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.

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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).

Tough tests against Chinese Taipei and Iceland await Ice Fernz

Tonight the New Zealand Ice Fernz will get their 2019 campaign underway and they will get straight into the thick of it, facing Chinese Taipei first up at 11pm NZ time.

Speaking with RadioSport’s Nigel Yalden on the All Sports Breakfast last weekend, head coach Rachel Park highlighted the fact that they need to start strong if they are to have any success in the condensed five-game tournament.

“I’m expecting Chinese Taipei to be our most challenging contender, they placed second last year. We need to come out with a big W in that one, and if we can do that, I think we’ll continue that momentum into our Iceland game,” said Park.

New Zealand have only faced Chinese Taipei once at this level of international women’s hockey, going down 5-2 last year at the IIHF Division 2 Group B tournament in Spain. This year the Ice Fernz compete in the same division with the aim of winning gold and gaining promotion to Division 2A.

While Mexico is considered New Zealand’s closest rivals in the men’s game, for the national women’s side it is Iceland. The two sides have endured some spirited battles in the past including a 4-3 Iceland shootout win in last year’s tournament and a 4-3 NZ win in 2017.

Speaking with Helen Murray via Skype during their final days of training camp in Austria, the captain confirmed to Puck Yeah that the Iceland matchup is one the Ice Fernz look forward to.

“Some of my toughest hockey moments have been against Iceland. I know every time we come up against them it’s going to be a good game. They’re a really great team of girls as well, so we play really hard on the rink and then off the rink we’re really good mates, so I’m looking forward to that,” Murray explained.

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Hannah Shields keeping the Iceland attack at bay. Photo: Elvar Freyr

Park identifies the Ice Fernz’s defensive coverage as a strength to their game, one that they worked on and tested throughly during training camp, including a warmup game against Austrian champions the EHV Sabres.

And while the team is well served by the likes of Jaime Jones, Rebecca Lilly, Rachel Neville-Lamb and Krystie Woodyear-Smith, it’s within their goaltender ranks where the 2019 Ice Fernz demonstrate an exciting depth of talent – as the last line of defence, it’s their sole job to steer down the opposition and thwart their attempts to score.

New Zealand features two strong options, with a third waiting in the wings if called upon.

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Lochlyn Hyde sets to deny Mexico in 2017. Photo: Elvar Freyr

Lochlyn Hyde returns for another season with the national team after posting solid performances in the New Zealand Women’s Ice Hockey League, including a .914 save percentage and 2.73 goals against average over nine games for the Auckland Steel.

Hyde has also previously competed at the IIHF senior level with the Fernz in 2018 (Spain) and 2017 (Iceland).

But it’s the return of Grace Harrison from her North American endeavours that might make all the difference. The netminder made her international debut for New Zealand back in 2013, at the tender age of 15, earning game MVP honours in a tightly contested 2-1 overtime loss to Poland.

Since then, Harrison has gone on to represent her country at both the 2014 and 2015 IIHF World Champs but elected to take a break from international hockey after receiving a NCAA Division I scholarship, the first female ice hockey player from New Zealand to do so.

Four years of Statistics studies later and an impressive 96-game collegiate career playing for the St. Lawrence University Saints under her belt, the stars have aligned to make it possible for Harrison to compete in the 2019 tournament.

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Grace Harrison in between the pipes for SLU. Photo: Carol Hill

And as if two top-class goalies wasn’t enough, the team roster includes the multi-talented Danielle Strayer from Queenstown who finished the 2019 domestic season with a 5-0 record for the Southern Storm, including a shutout, plus a .959 SV% and 1.02 GAA.

The Minnesota native recently received her New Zealand citizenship and will make the IIHF debut for her adopted homeland this week. While Strayer has been focused on acquainting herself with her new position on the blue line, she also brought along her goalie gear to Europe in case of emergency.

As the NZWIHL’s top goaltender in 2019, that’s not a bad third option to have up your sleeve if you’re the Ice Fernz.

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

Main Photo: Elvar Freyr

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

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

Ice Fernz rookie Terryn Bruce’s position swap already a success

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.

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Terryn’s father Gary Bruce (pictured front row, 4th in) and the NZ Vets inline hockey team.

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.

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Winner winner, chicken dinner!

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

NZIHF appoint Director of Women’s Hockey ahead of Ice Fernz campaign

The future of women’s hockey is currently at the forefront of discussion in North America – the growing success of the CWHL and NWHL sees the topic of an inevitable merger for a singular national women’s hockey league coming up more and more.

Here in New Zealand, it’s no different – except for the scale of operations of course. A recent Puck Yeah poll suggests that the majority of local hockey fans would support an expanded NZWIHL when the time is right.

The key factor there is developing a deep enough talent pool. One that can eventually become sustainable with the next generation coming through and challenging the current guard for roster spots on the national women’s team, the Ice Fernz.

That is going to require some serious recruiting and promotional efforts by the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation when the sport remains on the outside looking in compared to other female codes in this country.

While the NZWIHL is beneficial in preparing our nation’s best, the season passed by between late January and early March this year with little fanfare – if you blinked, you missed it. The mainstream media coverage was severely lacking, but don’t blame the big four of TVNZ, Mediaworks, Stuff and NZME for that. If the NZIHF isn’t proactive in promoting their product, then what chance does the women’s game have of enjoying a higher profile?

