IZMIR, Turkey – Turkey has won the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Qualification tournament, defeating Bulgaria 4-3 and Ireland 7-1 on home ice over the weekend.
Led by tournament scoring leader and Directorate Best Forward Seda Demir, who netted two goals and three points in the second game against Ireland, Turkey closed the tournament undefeated and earned promotion to the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in front of a spirited home crowd.
It was a good showing for the surprising Turks, who upset the higher-ranked Bulgarians 4-3 in their opening game, and followed up with a 7-1 thrashing of Ireland. The player of the tournament for Turkey was Demir, who won the scoring title with eight points in just two games.
Against Ireland, Turkey controlled the game start to finish, slotting their first of several goals a mere 24 seconds into the first period. Ireland was outdone by Turkey’s quick skating and superior puck control, only getting the best of the home team when Ireland’s strongest skater Sonya McEneaney scored on a well-finished breakaway.
The previous day, when the Irish had faced Bulgaria, the storyline was very similar, with a final score of 6-1 to Bulgaria, although the Irish held off the Bulgarians for over 15 minutes before Lidia Bobeva got the best of the strong Irish goalie.
But because of the loss to the Turks in the opening game, which saw Turkey storm back form a 3-1 deficit to win in the third period, Bulgaria failed to make it out of the qualification phase.
From figure skating to international ice hockey
While Turkey’s qualification may surprise a lot of people in the hockey world, within the country few involved in the sport didn’t see it as a long way coming.
Turkish women’s hockey got a jump-start in 2007, when nine figure skaters from Milenyum Paten Ankara got the idea in their heads that they wanted to try playing ice hockey, realizing that their skating abilities were far superior to those of many of the current players at the time.
Spearheaded by Gizem Oztasdelen, a forward on the national team who scored four points in the qualification tournament, the girls persuaded Gizem’s father, the president of the club, to allow them to start a hockey team, and talked her brother, Umur, into becoming the team manager. For the first two years, many of the girls were active in both disciplines.
“There was a time that my sister had figure skating championships during the day and had a hockey game in the evening,” recalled Umur.
In 2009, Sarma Pone, a Latvian national team player, joined the team to formally teach the players the fundamentals of hockey. The lessons seem to have stuck. Since 2009, Milenyum Paten Ankara has won the national title for four years running, only having lost one game, scoring 114 goals and conceding only three in that span.
Milenyum has played in the European Women’s Champions Cup since 2009, hosting a round of the tournament in Ankara in 2010. In the Division II qualification tournament, eight of the Turkish national team players came from Milenyum Paten Ankara.
Not bad for a group of figure skaters.
Click here for scores and stats.