Austria 2-Slovakia 1
Austria came away with a 2-1 win despite being outshot 46-15. Once again, goalie Selma Luggin proved to be Austria’s best player, stopping 45 of 46 shots, including a wild first period when shots favoured Slovakia 17-2 but teams went to the dressing room in a scoreless tie.
Annika Fazokas opened the scoring at 14:40 of the second after some good puck movement in the offensive zone. In the end, her long shot found its way through traffic and beat Andrea Risianova to make it 1-0. The Austrians doubled their lead early in the third with Tamara Graschner’s third goal of the tournament.
Her easy shot was stopped by Risianova, but Graschner followed the play to the net and banged in the rebound. Nikola Rumanova broke Luggin’s shutout bid with a late goal. She took advantage of an error by defender Lisa Schrofl, who fell at her blue line while trying to control the puck. Rumanova went in alone and beat Luggin with a shot, but that was as close as the Slovaks got.
In the end, Slovakia finishes winless, 0-5, and will be headed down to division I-B next year. For Austria, their win gives them a 3-2 record but they will not be able to earn promotion. Instead, they’ll be back in I-A in 2024.
Denmark 4-Norway 1
Denmark did what it needed to do, defeating Norway, 4-1, to move into a three-way tie with Netherlands and Austria in the standings. The mini-standings now favoured the Danes, but Netherlands could make its own history in the final game if it earned a point to break the tie and finish solo second, good for promotion.
Captain Josefine Jakobsen opened the scoring at 3:10 for the Danes after Marthe Brunvold lost the puck in front of her net. A scramble ensued, and Jakobsen knocked in a loose puck for the all-important first goal. Veteran Silke Glud made it 2-0 midway through the opening period on a sensational play by Jakobsen. After losing an offensive-zone faceoff, she followed the play behind the Norway goal and stripped Julie Oksbjerg of the puck. She then found Silke Glud in front and fired a perfect pass, and Glud did her part by wiring a quick shot that beat Linnea Holterud Olsson.
Norway made a game of it early in the second when Millie Sirum scored her tournament-best fifth goal. She took a pass from Ava Malthe in centre ice and beat Emma-Sophie Nordstrom with a long shot while using Amalie Andersen as a screen. But any hopes of a comeback were dashed by Lilli Friis-Hansen early in the third. Her power-play goal off a long shot that went all the way made it 3-1.
The Norwegians pulled the goalie late and tried to get closer, but Maria Peters added an empty netter to close out the scoring. Norway goes home after a 5th-place finish and will be back in I-A, while the Danes celebrated their win and headed to the TV to watch the Netherlands-China game to see what their fate would be.
China 2-Netherlands 1
Close, but no. The Netherlands was trying to qualify for the top level of WW for the first time, but finished one goal short of their dream after losing to China, 2-1. They needed only to get the game to overtime to finish in second, but instead they finish in a three-way tie with Denmark and Austria, a result that gives Denmark the second promotion spot (along with China).
China got the only goal of the opening period thanks to the best pass of the tournament from Xin Fang. As she skated behind the Dutch goal, she whipped a backhand pass in front where Minghui Kong had the open net.
The Netherlands tied the game midway through the second on their first power play of the game. Yingying Guan took a tripping penalty, and just eleven seconds later the puck was in the net. Chen made the initial save off a point-blank shot by Bieke van Nes in front, but the puck came right to Aimee Seppenwolde and she made no mistake.
The Dutch had a great chance to pull ahead eary in the third on another power play, but the Chinese PK was spot on, and soon after the hosts took a 2-1 lead. Mulan Kang (Kas Betinol) snapped a low shot to the far side that eluded Eline Gabriele, and the Dutch were back to square one, needing a goal to get promotion.
That goal never came, and China finished the tournament with a perfect 5-0 record which kept the Dutch in I-A for at least another year.
Today’s Three Stars
*Selma Luggin (AUT, another sensational game in goal)
**Josefine Jakobsen (DEN, goal, assist in important 1st period)
***Mulan Kang (CHN, game winner keeps China perfect)
UP NEXT: The top level of the Women’s World Championship will take place next spring in Utica, New York. Group A: United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland. Group B: Sweden, Japan, Germany, China, Denmark.
Dates and venues for WW-I-A have not been announced yet. Teams: France, Hungary, Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Korea.
WW-I-B will take place in Riga, Latvia, from 31 March to 6 April, 2024. Teams: Slovakia, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, Great Britain, Latvia.