Category: Women (Page 1 of 9)

Goalie Charlotte Cagigos skates a rare path in men’s pro hockey in France

Charlotte Cagigos training among the men

By Romain Houeix – France 24

Charlotte Cagigos is the backup goaltender for the Drakkars of Caen, an otherwise all-male team in France’s Division 1 ice hockey league. Her story is exceptional in French professional sport.

A woman plying her craft surrounded by male colleagues is rare in French sport, but that is what every day on the job looks like for Charlotte Cagigos.

“When I arrived in Caen, I never thought I’d make the pro team someday. And then, I never thought I’d play a game with them,” the 20-year-old goalie tells FRANCE 24. “I don’t want to set limits for myself.”

Cagigos played her first minutes as a first-team player for the Normandy-based club in an exhibition friendly against the Neuilly-sur-Marne Bisons on January 6.

“The match went pretty well. There was a bit of pressure because it was my first match but that’s not what weighed on me the most. A lot of media were interested in my story and I thought ‘Wow! This actually isn’t very common,’ when for me this game was the logical next step in the journey. I knew the opportunity would present itself at some point since I had been with the group since September,” Cagigos recounts. “I saw that I represented a woman who was playing with the men. And I told myself that, if I had a bad game, it would reflect badly and people would say that women don’t belong here.”

“It’s bizarre to be in the spotlight suddenly when I’m a fairly discreet person. But I tell myself that it’s good for our sport, for the goaltender position and for women’s hockey,” Cagigos explains. “When I was little, I would have loved to see a girl playing on a top team and have her as a role model. I don’t necessarily want to become a symbol but I’d just like to show that it’s possible for little girls to play hockey,” she adds.

Originally from the southern French city of Montpellier, Cagigos first hit the rink at the age of three, following in her big brother’s footsteps. Her parents signed her up for skating lessons, expecting she would gravitate towards figure skating. But Cagigos only had eyes for hockey. “It very quickly became a passion. When I got home after practice on the ice, I’d put my rollerblades on to keep playing hockey,” she says. “While my big brother stopped hockey, my little brother took it up. At home, we always played together.”

At 14, Cagigos enrolled in a sport study programme and left her hometown to join France’s women’s hockey centre in Chambéry, in the Alps. “That’s where I discovered high-level sport. I was with the top girls in France and we played against the boys,” recalls the goaltender, who kept up her studies while in the programme, even passing her high-school baccalaureate final exams a year in advance.

Goalie advantage

Cagigos is an exception in France, not just within hockey but among all team sports. She is the only woman playing alongside men at the highest level.

Ice hockey is distinctive in that a woman can work her way into a men’s team in front of the net. “In hockey, the goaltending position is particular. The skills it requires are more technical than physical. Mixed sports, why not, but it seems to me difficult to extend to all sports,” Cagigos says.

In 2017, she felt she “needed a change” after a knee injury. “I was looking for a club that would give me ice time and allow me to learn, even as a girl. Not every team has that open-mindedness,” the goalie says. “During an interview in Caen, Virgile Mariette, who was in charge of the up-and-coming players, immediately told me that it wasn’t an issue for him whether I was a girl or a boy. As long as I worked, it would make no difference. That appealed to me right away.”

Another woman had already prepared the groundwork for the Drakkars in Caen. Nolwenn Rousselle, who was trained by the club, was the Drakkars’ official back-up netminder in the mid-2000s. Rousselle was the first woman to appear on a scoresheet in the Magnus League, France’s top men’s hockey championship, one notch above Division 1.

“It’s true that this club is distinctive in that way,” Drakkars’ coach Luc Chauvel tells FRANCE 24. “Nolwenn and Charlotte were used to playing with boys up to the Under-17s and so it was natural for them to move towards goaltending within the men’s leagues. We also try to encourage the development of women’s hockey, but it’s complicated to put together a team,” he laments.

Women’s hockey is considerably more developed in North America than it is in France. At the Olympics, only Canada and the United States have managed to claim gold in the sport since the women’s tournament began in 1998. Olympic goaltenders also have a history of trailblazing in top men’s leagues.

Canada’s Manon Rhéaume made history in 1992 as the first woman ever to play in the National Hockey League when she backstopped the Tampa Bay Lightning in a pre-season exhibition game. Rhéaume went on to win silver at Nagano in 1998. She and Canadian three-time gold medalist Charline Labonté both tended goal in the otherwise all-men’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Goalie Kim St-Pierre, who also won three Olympic gold medals for Canada, has filled in at practice for the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. The road to success is a narrower one in France.

‘One of the team’

In Normandy, Cagigos has been climbing the Drakkars ranks step-by-step. After two years with the Under-17 elite squad, she spent a season alternative between Caen’s Under-20s and the reserve team, playing in Division 3. Then, in August 2020, when the first team’s back-up goalie left the club, Cagigos officially claimed the job.