For the women’s league to achieve the level of success seen by their Australian counterparts at the AWIHL, let alone the CWHL or NWHL, there needs to be an all-in attitude from those involved to make the NZWIHL more visible.

Well, proactivity is here. The NZIHF have recently appointed Victoria Buckley as their new Director of Women’s Hockey.

Buckley’s credentials include Canterbury Minor Ice Hockey President and Secretary. During her time as CMIH President, Buckley was instrumental in implementing the NZIHF’s ‘First Shift’ initiative in the region, along with establishing a Mites league (Under-8s) to address the need for those new age-group players to have their own competition.

That ‘can do’ attitude and ability to get things done could be hugely beneficial for New Zealand women’s ice hockey going forward. But for now, the attention turns to the Ice Fernz.

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Photo: Elvar Freyr

Come April 1 the Fernz begin their World Championship campaign against last year’s silver medalists Chinese Taipei. NZ will also face Iceland, Turkey, Romania and Croatia in their bid to win gold and gain promotion to the IIHF’s Division 2 – Group A.

Today the team departs for a training camp in Austria before proceeding onto Brasov, Romania for the real deal.

Puck Yeah recently interviewed new Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park for a podcast that will be released next Wednesday. The Ontario native also runs the bench for the Auckland Steel team that features a strong contingent of national representatives for both ice and inline.

One player of note that Park is excited to have on her roster is Jasmine Horner-Pascoe – the Auckland forward finished second in NZWIHL scoring this year with 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 12 games.

The new head coach praised Horner-Pascoe’s puck-handling abilities, “Her hands are just magical. She’s full of surprising dangles and I’d even say she’s probably the best I’ve seen on the ice in terms of a female player (in New Zealand) with those kinds of hands.”

The return of Helen Murray is another highlight of what Park considers to be a very solid roster despite a 25% attrition rate, describing the captain as someone who is ‘consistent on the ice and a great leader.’

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Photo: Elvar Freyr

New Zealand’s offence is further bolstered by the return of Caitlin Heale.

Heale came out with top scoring honours in last year’s tournament with 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists). Across just five games, those numbers highlight what this side is capable of and can be the difference between a medal placing and relegation. But after a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2018, the Ice Fernz will be out to prove they deserve that elusive IIHF promotion.

The turning point could come from the goal crease. The addition of Grace Harrison to the goalie ranks, alongside Lochlyn Hyde, sees a strong tandem in play with the number one starting role up for grabs at training camp.

Hyde finished the 2019 NZWIHL season with a .914 save percentage and 2.73 goals against average over nine games with the Steel – good enough to finish third in goaltending ranks behind the Southern Storm’s dynamic duo of Jordan Wichman and Danielle Strayer, who is making the switch to defence for the Fernz.

Grace Harrison recently wrapped up her senior season at St. Lawrence University with a 9-7-5 record while enjoying a .922 SV%, 2.18 GAA and two shutouts. That stat line remained relatively consistent throughout her 96-game NCAA Division I career with a GAA reaching as low as 1.62 and a top SV% of .923 – both coming from her sophomore year.

Harrison was exceptionally dominant in net this past January. Amounting a staggering .970 SV% and 0.76 GAA while going undefeated with a 3-0-1 record, her performance was recognised by the Women’s Hockey Commissioners’ Association with the ‘National Goalie of the Month’ award.

Coach Park sees Harrison’s collegiate experience as being invaluable to the team. “As a goaltender you see the entire ice. She’s going to be able to identify what’s breaking down, what’s working and also (bringing) that leadership perspective. The girls really appreciate what she’s been able to accomplish over there,” Park stated.

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Photo: Carol Hill

To be successful in this tournament Park believes the team needs to ‘mesh as a squad and get on the same system’ while also working on being more aggressive on the puck to match the increased intensity of international hockey, plus learning to counter their opponent’s tactics more effectively to create stronger scoring chances.

After my interview with Rachel Park wrapped up I felt like I came away from it having learnt more about the current state of the women’s game and hopefully you will too.

The Ice Fernz are an important part of growing the game in New Zealand, and as a country that loves to back a winner, a gold medal in Romania would go a long way to raising the team’s profile on the nation’s busy sporting landscape.

2019 Ice Fernz Traveling Squad

Forwards:
Harriet Fuller, Kirstin Gerken, Hope Gregory, Abbey Heale, Caitlin Heale, Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, Helen Murray, Caitlin Orr, Jemma Read, Reagyn Shattock, Hannah Shields.

Defence:
Terryn Bruce, Hannah Cross, Jaime Jones, Rebecca Lilly, Rikki-Lee McLean, Rachael Neville-Lamb, Ashley Richmond, Danielle Strayer, Krystie Woodyear-Smith.

Goalies:
Grace Harrison, Lochlyn Hyde

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: Elvar Freyr

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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PUCK YEAH 49: Meet The Foxes

We’re celebrating all things love on this week’s edition of the podcast!

January saw New Zealand Inline Ferns captain Tara Tissink marry the love of her life, Courtney Fox – whom just happens to be the Ferns team manager.

Together the newlywed Foxes join the podcast to talk about their big day and how preparations are shaping up for the Inline Ferns ahead of the 2019 World Roller Games in Barcelona.

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Photos: Nicola Blackwell