, with a goal and an assist.

The Ice Blacks have a rest day off tomorrow before they take on North Korea this Saturday at 6am (NZ time).

Main photo: Mike Froger

Ice Blacks suffer tough loss to Israel

In day two action from the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City, the New Zealand Ice Blacks have hit a bump on the road to gold after losing 5-3 to Israel in what was a closely fought battle throughout.

Israel controlled the flow of the game early on and showed that perhaps their 6-3 win over Iceland yesterday wasn’t an upset as initially thought. Evgeni Kozhevnikov opened the scoring eight minutes into the game to put New Zealand behind 1-0.

Following on from that goal, the Ice Blacks struggled to get through the neutral zone to mount their own attacks with several icing penalties called against them, hemming the New Zealand side in their own zone.

Six minutes later New Zealand forward Frazer Ellis drew an interference penalty against Israel’s Itay Ben Tov, with a second infraction by Israel moments later giving the Ice Blacks a two-man advantage for 21 seconds.

While time expired on the first penalty, the NZ attack enjoyed sustained pressure and kept the momentum of their powerplay going from yesterday’s game – Matt Schneider using his quick wrist shot to beat Israel’s starting goalie Nir Tichon.

With the score 1-1 after the first period, this could have been anyone’s game. New Zealand head coach Anatoly Khorozov and former NHL centre come Israel head coach Bobby Holik were locked into their own battle to see who could take the advantage.

The powerplay chances continued to come New Zealand’s way but were unable to convert despite enjoying a wealth of possession. Against the run of play Israel scored the go-ahead goal with eleven minutes remaining in the second period.

The Israelis doubled their lead late in the second, Evgeni Kozhevnikov scoring his second of the night by beating Ice Blacks goalie Rick Parry on an unassisted breakaway.

Eager to ignite a third period comeback for New Zealand, Paris Heyd closed the gap down to one after cutting through the offensive zone to send the puck over the shoulder of goalie Tichon.

The momentum gained from that play was quickly quashed however when Ellis was penalised for a late hit, a new rule put in place by the IIHF as of this season. Kozhevnikov scored his hat-trick goal on the ensuing powerplay.

The back and forward continued midway through the final period. Stefan Amston’s recent run of form saw the Queenstown-based defender bag his second goal in consecutive games, sending home his own rebound to claw the Ice Blacks back within one.

It was all to no avail however, with Parry pulled from New Zealand’s crease to provide an extra attacker, Israel scored an empty-net goal to seal the deal and bury the Ice Blacks’ hopes of going five-for-five in 2019.

Such is the harsh reality of these short five-game tournaments, New Zealand will now need to win their remaining three game in regulation and hope other results go in their favour to keep their aspirations for gold alive.

The Ice Blacks have a day off tomorrow to recover from back-to-back games before facing their next opponent, Georgia, on Thursday (NZ time). Puck drop is scheduled for 6am.

Ice Blacks assert dominance with convincing win over Mexico

The New Zealand Ice Blacks began their campaign at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in convincing fashion with a 7-2 win over hosts Mexico tonight, making it New Zealand’s first win against their rivals on Mexican ice.

55 seconds into the game Mexico’s Santiago Sierra was called for slashing, starting the first of seven stick infractions they would be called for.

And while the Ice Blacks were unsuccessful on their first powerplay, shortly after time expired on Sierra’s penalty, the high-powered line of Chris Eaden, Martin Lee and Paris Heyd connected to open the scoring, with Eaden grabbing the tally.

The Mexicans answered back shortly after to tie the game 1-1 before ill discipline got the better of them, with back-to-back penalties for hooking and tripping. New Zealand scored their first of five powerplay goals on the night halfway through the first period, Ryan Strayer celebrating his recent NZ citizenship status with his first IIHF goal.

Tensions began to rise between the two nations as the first period wound with Mexico’s Gomez and Perez called for cross-checking and high sticking respectively, while New Zealand’s Heyd was penalised for charging in retaliation as the Mexicans look to take their frustrations out on the Ice Blacks.

Jordan Challis and Andrew Cox scored 33 seconds apart to end their first period with New Zealand leading 4-1.