“Without being officially on the team, I was already training with them. From that point on, fitting into the team came pretty naturally. The boys were super welcoming,” she recalls.

“Charlotte completely deserves her spot. She’s a hard-worker. She gives it her all. She’s always fully invested and always wants to make progress,” says Chauvel. “She has fit in successfully. The boys consider her one of the team like anyone else.”

Cagigos has taken advantage of the absence of Caen’s number-one goalie, veteran France international Ronan Quemener, who is preparing the next steps of his own career by taking courses in neighbouring Rouen.

While the French hockey luminary has been sharing his experience with her, Cagigos knows she has a long way to go before she can score the role of number-one starting netminder like Quemener. “As it stands, I think I’m still a long way from a number-one goalie job,” she says.

“She still has a lot to learn and experience to acquire to be the number-one starter,” her coach confirms. “But I know that if I need her during a match, she is ready to go.”

The sensible young goalie wants to stay at Caen at least for the next two years, while she completes her Master’s degree in sport sciences “as insurance”. Beyond that, she wants to “not close any doors”, she says.

“I think I’ll find a Division 2 club where it would probably be easier for me to have ice time. Or I might try my luck abroad, in which case I’d switch to women’s championships,” Cagigos says.

Olympic dreams

Beyond her nascent dreams of a club career, Cagigos especially hopes to earn a spot on France’s national team. She has already had the opportunity to take part in several gatherings with Les Bleues. “Permanently joining the group to be able to compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament for 2022 would be a dream,” Cagigos smiles. “With Covid-19, the competitions were cancelled, just as the World Championships were, but the group has one objective in mind: Competing in the Olympics,” she says.

In Caen, Cagigos’s coach is on board. “She’s dreaming of the Olympics. We’re trying to do everything so that she can make it onto the national squad. The club’s objective is to lead her to the elite level, which would be tremendous for her and for us,” Chauvel says.

Cagigos feels fulfilled by her career so far, but she does miss one thing: The atmosphere in the dressing room, so important in a team sport. “I am all alone in mine. It’s the only sacrifice I make,” she says.

Women’s Ice Hockey’s Jesse Compher Has Her Sights Set on the 2022 Winter Olympics

After planting herself in the BU women’s ice hockey record books, Jesse Compher (SHA’21) hopes to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

By Brady Gardner – BU Today

Jesse Compher is a first-liner who plays like a fourth-liner, her coach says. On the surface, that might not sound like a compliment. To a hockey coach, though, it’s one of the best qualities you can ask for in a player, especially a captain.

“She plays so hard, competes so much…and she can do so much skill-wise,” says Brian Durocher (Wheelock’78), BU women’s ice hockey head coach. “It’s a great combination to have as a hockey player.”

Compher (SHA’21) is in the final sprint of a remarkable BU hockey career. Even while missing time from injury and the pandemic-shortened 2020-2021 campaign, she has posted 123 points, good for ninth all-time in BU women’s ice hockey. This year, she was picked as a team cocaptain.

Her talent is evident, but Compher attributes her success on the ice to her competitive edge.

“I think that if you watch a BU practice or BU game you can kind of see it—I don’t like to lose,” she says. “I don’t care if I’m playing against my best friend or anybody on the other team, I don’t like to lose and that’s kind of the mindset I go into it with.”

Born to athletic parents, Compher grew up in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill., and she spent her childhood competing with her older sister, Morgan, and her older brother, JT, now a forward with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing around the house, nobody likes to lose,” she says.

That mentality set Compher up for early athletic success: she was part of a team that won four consecutive state hockey championships and a national title in high school. She also skated on the international scene, where she earned two gold medals with the US Under-18 Team at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 2016 and 2017.

When the time came for college, Compher was recruited to BU by Katie Lachapelle, then a Terrier assistant coach and a US U-18 assistant coach, now U-18 head coach and Holy Cross head coach. 

It didn’t take long for Compher to draw attention in Hockey East. Appearing in every game her freshman year, she posted the second-most assists (17) of any first-year in the conference, the third-most points on the team (26), and was chosen for the 2017-2018 Hockey East All-Rookie Team.

Compher exploded as a sophomore, leading Hockey East with 61 points, putting her second of any Terrier in a single season and third nationally that year. She was unanimously named a Hockey East First Team All-Star, a Second Team All-American, and was a top-10 nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the most valuable player in NCAA women’s hockey. 

Durocher says the biggest contributing factor to Compher’s breakout sophomore season was her ability to harness her “super intensity,” especially in her skating.

“In her time at BU, Jesse has evolved as an even better skater,” he says. “There was a relaxation element that came up somewhere between her freshman and sophomore years and really assisted her to move forward as a hockey player.” 

