With three points each in the final game, linemates Qiqi Lin (Leah Lum) and Ni Lin (Rachel Llames) both finished the tournament with seven goals and 15 points – co-leaders in both categories. The third member of the forward line, Le Mi (Hannah Miller), had two points in the last game and finished with 12 points. Defender Zhixin Liu had five points in the last game and was fourth with 11 points, including a tournament-leading nine assists.
After finishing ninth on home ice at the Winter Olympics in Beijing two months ago, China is now back in the Division I Group A for the first time since 2011. Previously, China had been in the top division of the Women’s World Championships from 1992 until 2009, finishing fourth at the 1994 and 1997 Worlds as well as the 1998 Winter Olympics.
“I don’t think I can find the words,” said captain Baiwei Yu, 33, who has been a member of the Chinese national team since 2006. “It’s been 12 years, which is a long time.”
Yu said about her team: “We trust each other, and I think after playing in the Olympic Games not so long ago, that gave us the confidence. From this championship, I think it gives the team even more confidence so we can take another step next year.”
Heading into the last game, both teams had won every game – China all four in regulation while the Poles needed overtime against Italy in their second-last game. That set up a one-game winner-takes-all scenario.
But despite a thunderous partisan crowd making noise leading up to the opening faceoff, it was China that stormed out of the gate, and got two goals from Qiqi Lin in the first 1:55 of the game, and it didn’t stop. With his team already trailing 4-0 by the 9:02 mark, coach Zbignew Wrobel called a timeout. By the first intermission, however, the score was 6-0.
“It was nothing I did. They wanted this game badly enough and they went out and won it,” head coach Clayton Beddoes said about his team’s start. “I didn’t have to say anything or remind them of anything.”
Poland didn’t quit, though, and cut into the deficit in the second period with a pair of power-play goals – first Tetiana Onyshchenko and then defender Klaudia Chrapek with a bomb from the point on a 5-on-3. Chinese captain Baiwei Yu rounded out the scoring with a power-play marker halfway through the third period.
“It sounds funny, but I didn’t feel safe until we got that seventh goal,” said Beddoes. “We knew Poland wasn’t going to quit and they didn’t. They battled hard and they won the second period.”
“There were many people here cheering for Poland, but we were focused on ourselves and just doing our best, and we were ready for everything,” said Yu. “In the second period, we didn’t play so well. We weren’t very good in the defensive zone, but in the third period we came back to our game.”
“The Chinese team was very strong and we weren’t able to beat them, but we never quit and we showed that we can fight against a team of this strength,” said Chrapek, who figured in on both goals in her 101st game with the Polish national team. “I’m happy because this was a historic tournament for us with four wins and the fans were great – they showed great support and created fantastic atmosphere.”
“It was a tough tournament, but we were playing against a team that practises every day and it makes a difference,” said Wrobel. “The main thing is that Poland has young, talented players with the potential to be better and this tournament was very important in that process.”
Earlier in the day, Italy secured third place with a 2-1 win over Korea. For the Italians – who were back in Division I Group B after being relegated from Group A in 2019 – the tournament started slow with losses to Slovenia and China before taking seven of nine points from their last three games.
The loss put the Koreans in an uncomfortable position. They were left watching the game between Kazakhstan and Slovenia hoping for a regulation win by Kazakhstan, as any point by Slovenia would have resulted in relegation for the Koreans. But fortunately for the Koreans and the Kazakhs, Kazakhstan won 2-0.
“We missed on a lot of our scoring chances, but anyway we are happy we won this game. Of course, we wanted to win every game but we often had trouble scoring goals, but we tried hard every game,” 49-year-old Kazakh captain Olga Konysheva said after the game. Konysheva, who assisted on her team’s second goal, revealed that it was her final game with the Kazakh national team.
The three teams had entered the final day with three points each. In the final standings, Kazakhstan finished fourth with six points, with Korea getting fifth spot by virtue of winning the head-to-head game against Slovenia. Playing in Division I for the first time after being promoted in 2019, the Slovenes opened with an upset win over Italy before dropping four straight.
With 38 goals in five games, it’s no surprise that Chinese players dominated the tournament scoring leaders, with eight of the top 11 point-getters. Polish captain Karolina Pozniewska finished tied for fifth with eight points, while Slovenia’s Sara Confidenti and Italy’s Rebecca Roccella had five points each to finish in a tie for eighth.
China’s Le Mi was named Best Forward by the tournament directorate. Italy’s Nadia Mattivi was named Best Defender and Poland’s Martyna Sass was named Top Goalkeeper. Despite allowing seven goals on 52 shots in the final, Sass finished the tournament with a 2.57 goals-against average, 91.61 save percentage and led all goalies with 304 minutes played.