The scoreline not coming without casualties however, defenceman Callum Burns was stretchered off the ice after taking an unfortunate fall into the boards. Also in the first, Strayer coped a stray stick to draw a bloody nose, but no penalty.

Mexico looked to right their ship by scoring within the first minute of the following period of play, however from there on out, New Zealand were clinical in their execution of the powerplay. The Ice Blacks scored three more on the man-advantage during the second, including a breakaway goal by Stefan Amston that could be worthy of a few highlight reels.

Also amongst the powerplay markers, Cox scored his second of the game while towering centre Matt Schneider notched up his first of the tournament. With three assists on the night, Estonian-born forward Alex Polozov was a quiet contributor for the Ice Blacks.

Mexico’s starting goalie de la Garma was replaced by de la Vega after allowing seven goals through forty minutes.

While the final score would be decided after two periods, the two sides exchanged penalties in the third, but the Ice Blacks remained resilient to hold onto their sizeable lead with starting goalie Rick Parry standing tall when required and their penalty kill denying any scoring opportunities for their opposition.

“It was pretty scrappy, we weren’t really expecting that, but we didn’t sink down to their level which is really good. We kept our heads (held) high, played our game and came away with the win, so it was a fantastic way to start the tournament,” said Ice Blacks captain Nick Craig.

In today’s other games, Israel upset Iceland 6-3, while DPR Korea put on a dominant display to beat division newcomers Georgia 9-4.

The Ice Blacks next opponent will be a strong-looking Israel team coached by former NHL defenceman Bobby Holik, with puck drop scheduled for 9:30am tomorrow (NZ time).

Main photo: Mike Froger

The former NHL netminder working with the Ice Blacks

Unless you are a hardcore New York Rangers fan, then the name Terry Kleisinger may not ring a bell. But the Regina native played four games for the Blue Shirts in the 1985-86 NHL season after four years of NCAA with the University of Wisconsin.

Whether you play one, four, or a thousand-plus games in The Show, it’s considered a great achievement for any hockey player’s career, and Terry’s NHL story is noteworthy to say the least.

Fresh off their worst season in franchise history with 44 losses and 345 goals allowed in the 84-85 campaign, newly appointed Rangers head coach Ted Sator made sweeping changes two days prior to the new season – starting goalie Glen Hanlon was sent to the minors, replaced by a young John Vanbiesbrouck, with Kleisinger serving as backup.

Kleisinger signed his NHL contracts just days after being involved in one of the largest team brawls in the league’s history. During a pre-season game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a full-scale fight broke out that took half an hour to resolve and resulted in 506 penalty minutes and 22 players ejected, Kleisinger included.

As you’ll see in the video below, the Rangers netminder skates the length of the ice to engage with Flyers goalie Bob Froese.

These days he lives in Vail, Colorado working as a goalie coach for the junior Huskies team. While the Ice Blacks were in town for two weeks with their training camp, the local Vail Yeti hockey club connected Kleisinger with the New Zealand national team to help prepare their goaltenders, Rick Parry and Vince Mitalas, for the IIHF Worlds.

Mitalas is a name Kiwi hockey fans will be more familiar with having won three titles in New Zealand’s national league. The 6-foot-2 goalie last played for the Canterbury Red Devils during the 2013 NZIHL season, but now resides in London, Ontario.

Originally named as a non-traveling reserve for the 2019 Ice Blacks squad, Mitalas received the emergency call up when Csaba Kercso-Magos became unavailable.

With the opportunity to represent New Zealand again, Mitalas sprung into action, enlisting the help of two goalie coaches (including Perry Wilson) prior to meeting up with the Ice Blacks in Vail.

977239_10151877235482345_1948864481_o.jpg

A Red Devils blast from the past.

Rick Parry on the other hand is coming off a NZIHL championship-winning season with the West Auckland Admirals where he split starts with Kercso-Magos.

Based on first impressions, their temporary coach was impressed with both Kiwi goalies as he began to look for ways to improve their game within a short space of time.

“They’re very good, it’s just a matter of getting used to the altitude. It’s tough here and first of all, the first few days you got to get them used to it so they’re not just sucking wind,” said Kleisinger.

With the first few trainings behind them, the rapport with Kleisinger grew, particularly for Parry whom also aspires to be a goalie coach with his recently launched Rick Parry Goalie Academy.

