“I think the first two periods were pretty good but the third, yeah, I don’t know,” Dutch captain Fleur Kivits trailed off, trying to summarize the game.
The score was still 1-0 with less than five minutes remaining when Kivits got a golden opportunity to tie the score, taking advantage of a turnover in the Spanish zone and skating right in on goaltender Carlota Badorrey.
“The Spanish player passed it right onto my stick, so I got really excited,” said Kivits, her intonation rising as she recalled the moment. “It was a great chance but my shot wasn’t that good and the goalie saved it. I was really disappointed because it was a great opportunity.”
The Netherlands, Spain and Great Britain all advanced to Group D after topping their first-round groups at this nine-team event. With two wins in the second round, Spain is now in the final, while Great Britain and the Netherlands play Sunday night in what amounts to a de-facto semi-final. The winner will meet Spain in the final while the loser will face Australia, winner of Group E, in the bronze-medal game.
“Today they were better but if we want a chance to play them again, we must win tomorrow against Great Britain,” Kivits said after the loss. “I think it will work out and we will get into the final.”
Kivits, one of six returning players from the 2020 U18 Women’s Worlds and one of four playing for the third time, is the captain of this team. That’s a role she takes seriously.
“We have many young players, so I feel responsible for them, but I think they’ve been playing pretty well,” she said.
Back in January, when this tournament was initially postponed along with several other women’s U18 and men’s U20 tournaments due to the omicron wave, Kivits became the team’s spokesperson. She penned an emotional letter to the Netherlands Ice Hockey Association, asking the members to do all they could to make sure the tournament eventually got played.
“The whole team was sad and I was sad too,” she recalled. “We had a group chat and everyone was crying. I was captain and I felt responsible for them, so I wrote it.”
“It’s so much more than just a tournament,” the letter began. “It’s a super experience to be together with your teammates, buddies and partners in crime.”
The letter goes on to say how much she and her teammates were looking forward to the tournament, partly as an escape from the world of COvid that had taken such a toll on everybody, how devastating the thought was of not playing, and how helpless she felt about the situation.
“Emotional training is something we do with these players because this game is mental as well as physical,” said general manager Jenny Goessens. “That’s important for the situation the team’s in now, where we have to deal with a disappointing loss and not let it affect us in tomorrow’s game, but it’s important for off-ice things as well. One of the things we teach them when they’re trying to organize their thoughts is to write them down, so that’s what she did.”
Thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of people, all of the postponed championships have ended up being staged, with this being the last one. Kivits and her teammates are happy about that, even if it means playing in July.
“It’s pretty hot and everyone’s sweating,” she laughed.
“It would have been the second year in a row that we lost it and, for me and some of the others, this is our last chance,” the 2004-born forward said. “So we’re all pretty happy that it’s happening and Istanbul is a great place for it.”