The first two games for Australia in the IIHF Women’s World Championships saw rookies awarded Best Player. Matilda Pethrick earned the award against Turkey; Courtney Mahoney earned it against Croatia.
“The 2022 rookie class is shaping up to be a strong one and we’re so excited to have them with us,” Goaltender Tina Girdler told The Inner Sanctum.
The Inner Sanctum was able to chat with rookies Matilda Pethrick and Courtney Mahoney about their experiences.
During the second game, Croatia rushed up the ice on a 2-on-1 attack. The lone defender between Tina Girdler in goal and the attacking forwards was Matilda Pethrick.
The 16-year-old angled off the puck carrier in the defensive zone, stick-checked to steal possession, and smoothly skated the puck into the offensive zone to create a scoring opportunity.
Goaltender Tina Girdler proudly said Pethrick was an “impactful player for the team on the blue line and the powerplay”.
Pethrick shared what the experience of playing for the National Women’s Team (NWT) for the first time has meant.
“It’s been a great experience so far. Coming in as the youngest rookie this year I had some doubts and worries, but it’s been a super positive and nurturing environment and I have learned a lot from the senior players,” Pethrick said.
“I have also been able to use the playing experience I have had growing up playing in America to also help teach some of the older players some things too which has been super cool. From the first night, I knew this group had a lot of focus and skill and I was super excited to skate with everyone.”
Pethrick spoke about how important the coaching staff and senior players have been helping her.
“The coaching staff also has been super helpful and welcoming. I have mainly appreciated how everyone treats me like a Senior player not like a 16-year-old,” she said.
“I also couldn’t have asked for a better rookie debut. Not only scoring twice but being awarded player of the game made it a truly unforgettable night.
“I also got to share the wealth of scoring with my under 18 teammate Nikki Sharp who also scored two goals, one of which being her first NWT goal as well.”
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In the second period of game two, 17-year-old Courtney Mahoney pressured the Croatian defenders on the forecheck, stole the puck and scored her second goal of the game. In the next period, she would pot her third to complete the hat-trick. Tina Girdler commented on her value
“Courtney [Mahoney] has amazing chemistry with her line and a well-deserved hat trick for her efforts,” Girdler said.
Mahoney spoke about her experience.
“It’s been such a surreal experience playing on this team. Coming in as a rookie, was quite scary, though the captains and senior players have made this transition so much easier and enjoyable,” Mahoney said.
“Playing alongside some of the women that I looked up to when I was younger has topped off my first year on the NWT team. It’s great to be surrounded by those who love the game, in such a positive environment and I can’t wait to see where this team will take Australian Women’s hockey in the future.”
After Mahoney scored her hat-trick goal and was celebrating with her linemates, Georgia Carson raced to collect the puck. This gesture by Carson shows the camaraderie of this special team and the respect between veterans and rookies.
“I definitely have a soft spot for Court[ney],” Carson said.
“She’s a player I worked with early on at our Australian development camps and seeing her come into her own, and be this powerhouse of a player, makes me really proud.
“She’s wearing the number I wear at home , she’s my roommate, it’s only natural for me to be her number one fan.”
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Pethrick and Mahoney aren’t the only rookies on the team making an impression. Nikki Sharp and Molly Lukowiak also drew praise from Carson and Girdler.
“Mollie [Lukowiak] reads the ice well and skates hard every shift,” Girdler said.
“And Nikki [Sharp] plays with skill and size and her shot release is strong.”
“Molly has shown so much progress from camp to now. She’s blowing us away with her desire to learn and tenacity on the ice,” Carson added.
Other young players are making an impact too.
“Marnie [Pullin], Emily [Davis-Tope] and Lindsey [Kiliwnik] are also showing poise and determination beyond their years. They’re showing promise for leadership roles in future years,” Carson said.
Carson summed up the feeling of the team regarding the rookies.
“I’d like to think I speak for a lot of the senior players in saying that watching our younger players in action is a relief. Our team is going to be held to a high standard for many years to come,” she said.
Australian ice hockey fans have good things to look forward to from the National Women’s Team for years to come.
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