The highlight of that sophomore year was BU’s 2019 Beanpot win, the first in program history as a varsity team. Compher says the victory was her favorite moment as a Terrier. Her assist on the overtime winner by linemate Sammy Davis (CGS’17, Sargent’19, Wheelock’20) brought the Beanpot trophy to Commonwealth Avenue for the first time in nearly 40 years.

“Being out there and being a part of the overtime goal was definitely something special and something I’ll never forget,” she says.

Jesse Compher (no. 7) hoists the 2019 Beanpot trophy alongside fellow Terrier Abby Cook (Sargent’20), who Compher says was one of her biggest mentors when she arrived at BU

Ankle surgery delayed the start of Compher’s junior season. Despite that, she was voted a Second Team All-Star, tying for fourth in Hockey East in points per game (1.11) and finishing in the top four on the team in goals (13), assists (16), and points (29) despite playing 10 fewer games than most of her teammates.

Between her hyper-competitiveness and the bar set by a stellar second season, Compher says sitting out the start of the 2019-2020 season was the most challenging time of her BU career. She credits her teammates with helping her overcome that hurdle.

“We have such a close-knit team here, everyone’s so supportive,” she says. “With the people around me, I was able to get through it.”

As a senior, Compher leads the Terriers with five goals, averaging a goal a game, and is tied for the team lead in points (7). She was entrusted with the “C” on her jersey, a dream of hers since close friend Rebecca Leslie (Questrom’18) captained BU Compher’s freshman year. “I kind of always looked up to her and just wanted to follow in her footsteps,” she says.

Teammates say Compher is a natural to helm the team. Courtney Correia (CGS’20, Questrom’22), who has shared the ice with her for three seasons, says Compher’s captaincy was well-deserved and has had a positive impact on the team. “She has definitely been a leader on the ice since I came to this school,” she says. “She’s extremely committed—every time she steps on the ice, she really wants to be there.”

Durocher cites the “innate confidence” Compher brings to the ice for her success and lists her among the top Terriers he has coached in his 16 years behind the BU bench.

“Without a doubt, she’s one of those people in the history of our program that sticks out in any conversation as one of the elite players,” he says. “She checks an awful, awful lot of the boxes to be thought about with some of the top kids here.”

With a player of her skill and motivation, Compher’s ceiling is “super high,” the coach says. She has skated with the USA women’s national team on multiple occasions, cracking the roster for the 2019 and 2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship tournaments and the 2019-2020 rivalry series against Team Canada.

 Next on Compher’s list: the 2022 Winter Olympics, set to take place in Beijing. Durocher says he can easily see her on the roster. “If I’m that coach,” he says, “maybe she’s not knocking a Kendall Coyne or Brianna Decker off the first line, but she can play with everybody, and…will be a heck of a great addition to any third line or fourth line.”

In her pursuit of a regular national team spot, Compher says she has learned from BU assistant coaches Tara Watchorn (CAS’12), an Olympic gold medalist with Canada in 2014, and Liz Keady Norton, a former Team USA player.

“It’s been cool to learn from them and kind of get things from their perspective and just learn the little details of what it takes to be a national team player,” she says.

Compher credits that attention to detail for much of her success. “In the back of my head, I’m always thinking about what I can do to be better on and off the ice,” she says. “You can have skill, but if you don’t have the right mindset of wanting to be better, wanting to win, and wanting to support your teammates, then you’re not going to get very far.”

In addition to her personal ambition and goals, Compher has a bigger mission—to help grow the sport of women’s hockey.

“I wouldn’t be here playing college hockey without the women who paved the way for me,” she says. “As long as I can, I’m going to try to promote women’s hockey…and do what I have to do to not only make a national team roster, but to grow the game as I go.”

Recap of Women’s Action

Emily Nix scored two game-winning goals as Germany won two out of three cross-border games against Switzerland

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

For many women’s teams, the pandemic put hockey on pause for a year. But, with the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada coming up in spring, February 2021 saw several countries getting back on the ice and making plans for their rosters for April. There was action in Switzerland, Russia, Denmark and Austria over the past week. Some other countries like Finland and Sweden had two cancel their camps due to COVID-19 while the Czechs had a training camp with no games.

Before last week’s International Break, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey also held camps in January and October respectively to get potential candidates for the Women’s Worlds roster together.

‘It’s really special to be back’

Switzerland assembled for its first team camp in a year and welcomed Germany across the border to Romanshorn for three exhibition games at Lake Constance. Each encounter was a close-fought affair, beginning with a goalless tie that was decided in a shootout in game one. With goalies Saskia Maurer and Jennifer Harss on top throughout the action, it took 32 penalty shots before Emily Nix beat Maurer to give Germany the verdict.

Nix also played a big role in game two, assisting on Kerstin Spielberger’s first-period opener before scoring the game winner early in the second. The 23-year-old, who plays for Eisbaren Berlin in the Frauen Bundesliga, converted a 5-on-3 power play to make it 2-0. Switzerland hit back through Sinja Leemann but could not complete the recovery. For the Swiss it was the second defeat despite outshooting Germany in both games.

