After the outcome of the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, it was a hard-fought yet redeeming road for the Czech Republic to return to one of the world’s biggest stages for women’s ice hockey. As one of the most accomplished and talented members of the roster, Lucie Povova helped lead the way back, as the Czech Republic qualified for the 2016 IIHF Women’s Worlds.
Coincidentally, both of the Czech Republic’s appearances at the IIHF Women’s Worlds both took place in Canada. Their first appearance in 2013 took place in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. In 2016, the squad traveled to Western Canada, with the event held in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Along with team captain Alena Polenska, both have competed at the NCAA level, providing a wealth of competitive experience for the Czechs. Of note, Povova, a swift skater with solid abilities on the forecheck, competed for Northeastern University in Boston, playing alongside the likes of Kendall Coyne, who captured the 2016 Patty Kazmaier Award.
Other notable teammates at Northeastern included Rachel Llanes and Casey Pickett, who were part of the inaugural Isobel Cup champions in NWHL play. Upon graduating from Northeastern, Povova would also compete at the professional level, returning home to grace the ice with HC Slavia Praka in Liga Zen.
Povova, who has played with the Czech national team in three consecutive U18 World Championships, along with appearances for the senior team with elite play in IIHF Division II, Division IA and Division I, she has amassed 22 points, on the strength of 12 goals, in 42 overall appearances for the national team.
Having waited three years for the chance to return to the IIHF Worlds, Povova and her teammates were ready to show that they were a much improved team compared to their debut. Enjoying a sterling 5-0-0 mark at the 2015 IIHF Division IA Women’s Worlds, edging out a very determined Austrian squad who went 4-0-1, the road back to the top division was one filled with a desire to return there for 2017. Despite opening the 2016 Worlds with a hard-fought 3-2 loss to Sweden, they bounced back in remarkable fashion.
During the second game of the Worlds, the Czech Republic made a strong statement, defeating Switzerland, the defending bronze medalists from the Sochi Winter Games in a 3-1 final. Such efforts has shown that the game has grown by a quantum leap in other parts of the world, as the competitive gap slowly ceases. As Povova reflects on the landmark win and what it meant for her and her teammates alike, there was definitely a feeling of increased confidence,
“I think that we felt more confident because over the years we got to play with better teams like Swiss and Russia and the games were even. I think from these games we gained more confidence and experience and knew that we got room to improve to. We also had a camp before worlds, so we had time to get used to each other on the ice and even off the ice, because as a group, we had great chemistry.”
There was also a feeling of redemption for Povova and the Czech Republic in Kamloops. Although the squad showed tremendous poise in their debut at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, the event would end with a hard-fought loss to Sweden in the relegation round. With players like Povova helping to lead the way, there were a lot of valuable lessons learned as the squad only worked harder, more determined than ever to stake their claim.
Povova and Alena Polenska, the team captain helped to form a strong core of leadership for the Czech Republic, setting a strong foundation in the years following their debut at the 2013 IIHF Worlds. The result was a strong chemistry that would set the foundation for the redeeming road back towards the Women’s Worlds.
Part of the redemption involved the opportunity to faceoff against the Japanese national team. Despite enduring relegation in 2013, the Czech Republic were still in contention for an Olympic berth at Sochi, as they engaged in a three-game playoff with Japan. Although Japan would qualify for Sochi in a hard-fought series, there was a tinge of irony as it was the same Japanese squad that would suffer relegation at the 2016 IIHF Women’s Worlds. With a 3-2 win against a Japanese team that featured several of its players fresh off seasons in the CWHL and the NWHL, it was a remarkable feat for the ambitious yet assiduous Czechs and a strong point of pride for Povova.
“The win against Switzerland helped made us more confident but on the other hand we knew that we were going to play Japan, and we always had problems playing against them so we had to take that momentum from the Switzerland ‘s game onto Japan. It was great to beat Switzerland knowing their past and their success.”
As Povova and the Czech Republic avoided relegation in 2016, battling with familiar foes Sweden in the fifth place game, there is an exciting feeling of momentum. Qualifying for the 2017 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Plymouth, Michigan, the objective is to continue to build on their strong success from 2016.
Should the Czech Repubilc avoid relegation for the second straight time in Plymouth, Povova and her teammates can stamp their tickets for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. There is no question that such hard work and determination has been motivated strongly by the Olympic dream, one that runs strongly for Povova.
“I think it was very important for us as a group because we knew the feeling of when you have to play in these games and we knew we did not want to go back to that division. It gave us more confidence, and hope, that maybe we could even once play for the metal game or make it to the Olympics. Now we hope that we will get to play during the season with some great teams in some tournaments.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”