Women’s Hockey Update: November 13th, 2017
We’re back in business here this week with another women’s hockey update, and this one is mostly about the international scene. Two Russian women’s national teams saw game action over the past few days, and — spoiler alert — it all went very well indeed. Read on, for those stories and some other notes as well!
The senior Russian women’s team hosted its 4-Nations Halloween Cup tournament in Dmitrov, home of the Women’s Hockey League’s Tornado club, with Germany, Switzerland, and Czechia the visiting guests. Russia gave Biryusa Krasnoyarsk forward Valeriya Pavlova her first national team action since returning from maternity leave, and that proved a smart move from the outset. Lined up alongside Olga Sosina and Lyudmila Belyakova, Pavlova scored twice in the tournament opener against Czechia to stake her team to a 2-0 lead. Sosina increased it to 3-0, and although the Czechs ruined Nadezhda Alexandrova’s shutout bit in the final minute, Russia came away with a 3-1 victory.
On to Friday’s Game 2 against Germany; Valeriya Tarakanova got the start in goal, and the Sosina-Pavlova-Belyakova line leapt once again to the fore. All three forwards in that trio found the net before the match was 24 minutes old, giving Russia a 3-0 lead. Matters were then turned over to the big Tornado line of Anna Shokhina, Yelena Dergachyova, and Alevtina Shtaryova, as Shokhina scored twice to make the lead five. Pavlova then scored for the fourth time in the tournament, and Russia took a 6-0 lead into the second intermission. Although Germany did find the net for a consolation marker in the third, 6-1 would be the final score.
And so Team Russia was 2-0 heading into the tournament’s final day on Saturday, and they faced a Swiss opponent who boasted the same perfect record. Coach Alexei Chistyakov opted to give all three of his goalies a chance in the competition, starting Nadezhda Morozova for the final game. After the teams had played a scoreless opening period, Shokhina put the Russians ahead, and Belyakova made it 2-0 before 40 minutes were over. A shorthanded marker by Biryusa’s Lidiya Malyavko in the final frame made it 3-0, and this time the shutout remained intact. The 3-0 final score matched Russia’s overall tournament record, and duly secured the Halloween Cup. Sosina took home “Top Forward” honours while Pavlova was the competition’s leading scorer. Switzerland, with their 2-1 record, finished in second, while 1-2 Germany were third.
With all due respect to Russia’s opponents, they do not represent the toughest matchups in women’s hockey, so anything other than a 3-0 record. That said, the victories were solid ones, and Coach Chistyakov will be pleased with the effort. Obviously, the line of Sosina, Pavlova, and Belyakova was a revelation, and the Shokhina-Dergachyova-Staryova trio excelled as well. We should note also the contributions of the defensive pairing of Anna Shibanova and Mariya Batalova; playing mostly behind the Sosina line, they combined for six assists in the tournaments last two games (unfortunately, I do not have a box score for the opener against Czechia, but Batalova had at least two assists in that one as well). The women’s team will return to action in mid-December with a 4-Nations tournament in Finland.
Meanwhile, just down the road in Stupino, the Russian U18 Women’s Team was entertaining guests of its own, with Finland, Sweden, and Germany the visitors. The tournament began for Team Russia on Thursday against Finland, and fittingly enough it was team captain Alina Orlova, who plays defence for Arktik-Universitet Ukhta, who opened the scoring midway through. Darya Beloglazova of Tornado extended the lead in the third period, but the Finns are tough opponents, and pulled a goal back almost immediately. However, with less than two minutes to go, SKIF Nizhny Novgorod’s Ilona Markova made sure of the result, securing a 3-1 final score; Markova’s club team-mate Diana Farkhutdinova earned the victory in net with 30 saves.
SKIF have been a youthful club in the past few seasons, and after Markova’s goal and Farkhutdinova’s strong performance against Finland, it was another Nizhny Novogorod player who got things started in Game 2 against Germany on Friday. Oxana Bratishcheva put Russia up 1-0 very late in the first period — not the first time this season that we have mentioned her name hereabouts! Yelena Mezentseva, of Biryusa, duly made it 2-0 mid-way through the second period, and early in the third it once again fell to Markova to finish off the scoring. Russia moved to 2-0 on the tournament via the 3-0 victory; Milena Tretyak recorded the shutout, although as Germany mustered just six shots it was hardly her busiest game.
