History was made on Friday (26 August) in Green Bay, Wisconsin in the USA, where the puck dropped for the opening day of games at the first-ever Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge presented by Citi.
In the first contest of the four-team tournament, Team World — comprised of athletes from different nations — skated to a decisive 5-1 victory over Great Britain with two goals from Ai Lin Zheng, two from Rebecca Mann and one from Caroline Persson.
Fun on ice for Team World
Zheng, who has been playing the sport since age 10, struck first in the game, throwing the puck at the net on a power play with 1:47 left in the first period. Persson of Sweden doubled Team World’s lead in the second stanza, assisted by Cindy Ouellet and Solvei Skjold.
“It was so fun playing that game and we were even more excited to win it,” said Persson. “I was nervous of course before, but after winning that game it was confirmation that we can do this.”
In the third period, Zheng scored again on the power play and Mann found the net twice for Team World, while forward Emily McLean, who’s also a wheelchair basketball player, put Great Britain on the board with assists on her score coming from Shannon Marie Couch and Stacey Quirk.
“It was absolutely amazing to be out there and we figured everything out by the end,” McLean said of the effort by Great Britain, which only began its women’s Para ice hockey programme 10 months ago. “It means so much to have Citi sponsoring this event and to have spectators because without them we couldn’t be having this event.”
Team World is being coached by Norwegian national coach Espen Hegde and outshot Great Britain, 24-7, with Hope Magelky and Elisabeth Bisaillon splitting the goaltending duties for the winning side. British goaltender Nicole Jodi Hill played all 45 minutes between the pipes, recording 23 saves.
Incredible energy leads USA against Canada
Later in the day, host nation USA defeated its rival Canada, 5-0, in front of a nearly capacity crowd at the Cornerstone Community Center.
“I don’t think any of us have played in front of a crowd that big and it was great to have that much support,” said Kelsey DiClaudio, who back in 2014 was the first US player named to the men’s national development team.
“It feels incredible. After each goal we scored we just wanted more. I’m only as strong as every girl behind me. Our team energy on and office the ice — from the ice to the locker room to the hotel here — has been incredible.”
DiClaudio wasted no time in putting the USA on the board, scoring 1:33 into the game off a helper from Katie Ladlie.
The U.S. then lit up the scoreboard in the second stanza with a second goal from DiClaudio and scores from Madison Eberhard, a dual-sport athlete in rowing, and Catherine Faherty, who has been playing Para ice hockey since she was six years old. Both Faherty and Lera Doederlein recorded assists in the period.
Ladlie added an insurance goal for the US in the final frame off a pass from Doederlein with 2:05 left in the game.
Goaltender Tracey Arnold, a former world-calibre arm wrestler who has been on Canada’s national team since 2019, played all 45 minutes, recording 26 saves. Retired US Marine Sergeant Gabby Graves-Wake and Hope Bevilhymer split the netminding duties for the US to secure the win.
This event is serving as a major stepping stone on the road to an eventual Women’s World Championship, with the ultimate goal of expanding female participation in Para ice hockey worldwide and adding it to the Paralympic Winter Games programme.
The competition will continue on Saturday (27 August) with a full slate of four games. Canada will face Team World at 10:00 and then take on Great Britain at 13:30. The USA will play Team World at 17:00 and then challenge Great Britain at 20:30.
All games from the event are being streamed live on World Para Ice Hockey’s website and Facebook page.
More information about the teams, complete schedule and results can be found on the Green Bay 2022 microsite. Photos from the event are available for editorial use on the IPC’s Flickr page.