Game three was the highest scoring of the week, and this time Switzerland claimed a 4-3 verdict. The teams traded goals inside the first five minute before Leemann’s second tally in two games gave the Swiss the lead for the first time in the exhibition series. Twice, the Germans tied it up – the Nix-Spielberger combination delivering again – but Switzerland won it on Nicole Bullo’s 47th-minute marker.

Both teams were delighted to be able to return to the ice after a long break. When the pandemic struck last March, wiping out World Championships at all levels and categories, few imagined that the February 2020 camps and tournaments would prove to be the last time these teams could get together for 12 months. Germany’s plans were disrupted further by the unavailability of head coach Christian Kunast, but Franziska Busch stepped up from her role in charge of the U18s to deputize on the Swiss side of Lake Constance.

“It was great fun and an honour for me,” she said. “We had some problems getting back to our game after a year, but it was also clear that we continued to work well tactically during that year. We have a stable system that helped us.”

Kunast, watching from afar, was also encouraged by what he saw. “We learned a lot,” he added. “Our younger players are stepping up and the pool of potential World Championship players is growing.”

The Swiss, too, were excited to be back. “We’ve never gone so long without a training camp before,” said goalie Saskia Maurer. “It’s really special to be back with the team after a year apart.”

Happy reunions aside, there was also work to do at the week-long camp. “The focus is a little bit on everything,” said blue-liner Sarah Forster. “After a year, we need to go back to basics. We have a young team, so we have to go step-by-step.”

Head coach Colin Muller was pleased with the progress his team made during the week.

“It’s always difficult against the Germans and this week it was a one-goal game every time,” he said. “We were unlucky to lose the first in a shootout and the second game was also very tight. I’m happy that we were able to react to those losses and win the last game.

“We are always working on our team for the Worlds. This was a test for all of us, everyone had to show what she could do.”

Russia against the world

Russia, short of match practice this season due to COVID restrictions, found an unusual way of getting game time. The Red Machine arranged two warm-up encounters with KRS Vanke Rays, the defending Russian WHL champion. The Chinese franchise, temporarily playing out of the Moscow Region town of Stupino, boasts players from Canada, the USA, Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia and China, making this something of a Russia-against-the-World clash.

Yevgeni Bobariko, Russia’s head coach, had some inside knowledge of the opposition: his alternate captain, Alexandra Vafina, plays her hockey for KRS this season and faced off against her clubmates in these two games. In a pair of evenly-matched encounters, her insight might have tipped the balance as Russia won the first game 1-0, then edged a shootout verdict after a 3-3 tie.

The first game was dominated by goalies. For Russia, Valeria Merkusheva recorded an impressive shutout. That’s the third time this season she’s denied KRS, after twice blanking the league leader in WHL action. At the other end, though, Finnish star Noora Raty was stretchered off in the second period after sustaining a lower-body injury. Last week she announced on her Instagram that the problem was not as bad as initially feared and would not require surgery. However, it’s unclear whether she will recover in time for a comeback already this season. Polina Bolgareva, who plays under Bobariko for Dynamo-Neva St. Petersburg, potted the only goal.

Next day, the teams met again in a higher-scoring clash. Russia opened a 2-0 lead but let it slip and needed a tying goal from Nina Pirogova 33 seconds from the end to save the game. Landysh Falyakova potted the shootout winner.

Olga Sosina, captain of the Russian team, enjoyed the weekend work-out – especially in the absence of the usual Euro Tour schedule: “The Vanke Rays are an excellent opponent,” she said. “They have a skilled team, which plays attacking hockey and went at us from the get-go, finding the places where we weren’t ready and could make mistakes. But in the second game we spent a lot of time in their zone and created chances. We couldn’t take enough of them and got hit with three counterattacks. So we have things to work on.”

For the Vanke Rays, it was a good chance for players to promote their own international prospects. Minntu Tuominen suggested it might also help the Finnish women’s national team get a look at how Russia is shaping up for April’s Worlds in Nova Scotia, while Megan Bozek and Alex Carpenter are both eying a return to the American roster for the big tournament. Carpenter enjoyed her spot of international action during a busy league schedule. “We’ve had a couple of weeks without any games, so these were good tests before the concluding games of the season,” she said. “We had a chance to work on our systems against strong opposition, get a look at our special teams and get ready for a difficult stretch in the season. We have 10 WHL games in a short space of time, then the playoffs.

“The results [against Russia] aren’t so important, but the games were very even.”

 

Newly-promoted nations meet

Denmark and Hungary, promoted to the top division of the Women’s World Championship together back in 2019 when they finished atop of the Division I Group A in Budapest, faced off as part of their preparations for the 2021 event in Canada. The teams met in Copenhagen at Orestad Skojtehall, the venue built next to Royal Arena before the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship when it served as practice facilty, and shared one victory apiece from their two encounters.

