Australia vs. Turkey. (Photo: Stjepan Cizmadija)

The 2022 IIHF Women's World Championships Div II, Group B started overnight with Australia and Iceland picking up victories to open the campaign.

Throughout the entirety of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II, Group B action, The Inner Sanctum will be bringing you a daily wrap of the tournament, breaking down the key moments of each match, and what the teams can do going forward.

South Africa v Iceland

This match was one-way traffic from the get-go as Iceland would dominate possession for the opening five minutes and barely allow South Africa to touch the puck, spending a significant amount of time inside the South Africa defensive zone on the attack.

The pressure that Iceland created would pay off 4:46 into the game, as Sigrun Arnadottir would open the scoring for Iceland, starting an onslaught for the remainder of the first period, with four additional goals being scored by four different players to send Iceland into the break with a five-goal lead.

The second period was not much better for South Africa. Despite starting the period on the power play with Iceland taking a delay of game penalty and a prime opportunity to erase some of the deficit, the second period started the same way as the first period did, with Iceland dictating the pace of play en route to a sixth goal just 3:06 in with its sixth different goalscorer.

The seventh goal for Iceland would give the game its first scorer, with Silvia Bjorgvinsdottir netting her second 6:33 into the second period.

The woes for South Africa would continue, conceding another to take Iceland’s lead to nine, with Hilma Bergsdottir getting her second of the match.

Iceland would make a goalie change at the start of the third period, giving Andrea Bachmann the final 20 minutes after Berta Hilgudottir played the opening two periods and only had to make two saves.

The third period only had two goals in it, with Silvia Bjorgvinsdottir netting her third for the hat-trick, giving Iceland a 10-0 lead in the process.

South Africa would finally hit the scoresheet late in the third period on the power play after Iceland took a penalty for too many players on the ice, with Donne van Doesburgh scoring just 19 seconds into the power play, giving Iceland a nine-goal winning margin to end the opening game.

For South Africa, this was definitely a disappointing start to its campaign, and the biggest things to focus on will be shoring up the defence, and focusing on improving the zone exits out of the defensive zone. 

One of the reasons Iceland was able to dominate and dictate the pace of play was that South Africa struggled to get out of the defensive zone cleanly.

This was through turning the puck over inside the zone before it crossed the blue line allowing Iceland to stay in the zone on the attack, or by being unable to maintain possession after the puck had exited the zone, allowing Iceland to regather possession and cleanly enter the zone not long after being forced to exit.

If South Africa can work on this, it should be able to perform better as the tournament goes on, as there were some good signs of attack when it could maintain puck possession for an extended period.

One positive to take from the game for South Africa was the goal scored. You could see just how much that goal meant for the players on the ice with the way they celebrated. If there is a way to harness the energy from that and take some momentum going forward into the next game against Australia.

For Iceland, this was as close to a complete performance as you could have hoped for. Allowing just four shots on goal and only conceding one goal (which was on the penalty kill), while amassing 51 shots and scoring on 10 of them, this was a performance that as a coach you would expect from your team every time they step onto the ice.

Despite a talent disparity between the two teams, if Iceland can maintain this level of performance throughout the tournament and put out a similar performance in its remaining games, it will be pushing hard to be at the top of the table and gain promotion to Division II A.

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Australia v Turkey

After winning the same tournament in 2020, Australia was unable to be promoted to Division II A as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with Division II A unable to take place as a result, which meant no team could be relegated.

A second shot at promotion will come from a good performance in this tournament, and Australia got off to a flying start as it aims towards that goal, beating Turkey 7-0 in its opening game.

Australia struggled early in the first period, unable to gather momentum and was forced onto the penalty kill after an illegal hit from Marnie Pullin just 2:18 into the game. 

After a successful kill, Australia was able to settle the game down and put its stamp on the game, scoring the opening goal just past the halfway point of the first period through Sara Sammons.

Just before the end of the first period, Sammons would score her second goal, giving Australia a two-goal lead heading into the break, putting pressure on Turkey to come out strong in the second period.

Despite the need for Turkey to come out strong in the second period, it was unable to do so, and Australia would score its third goal, this time through Nikki Sharp, to put significant pressure on Turkey to turn things around if it wanted to stay in the game. 

A penalty for slashing to Sema Guven would send Australia to the power play, and a goal just 10 seconds into the power play through Matilda Pethrick would give Australia a four-goal advantage and put the result beyond doubt.

The action in the third was significantly slower despite Turkey trying to find its way back into the game and while unsuccessful in doing so, made Australia work very hard for the three goals it scored in the third period to give Australia a 7-0 victory as Sharp and Pethrick both scored a second goal each, while Michelle Clark-Crumpton would score the seventh and final goal.

Going forward for Australia, the slow start it put out in this game could be a concern against some of the better teams in the group, who might be able to put significant pressure on the team and open up an early gap on the scoresheet.

Apart from the slow start, Australia played a very good game, very much dictating the pace and style of play for the game. This will be crucial against the better teams in the group if Australia wants to have a strong tournament and gain promotion.

For Turkey, there were some good signs in this game, and despite not hitting the score sheet, the team did look threatening at times. Finding the ability to stretch this out over longer periods throughout the game will help the team going forward in this tournament.

Being able to improve the defence will also help, as there were a few instances in this game where Australia was able to execute attacking plays with relative ease en route to its 7-0 victory.

Day 2 action will see the hosts Croatia get its campaign underway against South Africa at 2:00 am AEST, who will be on the second half of its back-to-back for the tournament, having lost 10-1 to Iceland on the opening day.

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