26 August 2023
China Women 2 Netherlands Women 1
The Dragons are World Champions! A hard-fought win over the Netherlands made it a perfect five from five in Shenzhen, guaranteeing top spot in World Championship Division IA.
With promotion assured following Thursday’s win over Austria, the Chinese girls still had a gold medal to play for here. The Netherlands, a surprise package in this tournament, could grab top spot with a win in regulation; any other result would keep China in first place. Anticipating glory, more than 10,000 fans came to the Universiade Arena to witness a little piece of hockey history.
With so much at stake, it was hardly surprising that this turned into one of the closest games of the tournament. China shaded the play in the first period and got the only goal in the 17th minute. Fang Xin whizzed around the net and whipped out a superb backhand pass for Kong Minghui to shoot into an open net. That was Kong’s fourth goal of the tournament as the Harbin native led her country in scoring at the championship. It also lifted Fang to 4 (2+2) points, highlighting the growing contribution of our home-grown players to this team.
Of course, the Dutch were determined to get back into the game and revive their own promotion hopes. The second period proved more even, with the Netherlands putting real pressure on Tiya Chan’s net. That led to the first Chinese penalty of the evening. Eleven seconds later, it was 1-1: Chan denied Bieke van Nes, but could do nothing when the rebound dropped for Aimee Seppenwolde in front of the target.
There was more penalty trouble for China as the game went on. The Dragons killed two more penalties and the second period and found themselves at a disadvantage once again at the start of the third. But Holland’s power play could not repeat its first success. After killing that third period infringement, China regained the lead on a Kang Mulan (Kassy Betinol) goal. Her low shot got beyond Eline Gabriele and, once again, gold was in our grasp. The assists came from Lin Ni (Leah Lum) and Lin Qiqi (Rachel Llanes).
There was still work to do as Chen found herself the busier of the two goalies in the final frame. But she finished the game with 37 saves to secure the W and gold medal. Her performance over the tournament brought two shut-outs, a GAA of 1.2 and 95.92% of shots saved
China’s joy spelled despair for the Netherlands. An Orange victory, or even an OT loss, would have sent the Dutch to the top division for the first time in the country’s history. Instead, Denmark snuck into second place thanks to its 4-1 win over Norway. The Danes came out on top in a three-way tie with Austria and the Netherlands. Norway finished fifth and Slovakia, defeated 2-1 by Austria in its final game, is relegated to Division IB.
For China, though, it’s all about a return to the elite for next season’s World Championship. The tournament, scheduled for the spring, will take place in Utica, New York state. China will compete in Group B alongside Sweden, Japan, Germany and Denmark, with the top three teams advancing to a quarter-final match-up against opposition from the higher-ranked A group. That section includes the USA, Canada, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Finland.