Golden Debut For Invincible Thailand
by Henrik MANNINEN|30 MAR 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Elena Rasva
Newcomers Thailand burst onto the scene needing just three games to wrap up with gold at the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship, Division III, Group B in Kohtla-Jarve, Estonia.

With a watertight defence and prolific in attack, Thailand won all of their four games, netting 20 goals in the process while conceding just once.

A narrow 1-0 victory versus hosts Estonia on day three saw Thailand claim an unassailable lead at the top of the standings. Prim Dejthai´s powerplay strike from the point sneaked into the Estonian net at 10:09 to separate the two teams apart. The win lifts Thailand to next year's Division IIIA.

It caps off a victorious month of March for the up-and-coming Thai hockey program. Two weeks prior, the Thai men´s national team had finished top of the standings in Division IIIA. In Estonia, the women´s team stepped out in the spotlight to celebrate promotion in a memorable World Championship debut in Kohtla-Jarve's Spordikeskus Ice Hall.

Thailand's Wirasinee Rattananai led the tournament in scoring with six points (0+6) in four games.  Teammate Apichaya Kosanunt notched five points (4+1) to win the accolade as the tournament´s top forward.

It also marks a winning start in World Championship play for head coach Rory Rawlyk. Ruthless in defense, Thailand went 235:50 minutes before conceding their only goal of the tournament in Kohtla-Jarve. Netminder Thamida Kunthadapakorn played the entire tournament without conceding a single goal while blocking 39 shots.

Thailand enjoyed a comfortable start to life at the World Championship courtesy of two consecutive 4-0 blanking. In their opener versus Israel, Kosanunt scored Thailand´s first goal in World Championship play at 15:16 and also closed the scoring.

Next up fellow newcomers Singapore awaited. Goals were shared with solidarity among Thailand´s top three lines with Nuchanat Ponglerkdee netting a brace.

Following the disposal of Estonia and already having clinched gold, Thailand closed their campaign by finding goals easy to come by in an 11-1 win against Bosnia & Herzegovina with Thipwarintorn Yannakornthanapunt netting a hat-trick. Having taken the foot off the gas towards the end, Thailand conceded their first and only goal of the tournament. With 4:10 left to play, the Bosnians scored the final goal of the game past Wilaksaya Watthanakulcharoenchai after Thailand had managed to play over eleven periods without giving up a goal.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Elena Rasva
Hosts Estonia entered the tournament with a clearly stated goal to seal an instant return to IIIA. In the end, they had to settle for second best. Blanking Israel 3-0 on the final day sealed the silver medals in front of 956 in attendance in Kohtla-Jarve.

In his second year in charge, head coach Aki Mykkanen cut the average age of the roster by five years to last year´s team that finished bottom of Division IIIA. The Estonians got off to a flying start on home ice. In their opening day 5-2 win versus Bosnia & Herzegovina, Olesja Prants needed just 39 seconds to score her debut goal at this level in her native Kohtla-Jarve.

A close-knit team, the hosts´s roster had also skated under Mykkanen´s guidance as Team Eesti in this season´s Women's Baltic Hockey Championship against Latvian and Lithuanian opposition. But similar to last year´s World Championship campaign, Estonia found goals hard to come by when they were badly needed.

Against Singapore, they managed to rally back from a goal down to salvage two points. Aleksandra-Olga Seppar had tied the game for Estonia with a last-gasp goal with just nine seconds left of the third period. Estrit Aasma then won it for the hosts in overtime 2-1.

In their ensuing pivotal clash versus Thailand, the Estonians failed to convert any of their 26 shots versus Thailand. Sofia Salamatina capped a fine tournament for the hosts by being selected as the top goalkeeper.
With 13 players on the roster still in their teens, Israel fielded the youngest team by a considerable distance. In the end, their youthful enthusiasm lifted them to bronze.

With debutant head coach Danill Eliseev on the bench, the Israelis were led by free-scoring blueliner Lior Leshem. Selected as the top defender of the tournament, she became Israel´s hat-trick hero when sparking a comeback from 0-3 down to edge Bosnia & Herzegovina in a morale-boosting 4-3 victory.

The 15-year-old then continued her rich vein of goalscoring form with a double as Singapore downed 3-1 to finish the tournament top goalscorer with five goals.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Elena Rasva
With the Division IIIB group expanding from three to five teams, Tiffany Ong scored Singapore´s historical first goal in World Championship play when pushing silver medalists Estonia to the tilt to come away with a point.

In the closing game of the tournament, Singapore then recorded their historical first win in World Championship play. Versus Bosnia & Herzegovina, they raced clear to a three-goal lead after 3:44 to win 6-2 and finish fourth.

The Bosnians finished fifth with 17-year-old Hana Mulazimovic skating in her third World Championship leading the team in scoring with four points (1+3) in four games.