In game one, Hungary took the honours in a shootout after a 2-2 tie in regulation. The Magyars led twice thanks to goals from Alexandra Huszak, but Denmark twice tied it up with goals from Silke Lave Glud and a last-gasp equalizer from Josefine Jakobsen with 20 seconds left to play. Fanny Gasparics secured the win for Hungary in the shootout.

Day 2 saw the teams meet again and this time the Danes won 2-1. Regina Metzler, 15, made her international debut and celebrated with the first goal as Hungary once again opened the scoring. This time, though, the host hit back through Michelle Weis Hansen 49 seconds later before Jakobsen’s point shot deflected by Glud brought a second, decisive goal.

Austrians beat Kazakhstan

Outside of the top tier nations, Austria played two exhibition games against Kazakhstan. Neither of these teams will go to a World Championship this year following the cancellation of the lower divisions, but Austria could celebrate back-to-back wins in Vienna ahead of both teams’ Olympic Qualification campaign next autumn.

The first game was tight, with Nadja Granitz getting the only goal in the second period. Goalies Selma Luggin and Jessica Ekrt shared the workload, stopping 33 Kazakh shots between them. In game two, Kendra Broad, enjoying her second season playing in Kazakhstan, got her first goal for her adopted nation midway through the first period. However, the Canadian-born centre was destined to finish on the losing side again. Austria recovered to tie it up in the second through Monika Vlcek before third-period tallies from Emma Hofbauer and Lena Daubock gave the home team a 3-1 verdict.

Face of Dutch women’s hockey

Netherlands captain Savine Wielenga skates during the key game against Korea at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group B

By Liz Montroy – IIHF.com

If you ask young female hockey players in the Netherlands who their favourite player is, chances are they will all have the same answer.

“They will say that it’s Savine Wielenga,” said Dutch national team assistant coach Nancy van der Linden.

Van der Linden has seen Wielenga go from national team rookie to team captain and the face of women’s hockey in the Netherlands. Now over 13 years since her first World Championship tournament, Wielenga is helping lead her country that historically earned promotion to the Division I Group A – the highest level the Dutch women’s program has competed in yet.

Van der Linden, a former national team player, was impressed the first time she met Wielenga. “I saw her and I was thinking, woah, she has a lot of talent,” she said. “She’s a smart player, she’s a social player… she’s complete.”

Since making her international debut in 2007, Wielenga’s hockey career has taken her from the Netherlands to Sweden twice. While she originally dreamed of playing in North America after high school, Wielenga decided to further her hockey skills in Sweden after receiving an offer from Linkoping HC. She joined the team for the 2007/08 season, but was unfortunately sidelined for much of it due to an injury.

“I finished the season there, but I went home after to recover, mentally mostly, and then I started studying in Amsterdam,” said Wielenga. “From that I rolled into a really good job that I still have.”

After a decade of playing on various teams in the second- and third-tier men’s leagues of her country, she received another offer from Sweden that she couldn’t pass up.

“[In 2019], I got another e-mail from Sweden from a different club [SDE HF]. That made me think, oh it would be cool – I’m near the end of my career – to do another year or two at the highest level in Europe while I still can. I always had a sort of revenge feeling for that first year in Sweden that wasn’t a success, and I got the chance now.”

Last season with SDE HF, Wielenga contributed 11 goals and 11 assists through 36 games. The team had one of its best seasons yet, securing more wins and goals and allowing fewer goals against than it ever has in the top Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL.

Wielenga is back on SDE HF’s roster for the 2020/21 season and has contributed six goals and four assists in 19 games. And she hopes she can use her experience at that level for the national team once international women’s hockey will be back.

After being relegated to the Division II Group A in 2016, the Netherlands quickly rebounded, winning gold in 2018. In 2019 they took it one step further, winning Division I Group B gold for the first time to earn promotion to Division I Group A.

Savine Wielenga accepts the trophy for the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A winners from IIHF Council member Marta Zawadzka

Wielenga had one of her best World Championship appearances yet in 2019. For the first time in her career, she led the tournament in goals (8) and points (10, tied with Korea’s Jongah Park). She also received her first ever Best Forward award and was named her team’s Top Player for the first time since 2009.

A humble leader, Wielenga attributes her team’s success to an increased focus on off-ice training and, most notably, the addition of players from the Dutch U18 women’s national team, which made its IIHF debut in 2018.

“[The U18 team] keeps that group of younger girls together. When I joined the national team, I was the only one from my year,” explained Wielenga. “We all would add to the national team individually and now they come in little groups and they already have some national team experience from the under-18s.”

Many of the country’s up-and-coming players are given opportunities to practise with the senior national team throughout the year, introducing them to a high performance environment. It also gives them a goal to reach for.

