Local fans woke up early for the 3:45 am AEST puck drop, and they were not disappointed as Australia defeated Turkey 7-0 in their first match of the IIHF Women’s World Championships.
The Inner Sanctum wrapped up the day’s results, including the day’s other match between Iceland and South Africa.
Captain Rylie Ellis and Coach Stuart Philps kindly shared their thoughts on the match.
A Change in Playing Style
Fans who watched Australia’s 2020 gold medal-winning tournament in Iceland would have noticed a different playing style against Turkey.
“The team’s greatest advantage is our skating ability. In the past, the team has relied on scoring goals off the rush.” Coach Philps explained.
“As we continue to increase our individual skills and hockey IQ, I want the team to start creating goals by combining all these by having multiple waves of pressure on the forecheck and maintaining puck possession in the offensive zone by using high and low cycles.”
The team bought into the new style against Turkey, cycling the puck down low to create several high danger chances.
With the last chords of Tainted Love echoing in the Velesajam Ice Rink in Zagreb, the Australian team had a long pre-match huddle.
Captain Rylie Ellis shared the message from that huddle.
“We just wanted to start the tournament with simple hockey.
“This was the first time our national team had skated together as a whole team and we have a lot of new players with different experiences playing unique styles of hockey around the world. Bringing it back to basics was key for us and we just wanted to skate hard, win every battle, and have fun wearing the green and gold,” she said.
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The hard-nosed style of play was rewarded, and both teams played disciplined games, committing just one infraction each.
“I think the refs are letting a lot more go this year with the new rule changes and that suits our style really well. We have quite a few players who are playing or have played in North America so we like to play aggressive but we were really happy with the officials allowing the game to flow and really communicating well with us.” Ellis said.
Coach Philps was proud of the physical play.
“The girls are adapting well to playing with more control and the training away from the rink is paying off in our ability to outmuscle opponents,” he said.
It can be a challenge to get a team to gel quickly in such a short tournament format. That is especially the case in this tournament where Australia plays four games in six days.
Head Coach Stuart Philps shared his philosophy for success.
“The chemistry of any team is always created firstly by clearly outlining the goals you want to achieve. The culture you create is set by the process you set in order to achieve those goals,” he said.
The team has a unique method to help rookies adapt and feel comfortable quickly. The youngest rookie has the task of looking after Dundee, a massive stuffed toy crocodile.
That task was assigned to the youngest of the four rookies, 16-year-old Matilda Pethrick.
Ellis commented on Pethrick’s value after the player of the match scored two goals from the blueline against Turkey.
“She’s already been a fun addition to our team off the ice. She has a cheeky and bubbly personality, and now she’s just proven to be an extremely valuable asset on the ice. We’re really happy to have her join the team and we can’t wait to see what she achieves in her career” she said.
The Inner Sanctum asked Coach Philps if he is looking at other results to determine who the main rivals for gold are for Australia.
“As a coach, you’re constantly studying the other teams within the tournament,” he said.
“You need to know your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Every day you will need to make adjustments to the way we play and sometimes to your lines to give your team the strongest opportunity for success.
“On any day, any team can win; looking long term can be very dangerous. So we’re just focused on the next day, our next opponent.”
The team next plays the hosts, Croatia, who will be looking for revenge after their last encounter in February 2020. Previously, the ‘Annihilation at Akureyri’ saw Australia defeat Croatia 15-0, with Croatia recording just three shots on goal all game.
You can view Australia’s game against Croatia live at 3:45 am AEST tomorrow morning, Friday, May 20 via YouTube (click here for the link).
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