Women’s Hockey Update: March 13th, 2018
There were some big games this week in the Women’s Hockey League, as the playoff picture continues to take shape. We now have one team with a post-season spot mathematically secured, while the battle for the other three such places continues. Read on, for some game recaps and a quick look at the end of the season in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
The week’s Women’s Hockey League action began with Dynamo St. Petersburg paying a visit to Ufa to take on league-leading Agidel. The latter were trying to clinch a post-season berth, while Dynamo sought to keep Biryusa Krasnoyarsk at bay in the race for the final playoff spot. The first game between the two, on Saturday, featured tremendous goaltending from Agidel’s Anna Prugova and Dynamo’s Valeriya Merkusheva. It was scoreless through two periods, with Agidel holding a 24-16 edge in shots. In the third period, the home side turned up the heat, out-shooting their St. Petersburg visitors 17-3, but it was Dynamo who took the lead, as Alena Polenska put them ahead six minutes in. Five minutes later, however, Agidel responded, with the tying goal coming from Elina Mitrofanova. With the two goalies playing the way they were, no surprise that things went to shootout still tied at 1-1. In the penalty-shot competition it was Dynamo who grabbed a vital, and somewhat unlikely, extra point, winning it 2-1 on Anna Fagina’s goal. The victory, for which Merkusheva deserves the lion’s share of the credit (she made 45 saves), snapped Agidel’s 14-game winning streak.
That match was played as part of the IIHF’s annual Global Girls’ Game, where the results of a number of contests from around the world (teams in 37 different countries took part this time) are combined into one final game score. Dynamo’s win in Ufa gave Team White two goals against Team Blue’s one, but the latter would win the Global Game in the end, 134-129.
Agidel and Dynamo renewed acquaintances on Sunday, with Prugova and Merkusheva once again coming to the fore. Agidel piled on the pressure early, outshooting Dynamo 16-6 in the first period, but as in Game 1 it was the visitors who took the lead; team captain Alyona Andryushchenko put Dynamo ahead just 20 seconds into the middle frame. Agidel’s Game 1 equalizer had come 11:29 into the third period, but this time they had to wait until 11:36 of the final stanza, and it was the home team captain, Yekaterina Lebedeva, who scored to cancel her counterpart’s opener. Once again, we went to extras, but this game would come up short of the shootout round. Three minutes into overtime, Agidel’s Inna Dyubanok put an end to proceedings, beating Merkusheva to the final score 2-1 for Agidel.
So each team takes three points from the pair of matches, and Dynamo will be by far the more pleased with that result. Merkusheva, in particular, had a strong couple of games, following up her 45 saves in the first with another 34 in the second. Her Agidel counterpart Prugova also played well, making 36 saves on 38 shots over the two games. And it was “Mission Accomplished” for Agidel in one other regard: their Game 2 victory mathematically clinches a playoff spot, with six games to go in the regular season.
Dynamo finished the series against Agidel three points ahead of Biryusa Krasnoyarsk in the race for the final post-season place, but the Krasnoyarsk team had an excellent chance to make up the distance on Monday and Tuesday, on the road against lowly SK Sverdlovsk Oblast. The results, it must be said, were hardly in doubt. In Monday’s first game, Biryusa led 5-0 after the first period, and were up 7-0 in the second before SKSO managed a response courtesy of Mariya Kokoshkina. But six more Biryusa goals followed, and the final score was a whopping 13-1. Towering over the game was forward Valeriya Pavlova, who scored four goals and added three assists — an astonishing performance even if the opposition was not the strongest. Alexandra Budanova post a hat-trick for Biryusa as well, and this is turning into a very nice rookie season by the forward from Stupino; Budanova has now scored 7-7-15 in 18 games.
Game 2, at least, was a bit closer. Tuesday’s contest once again featured Biryusa breaking to a big lead early (4-0 after the first period), but in the second, the teams traded goals: Yekaterina Solovyova and Regina Yumaguzhina for SKSO, and a pair of tallies to round out a hat-trick for Biryusa’s Yekaterina Dobrodeyeva. And in the third period, SKSO matched their season-high for goals, when Kristina Sergeyeva scored their third. But Biryusa subsequently added another four, and the final tally was 10-3. Dobrodeyeva’s hat-trick was the big scoring feat for the visitors (she added an assist as well), while Pavlova had a much more relaxed day with “only” two goals and no helpers. The two wins allowed Biryusa to sneak past Dynamo into fourth place in the standings, at least for now.
