Chinese U18 women perfect in Division II Group A
by Derek O'BRIEN|22 JAN 2024
China has won the 2024 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group A in Heerenveen, Netherlands in the team’s first appearance at this level since 2020. That year, they finished third in Division I Group B, which is where they will return next season.
Four years later, the Chinese breezed through the tournament with five straight victories, outscoring their opponents 48-3. They wrapped up the gold medal on an 8-0 victory over Kazakstan in their second-last game on Saturday, then wrapped up the tournament with a 5-1 win against Latvia.
The biggest threat that China faced in this tournament was from Great Britain, who on Tuesday trailed just 3-2 after a wild, back-and-forth first period before China added three goals over the last 25 minutes to win 6-2. Those two first-period British goals were the only ones scored on China until the last game.
That was GB’s only defeat of the tournament, and accounted for six of the team’s seven goals against. The game that ultimately decided second and third places was played on Thursday, when Great Britain shut out the host Netherlands 4-0. Great Britain finished second with 12 points, followed by the Dutch team with eight and Latvia with seven.
While the Latvians struggled somewhat offensively, they were a difficult out for all three medalists. They took the Netherlands to overtime, fell just 3-1 to Great Britain and trailed China only 2-1 entering the final period of the final game.
In the game that ultimately determined relegation, Kazakhstan defeated Turkiye 6-0 back on Tuesday. That was the only win for the Kazakhs in the tournament. While overmatched by their opponents, Turkiye nonetheless maintained a positive attitude and work ethic throughout. While they didn’t manage to score a goal, they concentrated their efforts on team defence and did an admirable job of keeping the scores respectable.
Not surprisingly, Chinese players dominate the scoring list, with six of the top eight point-getters. Leading the way were Yifan Wang and Fancong Meng with 12 points each. Meng, the playmaker of the duo, had 11 assists, with her favourite target Wang scoring 10 goals.
The top scorers from another team is a pair of Dutch forwards – Emily Olsthoorn finished third with 11 points and Danique Koghee finished sixth with eight. British forwards Ruby Newlands and Emma Patrick had six points each, while Kjara Paula Zelubovska and Zlatotsveta Feoktistova led Latvia and Kazakhstan respectively with four points. The top-scoring defenders were Yuqi Chang from China and Jess Wooding from GB with five points each.
Among goalies, China’s Yiyi Ping played in four of her team’s games – she was given the last game off with the gold medal already secured – and recorded a save percentage of 95.24, a goals-against average of 0.50 and three shutouts to lead the tournament in all three categories. Great Britain’s Evelyn Brown, Latvia’s Nikola Selevica, Kazakhstan’s Veronika Ageyeva, the Netherlands’ Robyn Verkaik and Turkiye’s Ekin Koksal all appeared in all five of their teams’ games. Verkaik was the tournament’s busiest goalie with 170 shots faced and 141 saves.
By winning this tournament, China has earned a promotion next season to Division I Group B, where things will get more difficult against Denmark, Spain, Poland, Australia and South Korea as opponents.