By Liz Montroy – IIHF.com
Colombia’s national women’s team had an impressive week in Kuwait City, going undefeated to win their first ever IIHF event, the inaugural IIHF Women’s Development Cup.
The round-robin tournament serves as an opportunity for teams and countries not currently competing in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program to have meaningful competition against other nations. For countries that don’t have an ice rink, such as Colombia and Ireland, the Development Cup also provides valuable on-ice experience.
“This is important for us because we don’t have an ice hockey rink in Colombia, but these girls played amazing and we would like to have the opportunity to be in these kinds of tournaments and have an ice hockey rink in Colombia,” said Lorena Pedraza, Colombia’s captain. “We showed that we have talent, we have passion, and we love this sport.”
Colombia started the week strong with a 7-2 win over Kuwait and a 7-3 win over Ireland. They continued to demonstrate their goal-scoring prowess with a 16-0 shutout against Andorra and a 14-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates. Colombia’s tightest game was their final one, a 4-0 game versus Luxembourg, the standout player of which had to be Luxembourg goaltender Linda Grieben, who faced 80 shots.
By the end of the tournament, the Colombians had a stunning goal difference of 42, with 48 goals for and just six goals against. Six Colombian players finished within the top-10 scorers, with Alejandra Uribe leading her team and the tournament with 14 goals and 4 assists. Goalie Ana Maria Munevar was a reliable presence in net, starting four of Colombia’s five games.
“The whole tournament and the journey was amazing,” said Colombian coach Sam Uisprapassorn. “This team worked hard to get to this level and I am proud of them. Since we don’t have an ice sheet in Colombia, this event is our only window into IIHF competition. We are grateful to the organization and to the host of this event.”
The silver medal went to host nation Kuwait, followed by Luxembourg – who were also making their IIHF debut – with bronze. Dual Luxembourg-Canadian citizen Bailey Habscheid, a former NCAA Division I player with St. Lawrence University, was second overall in scoring with 11 goals and 5 assists.
The United Arab Emirates and Ireland each had two wins and three losses to take fourth and fifth place respectively. Despite finishing further down the standings, Ireland had a number of tight games, including a 5-4 loss to Luxembourg and a 4-2 win over Kuwait. It was a tough tournament for Andorra, facing over 260 shots (an average of over 50 per game) and finishing at the bottom of the standings with five losses.
Beyond the on-ice competition, friends were reunited, such as Ireland’s Sonya McEneaney and Kuwait’s Laila Alkhbaz, who last met at the 2018 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp, and girls were inspired, such as those from Bahrain and Oman, who joined one of Colombia’s practices. Players from Europe, South America, and the Middle East were united on the ice and even in busses by a simple love of the sport; what will perhaps be treasured just as much, if not more than, the medals was the strengthening of the women’s ice hockey community across borders.