“They have another reason to keep playing hockey, which is the national team,” said Wielenga. “If you only play with boys, you might be the only girl on your team. It’s really common that [girls] quit after a couple years… So with the under-18 team being there, early on they get a feeling of how it is to play for your country.”

 

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The Netherlands has made great strides over the last few years, winning back-to-back golds and seeing the launch of the U18 women’s program. Despite the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 tournaments due to COVID-19 forcing a delay in making it to the Division I Group A competition, Wielenga and her teammates are remaining focused and determined.

“We just want to prove that it wasn’t by accident that we moved up two years in a row. I think we can really play with the countries above us,” she said. “We have so much passion for the sport… we all play because we want to play, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

While Wielenga can still play hockey as top-level senior hockey is allowed in Sweden, rules have been stricter in the Netherlands where no games have been played in any league since October.

Once hockey is back, the Netherlands will play in the Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 2 next October where Poland, Mexico and Turkey will be the opponents for a berth in the final round in the qualification for Beijing 2022.

In the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A the Dutch will play Sweden, France, Norway, Austria and Slovenia.

Women’s Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation sees its roots in Canada

Source: CityNews Staff

The Lebanese Ice Hockey Federation has assembled its first Women’s national teams in Montreal.

“It’s like putting my Canadian side and my Lebanese side together,” Lea Salem, a player for the Lebanese Women’s National Ice Hockey Team told CityNews.

“Also in Lebanon, it’s not really a common sport, hockey there. So I want to represent the country with hockey.

“It makes me proud to be able to represent my country and my roots.”

For Lea and others, playing hockey for the national team of their country of origin gives them a great sense of pride – but also means breaking barriers, and showing the world that hockey isn’t just for men.

Ralph Melki, Vice President of Hockey Operations of the federation said that although hockey isn’t very popular in Lebanon, they were able to recruit 68 female players with Lebanese heritage across North America.

“Why not? I mean if you look into any other nations all over the world, most of them have a men’s and women’s team – the diaspora here in Montreal is a big diaspora that we have, there’s a lot of women and girls playing hockey,” Melki told CityNews.

“I’m very proud because I’m able to represent my home, my real home, and my real nationality and this is something very important for me,” another player, Zahra Dahnoun said.

“I feel like everyone thinks that women aren’t allowed to play hockey, or they’re bad or not as good as men,” Salem added.

“But I feel like some girls could be better. I played on boy’s teams and sometimes I was better, sometimes I was worse, but you always have to put those comments aside and play your best when you’re on the ice.”

Although the girls came from different cities and played at different levels, they all can’t wait to get back on the ice and train as a team when COVID-19 restrictions allow.

“Seeing that those girls are playing the sport in Canada – and they’re performing – and they’re doing very well at it, why not mixing both cultures if you want to say, mixing the Lebanese culture with the Canadian culture, and bring people together,” Melki said.

Estonian women working on comeback

The Estonian women’s national team at its first camp after a 10-year break.

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

This season the Estonian women’s national team was scheduled to stage its comeback in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic scratched these plans with most international ice hockey tournaments from the IIHF and its member nations cancelled. However, the hopes of the Estonians are still alive to make women’s ice hockey bigger in the country.

The Estonian women’s national team played internationally in 2007 and 2008 but then disappeared when women’s ice hockey was in a decline after the financial crisis and most teams in the country disappeared.

Things changed in 2016 when the Estonians joined the educational program at an IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp and organized the country’s first World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend with many new players but also some who were national team players many years earlier.

In the meantime, Estonia has again a women’s ice hockey championship and will this year also have a team that will compete against Latvian and Lithuanian club teams as the three countries join forces with a Baltic League.

With a growing program and a national championship in place, the Estonians were ready for their international comeback and had the first national team camp in August. The women’s national team would have played in the lowest tier of the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, not far from home in Kaunas against host Lithuania, Ukraine, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

While their comeback in an official IIHF tournament will have to wait a bit longer than expected due to the pandemic, the team continues to work on its comeback and on a documentary “On Silver Heels” about the story of the national team’s comeback.

With the aim to make the team and women’s sport more visible in Estonia, the team started a crowdfunding campaign where they hope to generate as a first step €18,000 for both the documentary and the team’s games against Latvian and Lithuanian teams. Click here to find out more and be part of the crowdfunding campaign.

Slovenia’s world-leading goal scorer

Slovenian forward Pia Pren celebrates a goal with her teammate Sara Confidenti at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A

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.

Pia Pren in action with the Slovenian women’s national team

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.

Slovenian captain Pia Pren accepts the winners’ trophy from IIHF Council member Sergej Gontcharov at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A

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.

Lisa Haley named head coach of Hungarian women’s hockey team

By

Lisa Haley has been named the head coach of Hungary’s women’s hockey team.

The Westville native takes over the reins of a team that will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation world women’s hockey championship next year in Halifax and Truro.

