Story of the Week
After Year One In The CWHL, China Takes On The World
Ask anyone around the Chinese national women's program, and they will tell you that the structure put in place this past season -- with teams in the CWHL and the Eastern Women's Hockey Conference -- is part of a five-year plan, and that it is going to take all five of those years to truly see the results.
Considering the media buzz around Chinese women’s hockey since the CWHL dropped the bombshell of a CWHL-China partnership last summer, you’d think every angle must have been thoroughly covered by now. Kirsten Whelan proves that wrong with her article for Victory Press that sets up the Division I Group B Women’s World Championships in Asiago, Italy through an informative look at Team China, its relationship with the CWHL, and the beginnings of its five year plan.
As Whelan states, this week’s tournament is a much better indication of where Team China stands now, playing as a unit. Last year they ended the tournament in fourth place, with two regulation wins against Kazakhstan and Poland and an overtime win against Italy for a total of eight points.
Also interesting to look at is the contrast between South Korea, who were playing in the Olympics less than two months ago, and China. It’s not entirely a fair comparison, since China has consistently ranked higher than South Korea, who are playing their first tournament in the Div I B group this year. Four years ago, South Korea was playing their first tournament in the Div II Group A level. China’s aspirations to reach the top level on merit are more realistic than South Korea’s were at the beginning of their journey. For having just climbed up a level, South Korea has done well so far, with an overtime win over Kazakhstan and a close-fought loss to China, sitting them in fourth place for the moment. Still, this is the culmination of a different five year plan and further investment in South Korean women’s hockey could hinge on how well they do in this tournament while the spotlight continues to linger.
While the tournament has only recently gotten underway, China’s got to be feeling good about their progress. They opened the tournament with a convincing 4-0 victory over Poland, and then edged past newly promoted South Korea 2-1. Fang Xin, who was the highest-scoring Chinese-born player in the CWHL last season, is leading the tournament in goals with three in two games. You can see her game-winning goal against Korea in the embedded gif, off a nice spinning pass by fellow Vanke Rays teammate Kong Minghui.
Fang was also named Player of the Game in China’s victory over Poland (two goals helps with that!); on Sunday vs. Korea, the honor went to goalie Wang Yuqing, who has only allowed one goal so far and whose .977 sv% currently leads the tournament. It’s impossible to draw definitive conclusions two games in, but as one of the two undefeated teams left (home team Italy has scored nine goals and beaten both Latvia and Kazakhstan soundly), all current signs are positive.
Their next game is today against Latvia (it should be underway as this article is published), and the IIHF is streaming it, and all the other games in this tournament, live if you’re so inclined. If you’re unable to watch, or highlights are all you can handle, follow @WSportHilites on twitter — they’ve been providing excellent gifs throughout the Worlds tournaments at all levels.
Of course the other tournament going on right now should also be of interest to women’s hockey fans, if only because the winner of the Division I Group A Women’s World Championships will move up to the Top level and compete in Finland in 2019 against USA, Canada, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Japan. The favourite is Austria (featuring Boston Pride’s Janine Weber), but Canadiennes fans will also recognize French captain Marion Allemoz and forward Lore Baudrit.
After two games, the themes are close scores and upsets. The opening day of competition saw newly promoted Slovakia take down last year’s runner-up Austria by a score of 3-2. In fact every game on the opening day resulted in an upset. Things returned to normal on day two, but that does mean that every team in the tournament has one regulation win so far. Definitely a tournament worth keeping an eye on.
The IIHF is not providing a video stream but you can see scores and live stats on their website.
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