Women’s Hockey Update: March 8th, 2017
International Women’s Day gifts at Wednesday’s Agidel Ufa practice session!
International Women’s Day was celebrated around the globe today, and Russia’s Women’s Hockey League duly observed the occasion — players and female staff arriving for practice were greeted with gifts of tulips. There is indeed a strong Russian connection with International Women’s Day: it had been informally observed in other countries prior to 1917, but a March 8th strike in that year by women working in the textile factories in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) was a crucial episode of the Russian Revolution, and led to very early recognition of the day in the newly-founded USSR. March 8th was formally adopted as a world holiday by the United Nations in 1975.
With that in mind, read on as we recap the past week’s doing in the Women’s Hockey League (serious contributions from Hungary in this one) , along with a couple of other notes as well!
With the Women’s Hockey League title clinched by Tornado Moscow Oblast for the third straight season, Agidel Ufa were looking to secure their second consecutive second-place finish, and the Bashkir side indeed did so at home against Biryusa Krasnoyarsk. The first game of the three saw Agidel’s powerful attack bear fruit; they led 7-2 after two periods before easing off in the third for a 7-3 final score. The irrepressible Olga Sosina led the way in that one with a goal and three assists. Game 2 was a closer affair, but still the same story; Agidel, behind another two points from Sosina, built up a 5-2 lead before cruising home with a 5-3 victory.
The third and final game of the set, however, featured one of the most thrilling finishes of the season. Agidel appeared to have things well under control, leading 2-1 after 40 minutes before running the lead to 4-1 in the opening minutes of the third period. But back came Biryusa; two tallies in 60 seconds made it 4-3, and the Siberians tied the game up with just three and a half minutes to play thanks to Lidiya Malyavko’s goal. Overtime looked a sure bet, but as the final seconds ticked down, Agidel’s Hungarian forward Fanni Gasparics made her way to the opposing goalmouth and launched the puck past Nadezhda Morozova in the Biryusa net. Gasparics’ marker was officially recorded at 19:59 of the third period, and it secured a 5-4 victory. Highlights:
Dynamo St. Petersburg may have failed to grab second place, but third is still their best-ever finish. This past weekend found them up in Ukhta, taking on Arktik-Universitet, and they took two out of three from their northern hosts. In Game 1, two goals within 20 seconds early in first set the tone, and Dynamo cruised from there, adding an early third-period marker on the way to a 3-0 victory — Mariya Sorokina faced only 11 shots in earning the shutout.
Game 2 was a different matter, as the scorers took over; both teams held and lost leads, and the score stood at 4-4 late on. Arktik-Universitet looked to have won it when Karina Verkhovtseva put them up 5-4 with less than four minutes on the clock, only to see Dynamo equalize in the last 90 seconds thanks to Alyona Polenska’s second goal of the game. But Alexandra Huszak, Hungarian compatriot of the afore-mentioned Gasparics, won it for the home side just 40 seconds into overtime, and 6-5 was the final in Arktik-Universitet’s favour. Game 3 was another close one — Diana Bulatova scored twice early for Dynamo, and they hung on from there for a 3-2 victory.
Biryusa’s three losses to Agidel opened the door for SKIF Nizhny Novgorod to sneak into fourth place, and advantage was fully taken. SKIF were hosting SK Sverdlovsk Oblast, and while young SKSO goalie Valeriya Merkusheva has been a revelation this season, the victories have all been of the moral variety. And so it turned out again this weekend; SKIF took the first game 6-2, Polina Bolgareva’s two goals leading the way. Game 2 ended 6-0, as SKIF’s 39-year-old Finnish forward Karoliina Rantamäki recorded a hat-trick plus an assist. The final of the game of the set, however, was more difficult. Sofiya Senchukova put SKSO up 1-0 early, and despite heavy SKIF pressure the lead was maintained until well into the back half of the second period. However, once Franciska Kiss-Simon, the third Hungarian player we have mentioned in this post, had equalized for the Nizhny Novgorod team, the outcome was never in doubt; three more SKIF goals followed, and 4-1 was the final score.
And so the current table looks like this, as the season heads into its final weekend:
Dynamo St. Petersburg, as mentioned, have locked up the bronze medal (and their season is now finished), with Agidel Ufa clinching the silver. The only spot still to be contested is fourth place, still available to either Biryusa or SKIF. Appropriately enough, they will settle the matter head-to-head in the coming days, with games on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Agidel wrap up their campaign with three games at home against SKSO, while champions Tornado host Arktik-Universitet in a three-game set.
We will wrap up the season here at the blog next week, before attention turns to the 2017 Women’s World Championship. That tournament opens on March 31st in the United States.
As mentioned here last week, Russian forward Iya Gavrilova and her Calgary Inferno team-mates faced Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup final on Sunday. Sadly, Gavrilova’s strong rookie season (20 gp, 11-10-21, plus three goals in four playoff contests), did not end in a championship. Les Canadiennes avenged last season’s 8-3 final loss to the Inferno with a 3-1 victory this time, earning their first Clarkson Cup title.
In the amateur League of Women’s Hockey, next week will see the second and final Group Б qualifying tournament, with one or perhaps two berths in the national amateur championship at stake. The tournament will take place in St. Petersburg, and will feature five teams: Groza-1 and Groza-2 St. Petersburg, Tigritsy Amura Khabarovsk, Shturm Pskov, and ZHK Nikolai Liu from Ukhta. Groza-1 and the Nikolai Liu club share the group lead at this juncture with seven points apiece.
That is all for this week’s update. Next time, we will wrap up the Women’s Hockey League season, and start casting our eyes forward to the Women’s World Championship, now just three weeks away. Thank you for reading!