“We were looking for a coach and reached Lisa Haley through the Canadian federation,” said Márton Vas, the general director of the Hungarian Hockey Association in a news release. “Her biography speaks for itself. We want to give the girls the best possible preparation before the world championship and the Olympic qualifiers. I am sure that she will be able to develop the players and prepare the team to the maximum.”

The 47-year-old Haley, who was an assistant coach of Canada’s gold-medal winning women’s team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and silver medals at the 2008 and 2013 IIHF world championships, is excited about the challenge.

“I know the recent successes of Hungarian women’s hockey and the opportunity to add to it inspires me,” said Haley in the news release. “The results so far provide a strong foundation that can ensure long-term success, and even greater things can be built on that.

“Now that the national team has risen to the elite, we want to stay there too. Being Canadian, plus I’m from Nova Scotia, I will be especially proud to represent Hungary at the world championships in Halifax and Truro in the spring of 2021. We will be ready.”

Haley is in Hungary, leading the team’s training camp in Tüskesent.

Haley has also enjoyed international success with Canada, winning gold at the 2010 IIHF world women’s under-18 championship and also captured gold at the 2007 Four Nations Cup with the senior women’s team.

In 2011 and 2014, she served as a mentor coach at the IIHF women’s high-performance camp for the top under-18 players in the world.

Haley (nee Jordan) is coming off a long stint as the head coach of the Ryerson University women’s team. Haley took over the Ryerson job in 2011 after 14 seasons as head coach of the Saint Mary’s Huskies.

Haley guided Saint Mary’s to eight appearances in the Atlantic University Sport finals, winning four league titles.

She is a two-time AUS coach of the year and was the Canadian Interuniversity Sport coach of the year in 2003.

The Estonia Women’s Hockey Team Gathers Again After a 12-Year Break

By EESTI Hoki

On August 1st and 2nd, after a 12-year break, the Estonian Women’s National Team will gather again at  Škoda Ice Arena to start preparations for the IIHF 2021 Women’s Ice Hockey World Championship Division III tournament. Ukraine, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Hong Kong, Bosnia & Herzegovina also will play in the same group.

30 players (3 goalies, 9 defensemen and 18 forwards) have been invited to the camp, all of whom are active players on Estonian ice hockey clubs.

Inguna Lukašēvica, a 45-year-old Latvian, who has a long-term experience as a player on the Latvian national team and a professional coaching career in Latvia and Austria, as well as previous experience with the Austrian U18 team. Lukašēvica Will guide the Estonia Women’s National Team  Division III tournament in March of 2021.

“For the last three seasons, the women have played in the Estonian Hockey Championship and a  total of five teams participated in the Women’s Champions League last season. We have been planning the return of the Estonian women’s hockey team for almost two years. We are pleased to see that although the team has had a long break, there is still a will and desire in our women to represent our country and compete for a good result, and we consider it very important to provide women with a change to be on the team so that both young girls can realize their potential on the ice, I believe that the first year of the team will be challenging, but the first goal is definitely to win Division III  and go to level of Division II in the coming years.

The Estonian women’s hockey team gathered for the first time in 2005, when a meeting was held against the Icelandic team. The game was won with a score of 8: 2.

In 2007 and 2008, the national team has previously participated in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships in Division IV. 4th place was achieved in both years.

Although the composition of the women’s team will be announced just before the World Championship tournament, the management of the team is known today.

HC Inguna Lukashevica (LAT) Head coach
AC Ahto Kärnä (FIN) Abitreener
GM Katrin Talvak Manager
EQM Toomas Rebane Technician

Women’s hockey in Lithuania

By Vitaly NesterovNational Teams of Ice Hockey

In December of 2019, the Lithuanian women’s team made its debut at the Women’s World Championships Division III in Sofia Bulgaria. For the first time at international competitions. Next season, the team will face even greater challenges. First of all, the girls will make their debut in the Olympic qualification and, finally, Women’s World Championships Division III on home ice. “We can popularize women’s hockey and take the first steps at the international level,” said Eglė Zemlickienė, General Manger of the women’s hockey team of Lithuania.

World Championships in Kaunas, Lithuania

The IIHF entrusted Lithuania to host the Women’s World Championship of Division III.

“ Already last year, when we wanted to host the women’s world championship, However, according to IIHF rules, first timers cannot host the championships in their own country. Therefore, we immediately began to think about the rights to host the championship in 2021, ”said Zemlickienė,,“ Lithuania has extensive experience in organizing world championships. We have a good reputation among other countries, because in our country championships have already been held among the men and different age groups.  Lithuania has received excellent reviews both from the IIHF and from other countries. I think that it would be important that we now have the right to host the women’s world championship . ”

Usually in one division of the championship there are six teams, but this time there will be more. Women’s teams of Estonia, Bosnia, Ukraine, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria and Hong Kong will take part in the tournament (division III) with Lithuanians

“ From an organizational point of view, the biggest problem is how to make a schedule for the 8th team, and to arrange all the members of the national teams in hotels. However, we are optimistic about the situation and hope that perhaps the new ice arena in Kaunas will already be operational. It is planned to open before the new year. If not, we will hold the championship in two arenas. However, Kaunas remains a priority, it is a strategically convenient place. Of course, if force will play in two arenas, although we still hope that the championship will be held in Kaunas, ”added Egle.

