Women’s Hockey Update: Dec. 7th, 2016
And here we are with another update on goings-on in Russian women’s hockey! The past week was all about league play, at both the professional and amateur levels, so we will get you all caught up with that. And we will take a side-trip to Latvia, where that country’s women’s league has begun its 2016-17 season.
We begin, as usual, with the professional Women’s Hockey League. When we checked in last week, Agidel Ufa had won the first two games of their vital series against league-leaders Tornado Moscow Oblast, and without conceding a goal. The third game, last Thursday, would be a different matter, however. Tornado had their shooting boots on early, running out to a 4-0 lead before the second period was three minutes old, and from there they coasted to a 5-1 victory and the salvaging of three points from the series. In Nizhny Novgorod, meanwhile, home team SKIF got a hat-trick from Finnish veteran Karoliina Rantamäki and 26 saves from Valeriya Tarakanova en route to a 4-0 win in the rubber match of their three-game set with Arktik Universitet Ukhta.
And with that, it was off to the next round of games. Agidel welcomed Arktik-Universitet to Ufa for a series that turned out be a high-scoring affair. In Game 1, the two teams found themselves already in a 3-3 tie early in the second period. From there on, however, Arktik-Universitet’s resistance crumbled; Olga Sosina finished up with two goals and two assists in a 7-3 Agidel victory. The redoubtable Sosina was back at work in Game 2, scoring and adding an assist as Agidel led 4-0 late in third. A couple of Arktik-Universitet goals narrowed the gap before Sosina’s second of the game completed a 5-2 Agidel victory. And the floodgates were fully open again in Game 3. For the third straight game, Sosina found the net twice (she added another assist, too), and Agidel got off to a brilliant start with five unanswered goals in the game’s opening. Finally, the visitors got on track, as Arktik-Universitet’s Alexandra Husak scored a pair of her own, but Agidel were able to able to cruise home and ensure the three-game sweep with a 7-4 win.
It was the opposite story in St. Petersburg, where Dynamo welcomed visitors Biryusa Krasnoyarsk for three games. There, the two netminders — Dynamo’s Mariya Sorokina and Nadezhda Morozova of Biryusa — grabbed ahold of proceedings early on, and did not let go. The two ‘tenders were perfect in Game 1 through 60 minutes plus overtime, before Biryusa’s Yekaterina Dobrodeyeva beat Sorokina in the shootout to secure a 1-0 victory. The series’ first goal from open play did not arrive until late in the second period of Game 2, when Dynamo’s Alena Polenska broke the deadlock. She added a second later on, Sorokina was unyielding, and Dynamo evened the series with a 2-0 victory. In the decisive Game 3, the St. Petersburg side led 2-0 early through Yekaterina Nikolayeva and Polina Yeliseyeva, and got a third late on from Svetlana Tkachenko. Sorokina was no more generous than she had been in the first two games, collecting yet another shutout in a 3-0 Dynamo victory. A tremendous performance for the 21-year-old Dynamo netminder, who stopped all 68 “open play” shots she faced over the three games and was beaten only by Dobrodeyeva’s shootout marker. Even more remarkably, that is now six shutouts in a row for Sorokina (if we do not count that lone shootout goal), even if we must concede that the first three in the streak came against lowly SK Sverdlovsk Oblast.
Finally, with their nerves doubtless settled somewhat by the win over Agidel last Thursday, Tornado traveled to Nizhny Novgorod to take on SKIF. The defending champions brushed aside their hosts in Game 1 of that series; Anna Shokhina scored twice, her line-mate Yelena Dergachyova chipped in four assists, and Tornado strolled away with a 6-0 victory. In Game 2, former New York Riveter Lyudmila Belyakova provided the key scoring, with goals and an assist, as Tornado once again were winners, this time by a 5-1 margin. Game 3, however, would go down as a thriller. It swung back and forth, with Tornado taking the lead 1-0, only to see SKIF tally twice for a 2-1 advantage. Tornado tied it, but SKIF once again got their noses in front 3-2. Nothing daunted, Tornado leveled matters at three apiece, and as the clock wound down it looked a bit like overtime was in the cards. However, with just over three minutes to go, Tornado’s Dergachyova put her team up 4-3, and SKIF could not find a response this time. 4-3 it ended for the defending champions.
Dergachyova’s scoring output (eight points in the three games) allowed her to nip ahead of her team-mate Shokhina for the league points lead; right now the table reads: Dergachyova 52, Shokhina 51, and Agidel’s Sosina in third with 43.
So what does the table look like? Well, Tornado’s series-saving victory over Agidel means that the defending champions basically have a death grip on the title once again, leading Dynamo by 13 points and Agidel by 18, even if the latter have three games in hand. It looks, at this time, like the big battles will be for second place, and for fourth.
The Women’s Hockey League now takes a couple of weeks off, as the Russian national team will be in action. The national squad is off to Linköping for a four-nations tournament that will also involve hosts Sweden, Finland, and Germany. That begins on December 16th, and we will discuss rosters and such things in this space next week.
This past week also saw some play in the amateur League of Women’s Hockey, as that circuit’s Siberian group got underway with a tournament in Novosibirsk. Six teams, representing the cities of Novosibirsk, Novokuznetsk, Irkutsk, and Surgut took part, and will meet again for a second qualifying tournament early next year (at stake are berths in the national championship tournament in Sochi). This particular competition finished in a three-way tie on points; defending national silver medalists Grizli-1 Novosibirsk took first place on goal difference, just ahead of Sobol Irkutsk and Kuznechanka Novokuznetsk, and all three teams had 4-1 records and eight points. Kuznechanka recorded the weekend’s most startling result, as they up-ended Grizli-1 by a score of 2-1 on the tournament’s first day; goalie Alyona Ashina was the heroine in that one.
I’ve been promising for a couple of weeks to talk about the women’s leagues in Latvia and Kazakhstan. Now, I am still waiting to clear up some things about the latter league, but the Latvian women’s circuit is underway for this season as a three-team league. With just a couple of games played, Riga-based SHK Laima are out in front with a record of 2-0, ahead of L&L-JLSS from the city of Jelgava (1-1) and Laima Juniors (0-2). Laima’s Laila Dekmeijere-Trigubova is your early scoring leader, with a line of 7-2-9; all of her points came in her team’s 12-0 thumping of Laima Juniors. We will check back in with this league from time to time as its season goes along!
And that is about all for this week! Next time, there will be talk of the international women’s game, plus whatever else might crop up in the meantime. Thank you for reading!