2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II, Group B – South Africa bounce back against the hosts Croatia

Dalene Rhode of South Africa takes a shot on Croatian goaltender Julija Bazdar. (Photo Credit: Mats Bekkevold (@smats1984) - Instagram.)

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.

Croatia v South Africa

There was just one game taking place on Day 2, which saw the hosts Croatia open its campaign against South Africa, who lost by nine goals to Iceland on Day 1.

Despite being on the second half of a back-to-back, South Africa looked far better in the opening 10 minutes than it did at almost any point in the game against Iceland.

After a back and forth opening 10 minutes in which neither side was able to break the deadlock, Medarda Pack took an interference penalty sending Croatia to the penalty kill with 8:08 to go in the first, and South Africa would get a 58-second 5v3 power play after Diana Stolar committed a tripping minor.

South Africa was unable to find the back of the net despite some good looks because of some great goaltending by Julija Bazdar, and both sides would head into the first break scoreless despite some good chances in the remainder of the period.

The back and forth competitiveness of both sides would continue to start the second period, and it took just over four minutes for Croatia to break the deadlock through Noa Matak to open the scoring.

To keep with the nature of what the match had been, South Africa would equalise three minutes later, after a wrist shot from Joey Meyer trickled past Bazdar to level the score.

Chloe Schuurman would break the deadlock for South Africa just over five minutes into the third as Bazdar was unable to keep the puck out despite some acrobatics in her attempt to do so, giving South Africa a one-goal lead, its first lead of the tournament.

Croatia was not done yet, as South Africa would be forced on the penalty kill, and after setting up a screen, Stolar would level the game, making it 2-2 with 9:22 left to play in the third period.

Donne van Doesburgh would hit back almost immediately for South Africa with her second goal of the tournament to restore the one-goal lead and keep Croatia chasing the game with 9:02 left to play.

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With 2:52 to go and Croatia chasing the game, it would be forced onto the penalty kill after a tripping minor to Matea Marinkovic, and while successful in killing the penalty, Croatia was unable to get the puck out of the defensive zone quick enough once the penalty expired as South Africa piled the pressure on to secure its first victory of the tournament.

For South Africa, the biggest takeaway from this game was that it did not let the crushing loss to Iceland hurt team morale. The squad was able to rebound 24 hours later and make improvements, taking some valuable lessons from the game against Iceland, improving on the defensive end, and taking advantage of the periods it enjoyed on the attack.

South Africa should continue to improve as the tournament goes on after the rough start, and has two more games against Australia and Turkey to avoid relegation.

For Croatia, it was not the start to the tournament that the hosts would have wanted, as it would have wanted to walk away victorious. Despite the loss, there were a couple of things to take forward into its remaining three games.

The penalty kill was incredibly strong, not allowing a goal despite being two players down for an extended period.

Croatia’s attack looked strong at times, breaking down a tough South African defence. The team was able to put together a well-rounded performance despite the loss.

If Croatia can continue with a performance like this throughout the tournament, a victory will be inevitable and could create an interesting relegation battle.

Day 3 action will see Iceland look to continue its winning ways against Turkey, who are coming off a tough 7-0 loss to Australia, while the Aussies will look to make it two from two as they come up against Croatia, in the second game of the day.

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