By Liz Montroy – IIHF.com
No other player has collected as many goals, assists or points for their country at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program than Slovenia’s Pia Pren.
Through 57 World Championship games, Pren has amassed 65 goals and 71 assists for a total of 136 points. The prolific scorer has demonstrated her offensive prowess wherever she’s played – through 66 games in the Slovenian women’s hockey championship between 2006/07 and 2019/20, Pren had a staggering 178 goals and 171 assists. These 349 points are over 100 more than that of the league’s second highest scorer, Jasmina Rosar (230).
With her talent, Pren managed to play in one of Europe’s top leagues, the SDHL in Sweden, where she was fifth in scoring for SDE last season with 18 points (4+14) in 32 games.
How did Pren become the powerhouse forward she is today? It all started in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana when she was five years old.
“The coaches at first were a little skeptical, like how is that going to go with a girl among the boys,” Pren said of when she first joined a local hockey school. “After some time they gave up and they gave me a chance.”
Everybody believed that it was going to be a month and then I’d have had enough, but it turned into a little longer time.
Pia Pren Slovenian forward
“A little longer time” is an understatement. Now 29 years old, Pren is not only still competing, but has been part of the national team program for nearly two decades.
“Pia was, from the beginning, the kind of girl who liked competing with boys and wanted to be better than the boys,” said Slovenian national team and Olimpija Ljubljana coach Franc Ferjanic, who first met Pren when she was six. “She worked really hard and her skills are now really at a very high level.”
Starting from a young age, Pren has dedicated hours towards her shot.
“I don’t have a strong shot, so I always try to work on accuracy,” she said. “When I was younger I spent quite some time at the hockey arena on a little synthetic ice rink we had beside the actual one shooting on targets that were set on the goal posts.”
Pren was just 12 years old when she made her debut with the national team in 2004, a few months after playing in a U13 boys’ tournament in Canada. The extra work on her shot paid off, with Pren contributing four goals and three assists in her inaugural Women’s World Championship tournament, which she followed up with a whopping 10 goals and 9 assists at the 2005 tournament.
Having spent her childhood playing with boys, these early experiences as a rookie with the national team were also her introduction to playing with other women.
“I had almost 20 moms beside me, everybody taking care of me,” she said. “At the same time, I think there was some pressure as well. It’s a big, big stage for a 12-year-old for sure.”
However, Pren proved that she could handle herself on that stage, becoming a consistent face on Slovenia’s roster and collecting numerous accolades at the World Championships. She has been named Best Forward five times and Top Player on the Team six times, in addition to leading Slovenia and the tournament in goals, assists and points on multiple occasions.
Sure, it’s not the top level. With just 82 female players in the country to choose from, Slovenia competes in the fourth tier of the Women’s Worlds and is ranked 24th in the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Ranking. But wherever Slovenia plays, Pren shines.
The last World Championship was one of Pren’s best, with her, Sara Confidenti and Julia Blazinsek making headlines with their combined 47 points (20 of which belong to Pren) in five games – not to mention that Slovenia won Division II Group A gold after three years of barely avoiding relegation to Group B.
Once the pandemic is over and the full World Championship program will be back, Slovenia will for only the second time in history (after 2007) compete in the third tier of international women’s hockey and that’s also thanks to Pren, who has captained the national team since 2014.
“I don’t consider myself a goal scorer – maybe stats say [I am],” said Pren. “I am more of a passer, I love to pass and create for my teammates. Myself and my former teammates agree that I’m shooting way too little and passing way too much even when I should shoot, so that’s something I still have to work on.”
“I don’t have any particular favourite way to score. I like if it’s a team effort, a nice set-up, or a well-executed power play or counter-attack.”
Pren’s team-first mentality is evident in the way she speaks about her own skills and successes, and likely lends well to her role as Slovenia’s team captain.
“Her strengths are her skills, hockey sense and leadership,” said Ferjanic. “As a captain she has a strong personality and because of all her qualities, all the players respect her.”
There is no doubt that Pren, with her offensive talent, extensive experience at the World Championships and in leagues in Slovenia, Austria and Sweden, and competency as a captain, is helping propel Slovenia forward on the world stage.