Korea takes shootout gold
by Andy Potts|19 JAN 2019
The Korean under-18 women’s national team players celebrate tournament win in their first ever IIHF tournament participation after beating Kazakhstan in a shootout.
photo: Miguel Ramon Henares
Korea took gold in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B Qualification after edging a shootout in the final against Kazakhstan on Friday evening. This was the first time Korea had entered a team in Women’s U18 competition – more evidence of the boost Korean hockey enjoyed at last year’s Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. 

The teams played out a 3-3 tie in Jaca, Spain, before 20 minutes of 4-on-4 overtime failed to produce a winning goal. In the shootout, Siun Choi and Yunha Song scored for Korea while goalie Eun-Bee Huh got the upper hand in all four duels with Kazakhstan’s forwards.

The margins were fine, though: after Choi put Korea up in the shootout, Yekaterina Kutsenko took the puck round Huh only to see her shot bounce off the post to safety. Song capitalized on that miss at the other end and the balance tilted in Korea’s favour at last.

The gold medal game offered something of a contrast of styles. Korea was always keen to shoot the puck – and topped the shot count 44-26 – while Kazakhstan was on the look-out for the defence-splitting pass. For much of the game, the teams were well matched and the score was tied at 1-1 after 40 intriguing minutes.

Things really came to life in the third period. Korea jumped to a 3-1 advantage thanks to two goals from Heewon Kim. The first, in the 43rd minute, was one of those ‘shoot-on-sight’ efforts that got a reward. The goal will likely keep Kazakh goalie Natalya Kononova awake at nights, though, as it seemed to fly through her glove on its way into the net. The second, a wickedly struck effort that angled inside the top corner on a power play, was more impressive.

But Kazakhstan hit back. Zhanel Kozgulova claimed the 2-3 goal when her hopeful feed into the danger zone cannoned off a Korean skate and bounced into the net. Then, with eight minutes of regulation to play, the Kazakhs got a 5-on-3 power play and duly tied the scores. It took just eight seconds: Kazakhstan won an attacking face off, Tatyana Shakhmatova exchanged passes on the blue line with Anna Pyatkova and stepped forward to shoot past Huh. That took us to overtime but neither team could win it before the shoot-out.

Korea made it to the final after winning all three of its group games. An aggregate margin of 12-2 saw off Spain, Chinese Taipei and Mexico and took the team to the last four. In the semi-final they beat Australia 5-2, helped by two goals each for Suyeon Eom and Heewon Kim. Eom collected two assists in the final to finish with 6 (2+4) points and win the award for best defenceman; Kim’s 7 (6+1) points earned her joint first place in the scoring charts.

Kazakhstan came through a three-team group and had little difficulty dispatching Turkey (15-0) and Australia (5-1). The semi brought a 3-1 win over Chinese Taipei on goals from Tomiris Ospanova, Alexandra Golotvina and Aruzhan Kenessova. Defenceman Kenessova also scored in the final to finish with 7 (4+3) points and a share of the scoring lead. She was the most productive blue liner in the tournament.

Third place went to Chinese Taipei after a riotous first period against Australia in the Bronze Medal Game. Four unanswered goals in the opening stanza put the game beyond reach; it finished 6-2. In that first period, Hsuan Wang had a goal and an assist, En Ni Chang contributed two helpers. Australia rallied to pull back two goals in the middle frame but two further goals in the 55th minute restored Taipei’s four-goal cushion. Yun-Chu Huang potted her sixth goal of the tournament to tie with Kim as leading scorer and claim the prize for best forward.

The goaltending chart, not surprisingly, saw Kazakhstan’s Kononova and Korea’s Huh near the top. Kononova took the prize for best goalie but Cristina Ostafiychuk also had a tournament to remember for the host nation. She played in two of Spain’s five games and did not allow a single goal against Mexico in the group phase or Turkey in the playoff for fifth place. The Turks earned sixth place by virtue of beating the Mexicans 1-0 in the classification round.
2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship Division I Group B Qualifciation