Women’s Hockey Update: March 13th, 2017
So the curtain has come down on another season of the Russian Women’s Hockey League, whose last matches of 2016-17 were played on Sunday. There was little at stake for most of the teams, but one standings spot was still to be decided; read on for how that turned out, and for some other bits and pieces of news as well.
The league’s best two teams were hosting the bottom two to round out the season, and with the top players looking to get into World Championship form, the results were perhaps predictable. In Dmitrov, champions Tornado Moscow Oblast took on visiting sixth-place Arktik-Universitet Ukhta for three games, and beat the northerners 5-1, 10-1, and 9-1. Tornado captain Anna Shokhina put an exclamation mark on her season victories in the points and goals races; she scored 6-6-12 over the weekend to end up with a final line of 36 gp, 39-42-81. Line-mate Yelena Dergachyova was held pointless in the first game against Arktik-Universitet, but rebounded with nine points over the final two, and her season line of 33 gp, 17-47-64 allowed her to nip in ahead of Agidel Ufa’s Olga Sosina to take second in the points race.
Speaking of Agidel, they were at home this weekend against winless SK Sverdlovsk Oblast and showed no mercy: 7-2, 13-1, and 15-2 were the final scores. The main news was Sosina’s pursuit of second place in the scoring race, but that came to a controversial end in the second game. Midway through the match, having just recorded her second goal of the game and her sixth point of the series, Sosina levelled SKSO’s Angelina Bornikova with a hard hit. “Five and a game for charging,” was the referee’s decision, and a second game misconduct was tacked on apparently for some comments Sosina made as she left the ice. She then missed the third game through suspension — an unfortunate end to her season — but her team-mates most certainly picked up the slack. Slovakia’s Nicol Čupková and Hungarian Fanny Gasparich each recorded hat-tricks in the season-ender, while Agidel captain Yekaterina Smolentseva went them one better by scoring four goals. For Čupková, the season ended with a tremendous four-game run during which she scored nine goals and added six assists.
There were a couple of bright spots for SKSO, despite the routs. Regina Yumaguzhina scored three goals in the series, and captain Yuliya Vasykova added a pair.
The third series of the weekend was the only one with any standings implications; fourth place was up for grabs as SKIF Nizhny Novgorod welcomed Biryusa Krasnoyarsk to town. The home side held a two-point advantage over their Siberian visitors as the series opened, but Biryusa quickly reversed that by taking the first game 4-0. Nadezhda Morozova earned the 25-save shutout in that one, while Yelena Podkamennaya led the way up front with a goal and an assist. Back came the home team in the second game, although it was a near-run thing. SKIF, clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the third, gifted Biryusa a minute’s worth of five-on-three powerplay, but not only did they kill it off, they increased their lead; Finnish veteran Karolina Rantamäki scored a rare “double-shorthanded” goal, and the game ended 3-1. SKIF goalie Valeriya Tarakanova excelled in Game 2, stopping 29 of 30 shots.
So the third game of the series would settle all; with SKIF holding the tie-breaker, Biryusa needed a win in regulation to capture fourth place. The game stayed scoreless until early in the second period, when Lidiya Malyavko put the Krasnoyarsk team ahead. Morozova proved unbeatable on the day, and Malyavko finally sealed the necessary 2-0 victory with her second goal of the game in the final minute of the third period. Fourth place for Biryusa, then, and SKIF finish in fifth.
For Malyavko, those two vital goals in the final game put a nice capper on a break-out season. In 2015-16, her rookie campaign in the league, she scored 14 points in 24 games, but 2016-17 saw her boost that line to 36 gp, 18-19-37. She also made her debut with the Russian national team (she herself is from Belarus, but that country currently lacks a women’s national side), and won a gold medal at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Kazakhstan.
Following Tornado’s above-discussed series against Arktik-Universitet, there was some silverware handed out on the ice to various members of the team. The entire squad got a chance to celebrate with the championship trophy and collected their gold medals, while Anna Shokhina received the awards for most goals and most points in the league this season. Nina Pirogova won the award for best defender, while top coach honours went to bench boss Alexei Chistyakov.
And there was a heart-warming scene involving Tornado forward Lyudmila Belyakova — congratulations and best wishes to Lyudmila and Alexander!
Over to the amateur League of Women’s Hockey, which, as discussed last week, was holding the final qualifying tournament of Group Б in St. Petersburg this weekend. At stake were the two remaining spots at the national amateur championship in Sochi later this spring. Coming into the tournament, those two slots were in the possession of Groza-1 St. Petersburg and ZHK Nikolai Liu of Ukhta. To keep them, they would have to fend off Groza-2 St. Petersburg, Shturm Pskov, and Tigritsy Amura Khabarovsk.
This they did. Both of the leaders brought records of three wins and a tie from the first qualifying tournament, with the draw having come against each other, and they repeated those records exactly over the weekend. Their head-to-head matchup saw Groza-1 take a lead through Anastasiya Vedernikova, before a pair of goals from Nikolai Liu’s Olga Semenets seemed to turn the game in the Ukhtans’ favour. But with five minutes, Viktoriya Senotrusova found a tying goal for the St. Petersburg team, and the game finished at 2-2. Senotrusova’s goal clinched first place in the group for Groza-1, on goal difference.
So it is off to Sochi for Groza-1 and ZHK Nikolai Liu, where they will join already-qualified Grizly-1 Novosibirsk, Sobol Irkutsk, and Malakhit Yekaterinburg. The sixth spot in the Sochi tournament was clinched last week by defending national champions Grad-1 Moscow, so the field is now complete.
There was unfortunately some very sad news from the League of Women’s Hockey this month, with the death of 30-year-old Angely Kirov forward Oksana Sannikova. Sannikova died along with three other people in an avalanche while on a skiing vacation in the Kabardino-Balkaria region of the North Caucasus. All condolences to her family, friends, and team-mates.
On that sad note, we will finish off here. Later this week or on the weekend, we will have a look back at the Women’s Hockey League season, and how each of its teams did, along with some discussion of might come next for the circuit. And very shortly here, it will be time to turn our attention to the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship, which begins in the United States on March 31st. In the meantime, thank you for reading!