VENTSPILS, Latvia – In 2012 Ventspils hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A, two years later it was the Group B the city at the Baltic Sea welcomed but host Latvia won the tournament after four games to earn promotion back to the second-tier nations of women’s hockey.
The Latvians stopped the downfall in the World Ranking from the early beginning and defeated the up-and-coming Hungarians 4-0 to open the tournament. The Latvian women followed up with wins against former top division nations, 5-1 against China and 3-1 against Kazakhstan.
Among Latvia’s leaders was a mother-daughter duo. 36-year-old Inese Geca-Miljone already started coaching but still belongs to her country’s very top female players and led her team in scoring. Her daughter Liga Miljone, 17, was second in scoring on her team after three days but then she suffered an injury.
Because second-seeded Netherlands lost four points prior to the final game against Latvia due to a defeat against Hungary and a lost point against Kazakhstan, the Latvians got the opportunity to seal the tournament win already on the fourth day in a game against third-seeded DPR Korea.
Would the Latvians also be strong enough with only one half of the Miljone duo? They were. Before 841 fans and with changed lines, Geca-Miljone and her veteran linemate Laila Dekmeijere-Trigubova scored the goals for a 2-0 lead after the first period. Eventually the Latvians won the game 3-1 to celebrate the early tournament win.
China, Hungary and the Netherlands battle for the other medals on the last day. It will be a record-high placing for Hungary, which brought up some great talent that even led to two top-division participations with the U18 team. The Hungarians will finish this year’s Women’s World Championship program in 17th or 18th place overall and improve from the 21st-place finishes in 2001 and 2013.
On the other side of the standings the downfall of the Kazakh women’s national team continues. The Kazakhs played in the top division in 2011 where they were relegated. In 2012 they moved down another tier after finishing last in the Division I Group A, also played in Ventspils, and last year they were fifth in the Division I Group B. This time the Kazakhs lost all games including the key game against fifth-ranked DPR Korea, 0-3, on the opening day. Click here for scores, statistics and photos.