The coach highlighted Parry’s puck sense and ability to move side to side as his strengths, and while Mitalas has been away from competitive hockey for an extended period, Kleisinger believes that coming into the training camp with a great attitude and being mentally prepared will serve the 40-year-old goalie well.

Both Parry and Mitalas are also singing Terry’s praises after spending ten days together, breaking down their current techniques and refining what they’re doing so they can become more efficient in their movements.

“It’s been awesome. So many times with New Zealand camps the goalies just don’t have a trained set of eyes to see what we’re doing. We go so many weeks and months without a goalie coach that habits creep in and Terry’s able to jump on them pretty quickly and set us back in the right direction.

He doesn’t make any wholesale changes because he just doesn’t have the time – just tweak for the World Championship and refine things, he’s been fabulous for that,” said Mitalas.

JF_WG18_IHT2-9940

Parry keeping an eye on the Aussies. Photo: Jay French

While Parry feels like he has come away with a wealth of knowledge from his time with Kleisinger, something that could become beneficial not only to himself, but to youth goalies around New Zealand that enrol into future RPGA camps.

One such lesson has been a set of warmup drills that Parry mentions can be used in any practice situation, along with ways to tackle certain in-game situations that can be challenging for a goalie – those big moments when they’re called upon to either steal or save the game for their team.

“One in particular has been the cross-ice one-time situation like a 2-on-1. Instead of pushing out to a player, you push back to the post which buys you a bit more time. Just little things like that, that you kind of know but need somebody to pick up on and then tell you so you can refine it,” Parry explained.

Having come through the second week of training camp with an improved effort on the backend for all concerned, reducing the amount of goals allowed from 14 in week one to 7, it appears the time spent with Kleisinger has been invaluable.

But the true test lies within New Zealand’s opening games of the 2019 IIHF Division 2B World Championship, starting with hosts/rivals Mexico tomorrow, followed by a potentially lethal Israel team the next day.

While Parry will see the majority, if not all, of the starts this week, Mitalas is more than prepared to fulfill his important role as backup goalie.

“I’ll have a great seat on the bench watching Rick do his thing, and then again if I’m needed I’ll be ready.”

Ice Blacks Game Times

NZ v Mexico – April 22, 1:15pm
NZ v Israel – April 23, 9:30am
NZ v Georgia – April 25, 6am
NZ v North Korea – April 27, 6am
NZ v Iceland – April 28, 9:30am

Game times are listed in NZ time.

Nick Craig on RadioSport: “Iceland will be our toughest opponent”

Earlier today New Zealand Ice Blacks captain Nick Craig joined RadioSport’s ‘Power Hour’ with Matt Buck from Mexico City to chat about the IIHF Division 2B World Championship that gets underway tomorrow.

After an intense ten-day training camp, the Ice Blacks were excited to be amongst their opponents and check out what will be the team’s base for the next week.

The team had their first skate on the ice here in Mexico City this morning, in what is a very unique setup – the tournament is being played within a large-scale shopping mall with the food court residing next door. It’s something that not many within the NZ squad are used to, or have even seen before, but they appear to be taking it all in their stride.

And while Craig is expecting that the tournament will be tightly contested between the six competing nations, the NZ skipper is predicting that Iceland will be their biggest challenge as the team that has returned from the tier above.

Listen to the full interview with RadioSport above.

Main photo: Mike Froger

Ice Fernz come home with silver medal

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.

HIGHLIGHTS: Horner-Pascoe scores 6 points in dominant NZ win over Romania

Report by Paul Harrison / Highlights video to come

The New Zealand Ice Fernz delivered host nation Romania a lesson on the ice this morning, with an emphatic 7-1 win, guaranteeing themselves a podium finish in the IIHF Division 2B Women’s World Championship.

The first frame began with the Ice Fernz dominating both possession and territory. The Kiwis drew first blood at the seven-minute mark, when a shot from Jasmine Horner-Pascoe was partially saved by the Romanian goalie. The rebound was unsecured and the puck found its way to the stick of Hannah Shields, who needed no invitation to bury it deep in the net.