Just like their senior colleagues up in Dmitrov, the U18 Russians entered their tournament’s final game against another 2-0 team in Sweden. Farkhutdinova returned to her spot between the posts, and for the second straight game it was Bratishcheva who opened the scoring, nine minutes into the first period. The middle frame would belong to Mariya Alexandrova of Tornado; the 17-year-old forward doubled Russia’s advantage four minutes into the second, and then, as the intermission approached, made the score 3-0 shorthanded. Team Russia had one hand on the tournament trophy already, and the only question was whether they could get Farkhutdinova the shutout. They could indeed; Bratishcheva’s second of the game with five minutes left rounded out the scoring in a 4-0 victory.
Head Coach Yevgeny Bobariko’s crew will face their next action in January, at the U18 Worlds — the first time Russia will host that tournament (it will be held in Dmitrov). On this showing, especially the strong wins over Finland and Sweden, he and his players have cause for optimism. It would appear that Farkhutdinova will likely be the starting netminder at the Worlds, and Bratishcheva (among others) is making a name for herself this season.
The internationals were not the only ones in action in November, as earlier this month, the amateur League of Women’s Hockey’s over-18 division got its 2017-18 campaign underway. That league’s Group A held their first qualifying tournament in Moscow, with five teams taking part: Grad-1 Moscow, Grad-2 Moscow, Spartanki Moscow, Amazonki Moscow, and Tigritsy Amura Khabarovsk (the last of those included in the Moscow group due to ease of finding flights).
Grad-1 Moscow are two-time defending national champions in Russian amateur women’s hockey, and their lineup includes a number of Olympic alumnae, including a former national team captain in defender Olga Permyakova. No surprise, then, that it was Grad-1 that emerged on top in the opening tournament, running off a 4-0 record and a GF-GA of 32-0. However, there were signs that they may have some competition this years, as they were able to get by Spartanki 2-0 thanks only to a pair of late goals. Spartanki came second at 3-1, followed by Amazonki at 2-2. Grad-2 also finished 2-2, but rank fourth on goal difference, while Tigritsy Amura finished up at 0-4.
The League of Women’s Hockey continues its qualifying campaign next weekend, as Group B (Groza-1 St. Petersburg, Groza-2 St. Petersburg, Pantery St. Petersburg, Shturm Pskov, and Orsa Yaroslavl) holds its first qualifying tournament. The league has four groups in total; the four group winners after two qualifying tournaments, plus the two best second-place teams, qualify for the national amateur championship tournament next spring.
To the professional Women’s Hockey League, which was of course on hiatus last week due to the national teams’ requirements. However, since we missed the blog update last Monday, there is still one game to update. When last we checked in, SKIF Nizhny Novgorod had dropped the opener of their two-game series against Dynamo in St. Petersburg by a 1-0 score, and thus badly needed to earn a split to keep their playoff charge going. On October 31st, in the second meeting, SKIF did just that, and by an identical 1-0 score. Valeriya Tarakanova, with 25 saves, got the shutout, while the vital lone goal went to another player whom we have already discussed in this post: it was scored early in the first period by Oxana Bratishcheva.
The Women’s Hockey League gets back into it this week, starting on Friday, with six teams in action. SK Sverdlovsk Oblast will host Dynamo St. Petersburg for a pair of games, while Arktik-Universitet Ukhta will likewise travel to Nizhny Novgorod to play a pair against SKIF. However, the week’s big games, featuring the top two squads from last season, will take place in Ufa, as Agidel host Tornado Moscow Oblast.
Finally, a quick North American note: Russian national team forward Iya Gavrilova had an exciting weekend with her Calgary Inferno team-mates as they visited the Toronto Fury for a pair of CWHL games. In the first meeting, on Saturday, Gavrilova recorded a particularly key assist; it came on Brittany Esposito’s tying goal with just one second left on the clock, and helped earn the Inferno a point (Toronto would win the game 4-3 in the shootout). On Sunday, Calgary got themselves the weekend split, downing Toronto 2-0. Gavrilova put up another assist, on Rhianna Kurio’s game-winner in the second period, and was named the second star of the contest. Gavrilova now has a line of 8 gp, 3-4-7, which puts in a tie for seventh in the CWHL points race.
And that’s it for this week! Next Monday, we will look at the games played in the professional and amateur leagues, as usual, along with anything else that happens in the meantime. Thank you for reading!