"It's tremendous," said Hungarian coach Lisa Haley. "Obviously, this team's been waiting two years to get here. And as much as we have grown as the tournament has gone along, I think everyone was pretty committed to try to take that next step and get our first win. So it definitely feels awesome."
Looking confident and opportunistic to wrap up their inaugural top-level stint, the Hungarians cashed in three times on the power play. Hungary outshot Denmark 18-11.
Forward Alex Gowie, who played at the University of Calgary from 2014 to 2017, and captain Fanni Gasparics had two goals apiece. Kinga Jokai-Szilagyi stepped up with a goal and two assists. Sarah Knee and Bernadette Nemeth both had two helpers.
"It was so good to hear the Hungarian national anthem," said Jokai-Szilagyi. "I'm so proud."
"It was this moment that we all needed to step up, and we all did today," Gowie added. "So I'm happy we could all do it together. Being back in Calgary, it definitely always brings back memories. And I love the city, so I'm happy to be here. I'm happy for the team.
Captain Josefine Jakobsen replied for Denmark.
"We started out strong, but took some penalties that we shouldn't take," Denmark's Michelle Weis said. "And then they scored some goals and we never came back.
In net, Haley went with starter Aniko Nemeth for the third time. Danish coach Peter Elander gave 18-year-old Emma-Sofie Nordstrom her Women’s Worlds debut.
It was the last official game of the 2021 tournament for each team. There is no relegation this year since no lower-division competitions were played due to the global pandemic.
"I don't feel like we went in with the mentality that we couldn't move down to Division I, but I mean, it's a safety net to have," said Denmark's Linn Plough. "So it's great that we have another chance next year."
This was a big learning experience for both Denmark and Hungary and a potential stepping stone toward the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
"In the standings it's disappointing, but you look at the way we played Japan, the sixth-ranked team in the world, and the way we played and challenged Germany," said Elander. "We think that we got a sniff of how it is to play here. The girls have a lot of will to improve and the first tournament is always hard. So we think that we can improve our game already in November."
From 11 to 14 November, the Hungarians will compete in an Olympic qualification tournament against the host Czechs (Pribram), the Norwegians, and a team to be determined. The Danes will do the same against the host Germans (Fussen), the Austrians, and a team to be determined.
Gowie stretched Hungary’s lead to 2-0 at 17:49, exploiting a Danish giveaway. Weis flubbed her attempt to backhand the puck cross-ice to her defence partner, and Gowie pounced, beating Nordstrom with a quick glove-side release. The versatile South African-born Canadian has represented Hungary internationally since 2016-17.
"In the right place at the right time, I guess," Gowie said. "Forechecking, saw the net, and went for it."
Just 22 seconds into the middle frame, another power play goal put Hungary up 3-0. Jokai-Szilagyi – once again by Nordstrom’s left post – sent a sweet backhand pass to Gasparics out front and she made no mistake.
The Danes fought back with a shorthanded marker at 5:16. Jakobsen came down the left on a 2-on-1, heads-up all the way, and snapped the puck over Aniko Nemeth’s glove to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Near the midway point, Gasparics stripped Josephine Asperup of the puck in front of the Danish net and nearly added another Hungarian goal, but Nordstrom foiled her backhand attempt.
With just 45 seconds left in the second period, Gowie circled the Danish net on a 4-on-3 and unleashed a rising wrister that deflected in off blueliner Malene Frandsen.
"It took us a while to get our special teams figured out, but 100 percent for the PK today," Haley said. "And obviously the power play, although we got one against us, scored three big ones. So those are great signs of growth. Our special teams came along the way they needed to be."
Approaching the three-minute mark of the third period, Nordstrom came out to make a nice right pad save on Imola Horvath off the rush. But despite their best efforts, the Danes had simply dug themselves too deep of a hole.
Gasparics rounded out the scoring with 1:24 left, finishing off Jokai-Szilagyi's set-up on an odd-player rush.
Elander reflected on Denmark's overall game: "I've learned that we have incredible work ethic. The effort to skate hard and and do the job is really, really good. We need to have a better, more consistent passing game. We need to especially get shots through traffic in a environment where everyone tried to block every shot."
Denmark won one game at its lone previous IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in 1992. Jannie Hadsen scored in overtime to give the Danes a 4-3 victory over Switzerland in the seventh-place game in Tampere, Finland.
The Danes and Hungarians aren’t completely done with each other. Taking advantage of the time and opportunity here in the Calgary bubble, they will play an additional exhibition game on Sunday.