Lithuanian national team at the World Championships in Bulgaria

Olympic Qualification

Before the home World Championships next year, the women’s team will still have to go to Iceland. In December of this year, in Reykjavik, for the first time in the history of Lithuania, their women’s team will compete in the pre-qualification for the Olympic Games. The Lithuanian national team will compete in the first qualifying round against four teams – Iceland, Bulgaria and Hong Kong.

“I would not like to speak boldly about our goals and opportunities. After all, this will be our debut in the Olympic qualifiers. We are still not very familiar with our rivals. It is difficult to say how we will do in this competition, but I am very glad that next season we will have two tournaments – the Olympic Games and the World Championships. This is a great opportunity to draw attention to women’s hockey. We must promote women’s hockey and take the first steps at the global level. Both I and all the girls in the team are looking forward to the upcoming season. True, recently, when the coronavirus is still widespread in the world, it is difficult to plan something specifically. Therefore, I do not know if we can even fly to Iceland. We are preparing as if everything will be fine. We plan to fly to Iceland and plan to hold the World Championships in Lithuania. Let’s see how everything goes“, – said Zemyckene.

“ The official preparations for the Olympic selection are likely to begin in November. Usually it starts 2-3 weeks before departure. But, no doubt, before the training camp in the national team, girls are required to train in thee clubs, of course. Also this year, our hockey players will take part in the Baltic League and the Latvian Championship. Various friendly tournaments will also be held , ”concluded Egle.

Coach from Germany

Bernd Haake, head coach of the Lithuanian women’s hockey team, will arrive in Lithuania 2-3 weeks before flying to Iceland

“ We are pleased with the work of the coach with the women’s team last year. I think the debut was a success. Haake gladly agreed to help us in two tournaments in the new season, everything has already been agreed with him. He will fly to Lithuania at the end of October, when the national team will begin intensive preparations for future games. When it came to choosing a coach, it was Haake who was the best option at the present time, because he worked with our team, he knows many players since last year, he knows their strengths and weaknesses , ”says the head of the team.

Recall that in the debut tournament of the third division of the World Championships in Bulgaria last year, Lithuanian hockey players took fifth place. The Lithuanian national team had two victories – it defeated the Hong Kong team 4: 1 and unexpectedly beat the national team of Belgium, which was considered the favorite of the tournament, with a score of 4: 3.

There were also three defeats – 1: 2 from the national team of Bulgaria, 2: 4 from the national team of Romania and 2-4 from the national team of South Africa. South Africa won the tournament.

“ I appreciate the girls debut at the World Championships. They played well. Perhaps the girls dreamed of medals, but the goal for the tournament was different – we hoped to win at least one or two matches, we wanted to show what we are capable of. The result met expectations. Debut is a debut, we warm up and understand what else we can do to become stronger. Now there are more serious challenges ahead ”

When asked if we can expect better results in the upcoming season, the team manager does not hesitate to reflect: “ As for the World Championships – since there will be eight teams in it, the tournament will be divided into two groups of four, and then there will be a play- off So much can determine which group we get into. Maybe this will be a favorable group for us, or maybe not. Everything can lead to medals, but it can be versatile. It’s hard to predict anything. We will also see how our girls have become stronger this year. Players roster has not yet been determined and there may be changes in the composition. And some of the rivals are also unknown , ”said Egle.

Bernd Haake is a 74-year-old specialist who has been working in Lithuania since 2012. Coaches both women’s and men’s and youth national teams of Lithuania. Previously coached HC “Energy” from Elektrenai

Women’s hockey is developing in Lithuania

Last year, before traveling to Bulgaria, Zemlickienė, was glad that the popularity of women’s hockey in the country was growing. According to a specialist who has been working in women’s hockey for more than five years, the popularity has increased even more since his debut at the world championships.

“ After the appearance at the World Championships Division III last year, popularity and attention to us has increased, interest is really felt. It is very nice. In fact, more and more girls are choosing to play hockey in schools. Girls from 4-5 years old already lead to classes in this sport. Of course, it is difficult to say how many of them will remain in hockey, but it is funny that there are more and more of them. The attitude of coaches is also changing. We also already have the first team of girls under 10 in Vilnius. I am glad that gradually the popularity is growing , ”said the head of the women’s program.

In the end, Zemlickienė, added, it will be necessary to wait a few years before popularity increases significantly. However, according to her, the results, although small, can be seen right away: “ Everything is really going in a positive direction and it’s nice, ” she finished.

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