Welcome to a little town in Scotland where you for one week could find Kiwi’s and future Olympians.
Some might consider it peculiar but I actually packed the bags and left the World Championship tournament in Malmö after only one day to travel to Dumfries in Scotland and the
Division 2A World Championships. For me though it was an easy choice, I got to watch the top games between Finland and Russia as well as the giants USA and Canada and that’s
enough since I see many of these players all through the season. The teams in Dumfries on the other hand were all new and exciting acquaintances, all but Croatia which I’ve
grown quite close to over the last couple of years.
A bit strange perhaps, but Croatia is the team I feel closest to of them all clubs and nationals alike, almost like I’m apart of the team. And it is indeed special getting to join the team
for dinner, going for off-day adventures and spending the evenings playing cards with them. Naturally being more connected to the team makes me want to be there for them
whether they win by a couple or lose by 10, such wonderful players are worth supporting every day even if it’s just going off to Tesco for a pit stop when they crave something!
I was impressed arriving at the Dumfries Ice Bowl and seeing all the tournament merchandise they had produced just for this event. You could have shirts, hats, backpacks and a
lot of other clothes and small souveniers all with either the official logo and tournament specifications or logos for both Scottish and British ice hockey federations. Not only that
but they were also selling off game-worn jerseys from earlier years as well as customizable attire, some of the girls got backpacks with their name and flag embroided.
You could tell the people at the Ice Bowl were experienced in hosting international tournaments and they made a fantastic impression surpassing the "real" World Championships
in Malmö by a landslide. Amazing how they could produce such a great tournament with a very limited arena and although women’s hockey doesn’t produce that much income
yet, I am certain that the people at Dumfries actually managed to make this event a economical success as well and likely with a pretty decent profit.
So on to the actual tournament that was played over the week. Not having seen this division before I didn’t have much expectations, however I didn’t believe in a miracle like
Croatia fighting for a gold medal since they were promoted to this division after last years tournament in Reykjavik. Since Kazakhstan was relegated last year I considered them to
be favorites of the group, but with some reservation for Korea who are gearing up for the 2018 Olympics.
Not sure if I want to say there were some real upsets, but still some interesting match-ups and a lot of entertaining games. The week opened with a game between Poland and
Croatia and a pleasant surprise was that Croatia actually began with outplaying the Poles in the first period, extending to a two goal lead less than a minute into the second period.
Then a tough and long day of travelling took out it’s course on Croatia and Poland turned the game completely winning the last 30 minutes 8-0 and the game 10-3.
What I can see is that the sum of a team will carry more weight than some extraordinary players, but only when you reach a certain level. And division 2A is exactly where this level
is, Kazakhstan, Korea and Great Britain have all passed this very thin line and Poland is quite close to it. It became clear to me at this tournament since I considered Spain to be the
best "team" last year in Reykjavik, but they were still beaten by the highly skilled top names from Croatia and Slovenia, while Croatia’s superstars could not keep the team ahead
against Poland and Great Britain even with a lead after one period.
After watching Korea play Kazakhstan in their first game and falling a bit short I still thought the Korean’s would be a strong contender for the gold and it was very surprising that
they despite superior speed and skills still couldn’t manage to defeat Great Britain the next day, something is obviously still missing in the Korean gameplan. Well deserved final
game between GB and Kazakhstan since both teams showed great efficiency in getting pucks past the opposing goalies, the strong Kazakh’s showing who were to be top dogs in the
end after keeping the door shut in the gold medal game and defeating Great Britain 2-0.
How about those Kiwi’s then? Well, I think they grew over the week, alas it wasn’t enough as they lost the key game against Croatia on the second day and winning two games
against Kazakhstan, Korea or Poland was an impossible task, even if New Zealands Ice Fernz fought hard and played some great games once again lifting up the team effort.
Relegation was in the cards this time and they will make up one interesting group in division 2B next year accompanying Australia, Spain, Mexico, Turkey and Iceland, some of the
most exotic teams you’ll (n)ever see.
Got to meet a lot of amazing people during this week, the Scots of course at homefield, Swedish lineswoman Stephanie Cole who played at top level back home some years ago and
now resides in Norway combining the striped assignment with playing in the Norwegian Elite League. A bit unexpectedly I met a student who were making a report on women’s
hockey for her university and she had me doing a video interview after hearing about all my adventures as perhaps the worlds biggest women’s hockey supporter, luckily it was the
last day of the trip so I had time to hone my verbal skills back to a fluent level.
Most amazing of course was seeing all the Croatians again, they really hold a special place in my heart, some more than others, one more than all of them!
Since the only thing I was disappointed at was the directorate’s choices for best players of the tournament, so this is my tournament All-Star team:
Goalkeeper: Aizhan Raushanova, Kazakhstan (Runner-up – Grace Harrison, New Zealand)
Defenders: Ela Filipec and Diana Kruselj Posavec, Croatia
Forwards: Jongah Park, Korea; Karolina Pozniewska, Poland; Zarina Tukhtieva, Kazakhstan
Seeing none of these players got awarded by the directorate I can just gather the Brits don’t have the finest eyes for hockey.
Hard to sum up a grand week, no matter how much words I get to describe it it’s not enough, by far the greatest week of my whole year just as it was last year in Reykjavik and
Prerov. And as I’m writing this I’m actually sitting in my hotel room in Rouen, France and the World Championship Division 1A is set to begin tomorrow, no doubt for another