Women’s Hockey Update: April 26th, 2017
Tomorrow marks the beginning of a new era in international women’s hockey, with the opening the first IIHF-sanctioned national team tournament at the U16 Girls’ level! Read on, for a look at Russia’s roster at that tournament, and some other notes as well.
The inaugural Under-16 Girls’ European Championship will be played in Budapest, Hungary, and Team Russia is among the eight squads taking part. The roster is as follows (club team in brackets):
- Anna Alpatova (HK Dmitrov 2004)
- Karina Zolotaryova (Olimpiya Kirovo-Chepetsk)
- Karina Akhmetova (Sozvezdie Moscow 2004)
- Anastasiya Golovkina (SSHOR Moscow Oblast)
- Tatyana Pankratova (Pingvini Moscow 2003)
- Yelena Provorova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Anna Savonina (Kristall Elektrostal)
- Alyona Shmykova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod U18)
- Sofya Sychyova (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk)
- Varvara Boriskova (SSHOR Moscow Oblast)
- Veronika Korzhakova (Mechel Chelyabinsk 2005)
- Polina Luchnikova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod U18)
- Ilona Markova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod U18)
- Yelena Mezentseva (Biryusa Krasnoyarsk)
- Vita Ponyatovskaya (Mechel Chelyabinsk 2004)
- Mariya Pushkar (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod U18)
- Kristi Shashkina (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod U18)
- Yelizaveta Shkalyova (HK Dmitrov 2004)
- Yekaterina Sokolova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod U18)
- Anastasiya Yakubiva (SK Sverdlovsk Oblast)
The squad will be coached by Yevgeny Bobariko, who is also behind the bench of the Under-18 Russian women’s team. He will have some familiar faces in this lineup, too, with three players — Provorova, Savonina, and Mezentseva — who won bronze at this year’s U18 Worlds in January. Provorova, who scored the winning goal for Team Russia in the third-place game at the U18s, will captain the U16 team in Hungary, with Savonina and Mezentseva her assistants.
As for players to watch, the aforementioned three are of course on the list due to their previous international experience. Provorova and Mezentseva, furthermore, are now full-time Women’s Hockey Leaguers, and Mezentseva had a particularly fine rookie campaign in 2016-17, scoring 15 goals in 36 games for Biryusa. Sychyova and Yakubiva also saw significant time in the professional league this season, so this is a team with some high-level experience. If you are looking for a “dark horse” candidate to stand out, I would suggest, as just one example, Ponyatovskaya, who put up some nice scoring numbers playing on boys’ teams at the Mechel Chelyabinsk club.
Russia will face Germany, Austria, and hosts Hungary in the group stage at these Euros (Czechia, Finland, Slovakia, and Switzerland make up the other group). Team Russia opens on Thursday against the Hungarians, faces Austria on Friday, and finishes up against Germany on Saturday. Sunday will see the placement games; the top team in each group will meet for the gold medal, the second-place teams will play for bronze, and so on.
You will notice, in the U16 roster above, a large number of players from SKIF Nizhny Novgorod’s Under-18 team (in addition to Provorova, who also plays for the senior squad). SKIF’s youngsters have had a good month; in mid-April, they wrapped up their third Russian Under-18 women’s national championship, having lost just twice in 19 games. The Moscow Oblast “Selects” team took silver, while the squad representing the capital city itself won bronze. The tournament awards were as follows:
- Top Scorer: Oxana Bratishcheva (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
- Best Forward: Oxana Mitrofanova (SK Moscow Oblast)
- Best Defender: Alexandra Gandzyuk (Sergei Makarov Hockey School, Chelyabinsk)
- Best Goalie: Diana Farkhutdinova (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod)
SKIF were formerly perennial contenders for the Women’s Hockey League title, but have fallen back a bit in the last couple of seasons, and are currently embarked on a “rebuilding with youth” program. Evidence would suggest that it is going well, with Provorova’s emergence at the professional level just one of the early fruits of it.
Back to international hockey. While the top division of the Women’s World Championship wrapped up earlier this month, the lower division championships have been decided more recently, and some Women’s Hockey League players were in action in those as well. In Division 1B, the third tier, Agidel Ufa’s Nicol Čupková led Slovakia to first place and promotion back to Div. 1A. Čupková led all scorers at the 1B Worlds with a line of 7-4-11 in five games, and was named Slovakia’s best player. The 24-year-old is coming off an excellent Women’s Hockey League campaign as well; her line of 36 gp, 26-23-50 for Agidel had her fourth in the league in goals, and second on her team in points behind only the redoubtable Olga Sosina.
2017 marked Hungary’s first appearance in Div. 1A, they having earned promotion to the second tier of women’s international hockey last season. The mission, therefore, was quite simple: avoid relegation. And that task was duly accomplished as the Hungarians went 2-3 to finish fifth, one spot above a trip back to Div. 1B. Among the names on the Team Hungary roster were those of three Women’s Hockey Leaguers: Alexandra Huszak (Arktik-Universitet Ukhta), Franciska Kiss-Simon (SKIF Nizhny Novgorod), and Fanni Gasparics (Agidel Ufa). Gasparics, who was third in the WHL this season in goals with 28, also led her country at the 1A Worlds, scoring twice in five games. Huszak also scored a goal for Hungary, while Kiss-Simon added two assists to the cause and was named her country’s best player at the tournament.
Finally, we have schedule in hand for the final tournament of the League of Women’s Hockey, which will take place in Sochi to determine the champion of Russian women’s amateur hockey. The championship tournament will begin on May 11th and finish on the 15th, and will feature the six teams that qualified from regional competition this season:
- Grad-1 Moscow
- Groza-1 St. Petersburg
- Malakhit Yekaterinburg
- Grizli-1 Novosibirsk
- Sobol Irkutsk
- ZHK Nikolai Liu (Ukhta)
Grad-1 are the defending national champions. We will have more to say about this tournament before it begins, and certainly full coverage of what happens in Sochi.
And that is it for this time! Early next week, we will take a look at how the U16 Euros went, and perhaps peek ahead a bit more to the amateur national championship.