The 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division III tournament was held in Sofia, Bulgaria from December 4 to 10 and featured six teams from countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.
As with the Division I and Division II World Championship tournaments, this was a round robin with no playoffs, with the top three teams at the end of the event finishing as the gold, silver and bronze medallists. With tight standings and a number of close games throughout the week, there was no clear winner heading into the final day of competition.
After beating Lithuania and then watching Belgium beat Romania on the last day, South Africa secured the gold medal and promotion to the 2021 IIHF Women’s Division II Group B tournament, which they will be returning to for the first time since 2013. South Africa allowed the second most goals against, largely due to their opening 11-4 loss to Romania, but won four straight games against their remaining opponents to finish at the top of the standings with 12 points. Donne van Doesburgh was named the tournament’s Top Defenceman for the second year in a row.
Following in second place was Belgium. This was the country’s fourth second place finish in as many years. A pair of 4-3 losses to South Africa and Lithuania midway through the tournament dashed their hopes for gold. The team needed to win its final game to secure the silver and it did, knocking Romania out of gold medal contention at the same time. Belgium’s 17-year-old Lotte de Guchtenaere scored in all five of their games and led her team in scoring with eight goals, double the number she had last season.
Romania was relegated to the 2020 Division III tournament after losing the 2019 Division II Group B World Championship. The team looked dominant in its opening 11-4 win over South Africa, and could have won gold if it were not for its final loss to Belgium. Instead Romania finished with the bronze medal.
Host Bulgaria had some tight games, beating Romania 4-3 in overtime (a nail-biter that saw Bulgaria tie the game up with just 1:30 remaining in the third period) and narrowly losing to gold medallists South Africa 2-1. The country once again finished as the tournament’s most penalized team (89 minutes in five games), but also finished with the best penalty kill, only allowing one power play goal against despite being shorthanded 25 times. Bulgaria ended up in fourth place, a good result compared to last season’s last place finish.
Lithuania had a strong IIHF Women’s World Championship debut, with wins over Belgium and Hong Kong, a 2-1 loss to Bulgaria, and a pair of 4-2 losses to Romania and South Africa. Klara Miuller did not disappoint, scoring nine goals (including all four Lithuanian goals in the team’s 4-3 win over Belgium) and claiming the Top Forward award. Emilie Simonsen was named the tournament’s Top Goaltender.
Coming in last place with no wins was Hong Kong, a team that struggled to best its 2019 fourth place finish. Led by Russian coaches Nikita Smirnov and Denis Leonov, Hong Kong played fairly well against Romania and South Africa, losing 2-1 to Romania in overtime and 2-1 to South Africa in regular time, but closed the tournament with staggering 8-1 and 5-0 losses.
- South Africa
- Hong Kong
Top Goaltender: Emilie Simonsen (Lithuania)
Top Defenceman: Donne van Doesburgh (South Africa)
Top Forward: Klara Miuller (Lithuania)
Top 3 Scorers
Klara Miuller (Lithuania): 9 goals, 1 assist, 10 points
Chloe Schuurman (South Africa): 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points
Lotte de Guchtenaere (Belgium): 8 goals, 1 assist, 9 points
Top 3 Goal Scorers
Klara Miuller (Lithuania): 9 goals
Lotte de Guchtenaere (Belgium): 8 goals
Veronika Metanova (Bulgaria): 7 goals
Top 3 Goaltenders
Emilie Simonsen (Lithuania): 92.71 SV%, 2.80 GAA
Paulina Georgieva (Bulgaria): 90.20 SV%, 1.98 GAA
Sumi Chau (Hong Kong): 87.80 SV%, 2.81 GAA
The 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship season continues with the Division II Group B tournament, which is taking place February 23 to 29 in Akureyri, Iceland. Coming up before then are the five IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship tournaments, with the top division kicking things off in Bratislava, Slovakia on December 26. Information on the 2021 IIHF Women’s Division III tournament has not yet been announced.
Feature Image Credit: Photo: Marianne Loubser