Australia has put on a powerful performance in their first game of the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships.
With the summer sun beating down outside Arena Park in Istanbul, Turkey, Australia scorched Iceland 5-1 in a scintillating display.
Australia looked tentative early on, and Iceland was able to maintain offensive zone time early in the match. However, an early penalty to Iceland allowed Australia to settle and seize control.
With Elisa Sigfinnsdottir in the box for an illegal hit, 14-year-old Gabrielle Arps scored the first goal of the tournament on the powerplay.
Elizabeth Marshall won the faceoff in the offensive zone and flipped the puck across the slot to Arps. Arps made no mistake re-directing the puck top-shelf over Bachmann’s glove.
Australian netminder Olivia Last had to be sharp in the first period, making two key saves to protect the lead. On the first save, Last went post-to-post to deny Iceland captain Inga Aradottir’s one-timer from the slot.
The second opportunity for Iceland saw Arna Fridjonsdottir all alone in front of the net, but Last saved the backhand shot at point-blank range.
The second period was a tense affair, with Australia applying pressure without reward. Courtney Mahoney put the puck over the line in a scramble in the crease five minutes in, but the referees had blown the play dead.
Hilma Bergsdottir came close to scoring short-handed for Iceland but Lily Roberts did just enough to pressure Bergsdottir. Olivia Last was perfectly positioned to swallow up the weakened shot attempt.
Just when it looked like the period would end 1-0, Amber Bedell doubled Australia’s lead. A strong forecheck, a bobbled puck by the Iceland defender, and a smart play by Molly Lukowiak led to the goal.
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Australia dashed any hopes of an Iceland comeback with an explosive start to the third period, scoring three goals within a minute and a half of each other.
After 1:55, Inga Aradottir went to the box for an illegal hit, sending Australia on a scoring spree.
Iceland won the ensuing faceoff in the defensive zone, but Molly Lukowiak hunted the puck down behind the net and made a beautiful setup pass to Courtney Mahoney. Mahoney made no mistake, sniping short-side from the right faceoff circle.
A minute later, Elizabeth Marshall scored on a wonderful individual effort to make it 4-0. After extended offensive zone pressure, Marshall picked off a pass, deked the defender, and although her initial shot hit the post, she poked home the rebound.
Molly Lukowiak scored next for Australia 38 seconds later, deflecting a Samantha Payne blast from the blue-line past a helpless Bachmann. It was a wonderful display of hand-eye coordination from Lukowiak, giving Bachmann no chance to save the goal.
Bachmann was excellent the rest of the way, denying Australia any further goals. The netminder would finish with 43 saves on 48 shots against.
Iceland continued to press for a goal and found one through Katrin Bjornsdottir. Bjornsdottir picked Bedell’s pocket and deked Last to score on an excellent backhand move.
The score would remain 5-1, with Australia deserving winners.
Gabrielle Arps was named player of the match for Australia.
“It felt unreal,” she said when asked how she felt after scoring and winning player of the game.
“It was my first time playing for Australia and I just went out there and did my best. I couldn’t be prouder of the team.”
Australian fans have much to be proud of with this team. The coaching staff have done a wonderful job gelling a team that hadn’t trained together before arriving in Turkey.
Olivia Last was a calming presence in goal and saved three excellent scoring chances. The defence did their part in stifling Iceland, only giving up six shots the entire match.
The offence was also balanced, with the top three lines all combining for goals.
Special teams were similarly impressive, it’s hard to criticise a powerplay with a 40 per cent conversion rate and a 100 per cent penalty kill.
Phoebe Roberts and Courtney Mahoney in particular were noticeable with their ability to kill off swathes of time on the penalty kill with their skating ability.
With this win, Australia has put itself into a great position ahead of its match against Spain on Wednesday at 8 pm AEST. Spain won the pre-tournament warm-up match 5-1, so it will be a stern test for Australia.
Regardless of what happens between Spain and Iceland in their game tonight, Australia knows it’s a simple formula for keeping their golden hopes alive. A victory over Spain secures the top spot in Group C.
You can watch the match against Spain via YouTube (click here for the link).
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