Women’s Hockey Update: Jan. 26th, 2017
Lots to discuss in this one, as we touch on All-Star festivities of various types, a few games in the Women’s Hockey League, and some upcoming international play! So read on…
As discussed here in a recent post, the first-ever Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game took place last week in Ufa, as part of the KHL’s All-Star Week festivities. The rosters had been selected back in December, with the West team drawing its players from Tornado Moscow Oblast, Dynamo St. Petersburg, and Arktik-Universitet Ukhta. Team East, meanwhile, was selected from the lineups of Biryusa Krasnoyarsk, SK Sverdlovsk Oblast, SKIF Nizhny Novgorod, and host team Agidel Ufa.
Unlike most All-Star games, this was no half-speed affair; both teams clearly wanted to win (futher evidence: there were ten penalties called in the game, eight of them against the East). When the dust had settled it was the West who had emerged victorious by a 4-0 score, with their tallies coming from Alevtina Shtaryova, Alexandra Husak, Lyudmila Belyakova, and Anna Shokhina. Nadezhda Alexandrova and Mariya Sorokina combined to pitch the 25-save shutout. Shokhina and the East’s Olga Sosina were selected as the Players of the Game.
Women’s Hockey League Players were also on hand giving shooting tips to fans at the All-Star Game.
Overall, the Women’s Hockey League’s first venture in All-Star play has to be considered a roaring success — the crowd in the Ufa Arena numbered an impressive 7200, and there were glowing reports collected from a number of those in attendance. The players, too, seem to have enjoyed the experience, and to be looking forward to next year’s event! There is some talk, and I think it would be fun idea, of having the MVPs of the Women’s League game invited to take part in the KHL All-Star match; that was done for the first time this year with the best players in the junior MHL’s ASG, and one of the “promoted” youngsters ended up scoring the winning goal in the big league’s game.
With the All-Star Game out of the way, the Women’s Hockey League got back to business, at least for a few days. This past weekend featured one three-game series, between the league’s bottom two clubs coming in: Biryusa Krasnoyarsk and SK Sverdlovsk Oblast. The latter team, based out of the city of Yekaterinburg, were winless on the season through 21 games; in fact, if we include results posted by Spartak-Merkury Yekaterinburg, the city’s previous professional women’s team, the winless skid stands at 120 games going back to 2013.
That streak nearly ended on Saturday. Under-18 Women’s Worlds heroine Valeriya Merkusheva turned in yet another spectacular performance in net for SKSO, stopping 44 of 47 Biryusa shots, and a goal by Regina Yumaguzhina with a minute and a half to play meant a nervous finish for the Krasnoyarsk side. They held on, though, downing SKSO 3-2, and the team from Sverdlovsk Oblast will need to wait for another opportunity to break the long drought.
The rest of the series went more according to the form book; Biryusa reeled off 6-0 and 5-1 victories, and ascended all the way from sixth to fourth in the league. As for SKSO, they will take some comfort from the close result in the first game. One of these days, Merkusheva is going to steal one for them, and they will look at their next action, in mid-February against Arktik-Universitet Ukhta, as representing a real chance.
And with that, international play returned to the forefront for Russian women’s hockey. This coming weekend will see the opening of the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the Russian hockey teams, women’s and men’s, both come in as defending gold medalists from the 2015 tournament in Spain. The women’s team roster, announced last week, is as follows:
Goalies: N. Morozova (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk), Mariya Sorokina (Dynamo St. Petersburg), Valeriya Tarakanova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
Defence: Mariya Batalova, Angelina Goncharenko, Nina Pirogova (all – Tornado Moscow Oblast), Liana Ganeyeva (Arktik-Universitet Ukhta), Yekaterina Lobova (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk), Yekaterina Nikolayeva (Dynamo St. Petersburg), Anna Shibanova (Agidel Ufa)
Forwards: Lyudmila Belyakova, Yelena Dergachyova, Anna Shokhina, Alevtina Shtaryova (all – Tornado Moscow Oblast), Inna Dyubanok, Elina Mitrofanova, Olga Sosina (all – Agidel Ufa), Yevgeniya Dyupina (Dynamo St. Petersburg), Fanuza Kadirova (Arktik-Universitet Ukhta), Lidiya Malyavko, Yelena Podkammenaya, Alexandra Vovrushko (all – Biryusa Krasnoyarsk), Alexandra Vafina (Univ. of Calgary)
That’s a strong lineup, with all players except the Canadian-based Vafina drawn from the professional ranks. In fact, it’s not too far off the full Russian national team, and boasts six of the top eight point-scorers in the Women’s Hockey League (Dergachyova, Shokhina, Sosina, Belyakova, Kadirova, and Dyupina). And we should also note the presence of Pirogova, who recently captained Russia’s Under-18 women’s team to a World Championship bronze medal. A repeat of the 2015’s first place is certainly not out of their reach, if all goes well.
The Russian women’s team will be in a group of three to start the competition, along with the U.S. and Japan. The Russians take on the Americans this coming Sunday and the Japanese on Tuesday, after which the top two in the group will advance to the semifinals, joining the top two from a group that includes Canada, Kazakhstan, China, and Great Britain. We’ll update you on the results in the next women’s hockey update, and in the meantime you can follow along with the tournament here.
A final note! The professional leagues were not the only ones staging All-Star festivities over the last week; there was a similar celebration for the amateur League of Women’s Hockey as well. The league’s all-stars took to the public skating rink in Moscow’s famous Red Square for a game against a men’s squad representing the Office of the Kremlin Commandant. This one too, was a tight, competitive, match, and in the end, the League of Women’s Hockey All-Stars were the victors by a score of 5-4. A full account of the game, with photos, can be seen here.