The final series of games of the past week had defending champions Tornado Moscow Oblast travelling up to Ukhta to take on Arktik-Universitet, who were still looking for their first victory of the season. But Arktik-Universitet, though winless for 2017-18, are a far cry from SKSO, and they gave the visitors a tough battle in the first meeting on Monday. Mariya Alexandrova opened the scoring for Tornado, but Arktik-Universitet’s Oxana Mitrofanova tied things up before the first period was over. In the second, the Ukhta side pulled ahead, on Natalya Vorontsova’s goal, although that was in turn canceled out late in the frame by Tornado’s Anna Shokhina. The third period would tell all, and it belonged to Tornado; three goals in four minutes (Yelizaveta Zenchenko, Mariya Batalova, and Mariya Lobur the scorers) made the game safe for the defending champs, although Fanuza Kadirova scored a late consolation marker for Arktik-Universitet. 5-3 the final in Tornado’s favour.
In Game 2 on Tuesday, Arktik-Universitet once again did everything they could, but they would once again come up short in the end. Yelena Dergachyova and Alevtina Shtaryova spotted Tornado a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, and matters then went back and forth a bit in the second period. Alsu Rakhimova got the Ukhtans back within one, only for Shokhina to re-extend the lead to 3-1. Alina Orlova scored for Arktik-Universitet to make it 3-2, but just as the middle frame was ending, Darya Beloglazova found the net for Tornado, and they took a 4-2 lead into the third. As in Game 1, Tornado pulled away in the final 20 minutes, as goals from Kristina Korotkikh, Nina Pirogova (rounding out a three-point night for her), and Yelizaveta Shkaleva made the final score 7-2. It was a closer game than that, and though they remain winless on the season, Arktik-Universitet can take some pride in having out-shot Tornado in both games.
One final note on this series: Shkaleva’s goal to finish off Game 2 was her first in the Women’s Hockey League (her first point, an assist, came in Game 1 against Arktik-Universitet). She’s a very promising young player, just 15 years old but already with a U18 World Championship appearance on her resume. She also led the Russian team at last year’s inaugural Under-16 Girls’ European Championship in both goals and points (4 gp, 4-4-8), and she should be still eligible for the 2018 edition of that tournament. I have, I regret to say, been spelling her name as “Shkalyova” here at the blog, but that is apparently incorrect — my apologies!
Those six games produced some movement in the Women’s Hockey League standings, which now look like this:
Biryusa’s two victories put them into fourth ahead of Dynamo, if only via the tie-breaker (most regulation wins). Tornado’s six points in Ukhta, meanwhile, put them into second place past idle SKIF Nizhny Novgorod. And, as already mentioned, Agidel Ufa have clinched their playoff spot, and still sit first in the standings, 13 points ahead of Tornado.
As for the scoring races, there has also been some change there. Dynamo did a good job keeping Agidel’s formidable Olga Sosina in check, holding her to just one assist over two games. But Sosina is still well in front in the points race, with a line of 14-24-38 in 18 games. That puts her 11 points in front both of her Slovakian club-mate Nicol Čupková and of Biryusa’s Pavlova, whose nine points against SKSO rocketed her up the scoring leaderboard. Pavlova, in fact, is now the league’s goals leader with 17, three ahead of Sosina and four in front of Agidel’s Lebedeva.
There will be two more pairs of games in the Women’s Hockey League before our next update. Wednesday and Thursday of this week will see SKIF host Dynamo in a pair of games with heavy playoff ramifications for both teams, and for others. And on Friday and Saturday, at least one long losing streak will come to an end as Arktik-Universitet Ukhta host SK Sverdlovsk Oblast.
The Canadian Women’s Hockey League regular season is now over, and the playoffs are at hand! Forward Iya Gavrilova and her Calgary Inferno team-mates lost their last pair of games this past weekend against Les Canadiennes de Montreal and the newly-signed Hilary Knight. However, the Inferno already had a playoff spot locked up; they placed third in the seven-team league and will face second-seeded Kunlun Red Star Shenzhen in the semifinal round this coming Friday, Saturday, and (if necessary) Sunday. All three games will be played in Markham, Ontario, with Kunlun Red Star being the official “home team” for the first and third contests.
Gavrilova, for her part, finished the season with a stat line of 6-18-24 in 28 games. That put her second on the Inferno in points (one behind Brittany Esposito), and top-15 in the league. She was also fifth in the CWHL in assists.
That’s about it for this week! Next time, updates on how those Women’s Hockey League games went, and on the Inferno’s trip to the playoffs. We will also check in with the amateur League of Women’s Hockey, whose final qualifying tournament for the national championship occurs this coming weekend. Thank you for reading!