It was a slice of history in Mexico City on Sunday.
The 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group B is the newest addition to the IIHF calendar. The inaugural four-team tournament, featuring a round-robin and playoff stage, took place at the Santa Fe Ice Rink in the Centro Santa Fe shopping mall.
In the gold medal game, unbeaten Spain left no doubt in the first period, outshooting Turkey 18-2.
First, Judit Pareja capitalized during a goalmouth scrum at 11:22. At 14:03, Berta Garcia beat Turkish starter Azra Sert with a quick shot off the rush for a 2-0 lead. Then tournament scoring champ Haizea Fernandez de Roma (8+1=9) got loose in front and deked past the goalie at 14:41.
This wasn’t an entirely surprising scenario, given that the undefeated Spanish girls had hammered Turkey 9-0 in their earlier round-robin meeting.
Next, Laura Gil scored midway through the second period. Third-period goals by Eva Airzpurua and Sofia Argote made it 6-0 with just under 10 minutes to go. Gil added her second goal and third point of the night to round out the scoring for coach Harold Jay Rozenholtz’s troops. Final shots were 47-7 for Spain.
For the Spanish federation, led by IIHF Life Member Frank Gonzalez, it’s an important step forward for their U18 women’s program. Spain is home to fewer than 230 female players in total. The Spanish U18 women made their IIHF debut just three years ago when the Basque city of San Sebastian hosted a Division I Group B qualification tournament.
The silver medal also represents a confidence-builder for the Turks. They’ve made progress since being outscored 21-0 at last year’s Division I Group B qualification tournament in Spain.
In the bronze medal game, the host Mexicans gave their supporters something to cheer about, marching to a 6-3 win over New Zealand. There was lots of leadership on display, as Mexican captain Samantha Nevarez and New Zealand captain Beth Scott scored two goals apiece. Mexico’s Luisa Vinals had a goal and three assists as the game’s leading points-getter.
Between the pipes, the biggest story of the tournament was New Zealand’s Lilly Forbes. Even though the Kiwis finished last with five consecutive losses, the 16-year-old Canterbury Devilettes netminder stood on her head with a whopping 217 stops on 234 shots for a 92.7 save percentage. She was named Best Goalie.
Forbes dazzled with 81 saves in a 6-1 round-robin loss to Spain. She nearly pulled off a significant upset with 67 saves in a 2-1 semi-final loss in overtime to Spain. It was all about perseverance and dedication for everyone on coach Angelique Mawson’s team, which competed shortstaffed in multiple games due to illness.
Spain earned promotion to the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group A. All the participants in Mexico City can be proud of their role in growing the women’s game worldwide.