TROMSØ, Norway – The Hungarian women’s U18 national team completed the biggest upset of this international season on Wednesday. The Hungarians won the Division I tournament and will play with the top eight nations next year.
This is also by leaps and bounds the biggest success in Hungarian women’s hockey. The senior national team has been playing in the Women’s World Championship since 2003, but hadn’t previously been able to get higher than the third tier of competition in six attempts.
Hungary has never had a team in the women’s U18 category before, and had to go through a qualification tournament in Asiago, Italy, one month earlier in order to advance to the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I in Norway.
Ranked 25th in the 2011 IIHF Women’s World Ranking, the Hungarian girls weren’t expected to win the qualification event by many people. But they didn’t just succeed in Italy, but brought their A-game to Norway to win the Division I event too.
With a 10-0 record, the Hungarian women’s U18 national team is probably the most successful new entrant in any IIHF category since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
It wasn’t an easy tournament victory, though. The newcomers had a tough time against Austria and Japan, which ended up winning silver and bronze respectively.
Hungary outshot Austria 35-25 in the opening game to win the encounter 4-3. The Magyars blew a 2-0 lead, but eventually made it 4-2 and survived the late offensive attempts from their neighbours. Lili Pintner netted two goals for Hungary.
Hungary also outshot Japan, 40-29, but struggled to win 3-2 in a shootout. Suzuka Taka and Rui Ukita gave Japan the lead twice, but Alexandra Huszak tied it up with her two goals. Dorottya Medgyes scored the only goal in the game-winning shots competition following a scoreless overtime.
Austria recovered from its opening-day loss and won all the rest of its games, including the decisive match for the silver medal against Japan, 2-1 in a shootout. Japan had to settle for bronze.
Host Norway ended up in fourth place before Great Britain – the second qualifier behind Hungary – and winless Slovakia.
Hungary also topped the offensive stats. Huszak was named Best Forward and was the scoring leader with ten points (7+3) along with compatriot Fanni Gasparics (2+8=10).
Japan’s Shizuka Takahashi was named Best Goalkeeper, and Norway’s Victoria Lovdal was Best Defenceman.
Hungary will replace the loser of the best-of-three relegation series between Switzerland and Russia – Switzerland won the first game 4-2 – in next year’s top division.
Continuing this rapid rate of progress among the top eight nations might prove to be difficult. But with 15 out of 20 players eligible to represent Hungary next year in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship, the Hungarians have some hopes of possibly upsetting an elite nation or two.
More information: Statistics, Photos