A number of local ladies represented the Irish Women’s National Team Select in Sweden last week at the NT Tournament Cup, when the visiting team fell at the final hurdle of the all ladies tournament. But it was the local ladies that took all the awards that were up for grabs in the tournament, including Seanna Conway, Clara O’Reilly, Catharine O’Reilly, Lorna Hoey all won player of the match awards during the 3 day event.
Even tough the Girls arrived in Sweden on Monday and didn’t have their first game until Saturday morning, it wasn’t the case of a few days in the sun, as they were put through their paces, having to train twice a day including on ice and off ice. On Thursday evening, the National Team Select faced off against a local U12’s team in an exhibition match. Even tough there is a considerable age gap difference, the home side came out with a 1-0 victory at the end of the game. Particular strengths included the Ladies penalty kill, which was executed well following pre-match preparation. A second strength was their power play with over half of their shots happening during power plays. Unfortunately, due to impressive goal tending the visiting team were unable to convert any of their opportunities into goals. The game finished 4-0.
It has to be taking into account that it was the teams first time to play together as a whole team and there was an expected level of nervousness. Many lessons were learned, in particular the need to work together and communicate
Head Coach for the Irish select and local Bulls player, Vytautas Lukosevicious, said ‘The U12’s had very good skill and are at a very high standard of hockey’. He continued ‘You have to remember that the girls in Sweden have been playing hockey since the age of 4 whilst our girls have been playing hockey for 3 years, some even 12 months’.
After their defeat against a local U12’s team, the Ladies took a day off on Friday to watch a quality pre season ice hockey match at the local ice rink in Norrkoping. The local Swedish home team were taking on Hudding Hockey, a team that played an Irish League Select at the Dundalk Ice Dome just over a year ago. Hudding showed the girls how it was done and beat the local side 4-1. During this match, the ladies also met Jonathon Ericsson, NHL defence player for the Detroit Red Wings.
Saturday was tournament day and it was the day that all the Girls had been waiting for. It was an early start to what would be a long day, with a kick off start against tournament host, Peking Pumas. The Ladies were feeling somewhat confident since they had played against this team in last year’s tournament. It was the luck of the Irish that opened the scoring for this game, as captain of the team, Anne Whipple scored the first and only goal of the game for the National Team Select during the 28th minute of play after a long and intense battle in front of the oppositions nets. The Irish Ladies held onto their one goal lead until the final minute, but with a late penalty and goalie Seanna Conway losing her stick resulted in the team relinquishing a gaol with 45 seconds remaining in the game. Despite fighting hard to regain the lead, the game ended 1-1. Seanna’s hard work was acknowledged when she received the player of the match award.
After seven hours of rest, the Ladies were back on the ice for their second game of the day against tournament winner Sodertalje SK, a team from Sweden. The games proved to be very physical, with two of the Irish players sustaining injures which ruled them out for the remainder of the tournament and leaving the team down two defenders. Kate Morrison was the first casualty of the match after being hit from behind and shortly afterwards, Kit Thornton sustained fractured ribs after been butt ended by the oppositions forward. Despite a final score of 7-0, both goaltenders Seanna Conway and Rebecca Burke played an outstanding period each with a combined total of 70 saves. Local 16 year old Clara O’ Reilly received the player of the match award.
The final game of the day was against the Riga Ice Girls. Despite a good start, the Ladies conceded a goal at the end of the first period and another halfway through the second period, after the team were caught short on a change. But the Ice Girls took the game into their own hands and came away with a 3-0 victory over the Irish side. On a positive note, they remained disciplined on their penalty kill, allowing no power play goals. Player of the match went to local star Catherine O’Reilly. Coach Lukosevicious said ‘I had to put on 3 defence players instead of 2 because of our injuries problem, which resulted in us bringing on our only two substitutes. It was a very hard game and if we had of winning this game, we would have being playing for bronze medal’. He concluded ‘The Ladies were very disappointed but for me it was better than last year, as we are narrowing our score bracket and that’s showing the girls that we are improving rapidly.’
Sunday was the final day of the tournament with a game against Ormsta DE. Given that it was the Ladies last match after a long week of preparation, they were eager for a win and felt that they could put up a good fight against the opposition. During the fifth minute of the first period, the Swedish side scored the opening goal against Seanna Conway in nets. Following this, the team as a whole did a fantastic job on defence and prevented any further goals being scored. They created several possible scoring opportunities, but unfortunately they were unable to convert these into goals. For the ladies, a memorable moment of the game was early in the second period, when Elaine McCann gave them all a lesson on how to play physical in women’s hockey, delivering an impressive hit. The match ended 1-0, despite the Irish side best efforts to equalise. Local lady and Dundalk Bulls Ladies Player, Lorna Hoey was awarded player of the match.
Head coach, Vytautas Lukosevicious said ‘The level of woman’s Ice Hockey at the tournament was brilliant and it’s just going to get bigger and better in the coming years. I would like to say thank you to all the Irish Ladies staff including Ashley Moore, Sean Gibson, Martin Janota and Eva Massey and all the managers of each team and especially all of our girls for their efforts during the whole summer and they done a great job representing their country’
Irish Women’s National Team Select
Defence: Joanne Marshall, Elaine McCann, Sonya McEneaney, Kate Morrison , Catherine Thornton, Jeanine De Volder
Forwards: Rebecca Callan, Lorna Hoey, Keira Keenan, Caoimhe Lynch, AimeMcCabe Cherise McCaughley, Jade McCrainor, Catherine O’Reilly, Clara O’Reilly, Anne Whipple, Beatrice Osgood , Caris McKnight
Goalkeepers: Seanna Conway and Rebecca Burke