The Horner-Pascoe and Shields combination featured again nine minutes later, when Helen Murray and Shields orchestrated the near-perfect delivery and it fell to Horner-Pascoe to simply tip the puck in the net and nudge the score along to 2-0.

The Ice Fernz dominance in the first period was exemplified by the 13-3 shots on goal, and any breeches of defence were settled by some tidy saves by Lochlyn Hyde in-goal.

The Ice Fernz continued their momentum into the second period with some impressive ice time in the Romanian end. A number of shots went harrowingly close to the inside of the pipes.

Romania went onto the penalty kill five minutes into the second and it took the Ice Fernz a further minute to add to their tally, with Jasmine Horner-Pascoe slotting her second of the game, assisted by Hannah Shields and Jaime Jones.

The pace continued with Horner-Pascoe featuring again. A powerful slap shot seemingly found the goalies catcher, but the momentum was enough to force the
puck across the line, awarding the Ice Fernz’s leading goal scorer a natural hat-trick. By the end of the game, the red-hot forward would rack up six points.

Against the run of play, Romanian scored at the start of the third period, when a centring puck ricocheted off a Kiwi defender’s skate and into the goal.

However, equilibrium was quickly restored when Horner-Pascoe skated the puck up the ice, drew a couple of defenders, then drop-passed the puck to a Hannah Shields in waiting, who slotted it home for the Ice Fernz’s fifth goal.

Goal number six evolved from an end-to-end skate by Horner-Pascoe, who circled the net and found Ice Fernz captain Helen Murray nicely positioned and stick-ready, 6-1 New Zealand.

The Ice Fernz’s final goal came with 40 seconds remaining on the clock. Receiving a pass from Abby Heale, Krystie Woodyear-Smith fired a slap shot from the blueline, but Romania’s exhausted goalie Nadina Niciu was unable to secure the puck, and it dribbled across the line.

This was a dominant performance by the Ice Fernz. The Kiwis outshot Romania 50-23 and never looked troubled.

The Ice Fernz defence was notable for the absence of any clear breakaways by the Romanians. The New Zealand MVP award went to Hannah Shields for her outstanding performance and tally of 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists).

“This was our best game yet. The girls played 60 minutes of structured hockey and never let up,” said Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park.

Based on today’s results, should Iceland beat Chinese Taipei on Sunday, and the top three teams remain tied on points, the gold medal winner will be decided by the goal differential between the tied teams, which favours Chinese Taipei.

The Ice Fernz play their final game against Croatia at 10pm NZ time on Sunday.

HIGHLIGHTS: Ice Fernz move into medal contention after 4-2 win over Turkey

Video by Puck Yeah / Report by Paul Harrison

The New Zealand Ice Fernz fought back from a 1-nil deficit to beat Turkey overnight at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Brasov, Romania.

The Ice Fernz exerted early pressure and were unlucky to concede an early goal against the run of play. Maintaining their composure, the New Zealand side were rewarded at the start of the second period when a loose puck was collected by Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, who circled around behind the goal and found an unmarked Hannah Shields, who slotted it home.

The Ice Fernz then scored their second goal when Jasmine Horner-Pascoe made full use of the open ice from 4-on-4, driving the puck end-to-end with a highlight reel effort reminiscent of the previous game against Iceland.

The Ice Fernz went further ahead 90 seconds later when Hannah Shields picked up a pass and put the shot on goal. It was initially thought that Turkish goalie had secured the puck in her catcher, but the goal judge deemed her catcher had crossed the line and awarded the goal.

A fourth goal followed soon after when Reagyn Shattock found the back of the net for her first-ever IIHF goal. She was also accredited with an assist on the previous score.

Turkey rallied in the final period and scored a consolation goal but were unable to mount a comeback.

With the 4-2 victory, New Zealand move up in the tournament standings to second place, 3 points behind Chinese Taipei, putting them in serious medal contention with just two games remaining.

_BC00027

At the request of the Turkish team, the start of tonight’s game was delayed so that both teams could join on the ice to pay their respects to the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attacks.

The New Zealand Ice Fernz will next face off against tournament hosts Romania (Saturday, 6am NZ Time) in what promises to be an exciting game. With a boisterous Romanian crowd expected to be in attendance, the game is sure to be played with intensity and passion.

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).