20 August 2023
China Women 1 Slovakia Women 0
Women’s hockey returned to Shenzhen as China began its World Championship Division IA campaign on Sunday. A bumper crowd of 6,600 came to the Universiade Arena in the southern coastal city to see Scott Spencer’s team make a winning start to the six-team tournament.
It was a tight game, decided by a single goal against a Slovakian team stacked with prospects looking to build on their experience of playing in the elite pool at U18 level. But 29 saves from former KRS goalie Tiya Chen backstopped the victory, and Kong Minghui scored the decisive goal late in the second period. Kong’s winner was assisted by Yu Baiwei, team captain and a key player on defense for KRS in recent seasons. Seeing two home-grown Chinese women making an impact on the international stage really validates the work that our women’s teams – KRS Vanke Rays and KRS Shenzhen – have done to kickstart the national program.
Kong is one of several players with KRS connections on this team. The 31-year-old was here for the start of our club’s journey into the women’s game and played two seasons in the CWHL. Later she had seven games in the 2021/22 season but narrowly missed the cut for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. This is the ninth World Championship tournament for the Harbin native, and her experience makes her an important figure among the home-grown Chinese players in the national program.
She played her part in an impressive opening night performance. China outshot Slovakia 46-29 and looked the stronger team throughout the game. It took some brave goaltending from Andrea Risianova to keep the scoreline respectable, while our girls will surely feel that there are more goals to come once the team gets used to playing competitive hockey for the first time in months.
This week’s tournament also means a welcome return to China for several of our naturalized players. It’s great to have Ni Lin (Rachel Llanes), Yuting Wang (Jessica Wong), Anna Fei (Anna Fairman), Kang Mulan (Cassy Betinol), Xifang Zhang (Anna Segedi) and Hu Baozhen (Maddy Woo) back in town, even though this season’s team is without Mi Le (Hannah Miller), so prominent in last year’s promotion campaign. On Sunday, Segedi picked up her first point of the competition with an assist on Kong’s goal.
But the World Championship also marks the start of a new era in Chinese hockey. After competing successfully on both sides of the Atlantic, the KRS name is not due to figure next season. Instead, China’s top female talent will be active in the national championship. That’s where they can take their experience of the pro game and set a real example to the prospects emerging at clubs in Beijing, Harbin, Qiqihar, and Hebei.
World Championship Division IA is a six-team round-robin competition, with the top-placed team winning promotion to the elite pool for the 2023/24 season. In opening day action, Denmark – a team that lost to China at the Beijing Olympics – enjoyed an emphatic 6-1 win over the Netherlands before Austria beat Norway 4-0. The games continue on Monday, with China facing the Norwegians.