On Friday evening, Ireland took on host nation, Bulgaria, in their third game of the 2011 IIHF World Women’s Championship Division V.
As always, the game took place at the Winter Sports Palace. Unfortunately, things did not start well for Ireland as Elaine McCann received a two minute penalty for tripping with less than six minutes played. This gave Bulgaria an early advantage as they got to work on the powerplay. Forty one seconds later, they had taken the lead through Amaliya Koleva. Ireland was down but not out. Thirty nine seconds after they had conceded a goal, Ireland were gifted a chance to get back into the game. Bulgaria’s Regina Ovcharova went to the box for tripping. Ireland was not able to take advantage and Bulgaria successfully killed off the penalty. A similar chance five minutes later ended in the same manner as Bulgaria once more killed off the penalty successfully.
Ireland had remained with Bulgaria for the most part all throughout the first period and with only one goal down, they were still in this game. Unfortunately, with only thirty seconds remaining in the period, Bulgaria added a second. The score after the first period was 2 – 0 in favour of Bulgaria. Ireland would surely be disappointed as they were putting it up to the host nation. Bulgaria had outshot Ireland 15 – 5 but Seanna Conway, in net for Ireland, was keeping the Bulgarians at bay.
The second period did not start off well for Ireland either as Keira Keenan went to the penalty box for tripping two minutes into the period. Ireland needed to kill off this penalty if they were to stay in the game. They did just that and maybe it would prove to be the catalyst they needed to get back into the game. They were given a chance when Ovcharova went to the box for hooking. Ireland was unable to capitalise and neither team gained anything for most of the second period. Just before the second intermission, Ireland were gifted another opportunity to pull a goal back when Bulgaria received a penalty for too many players. Things did not go to plan for Ireland as Bulgaria added their third goal of the game despite Ireland having the extra player. The score after the second period was 3 – 0. Conway had stopped a further fourteen shots for Ireland.
Ireland came back out in the third period and played a little more physical with McCann going to the penalty box early when she hooked an opponent. Ireland killed off this penalty and for the next ten minutes, there was something of a stalemate between the teams. There was little action and this left the game sheet looking a little blank. However, McCann found herself back in the box after she received two minutes for holding. She would finish the game in the penalty box which meant that Ireland could do little when Ovcharova went to the penalty box with less than a minute left on the clock as the teams played 4 on 4.
The final score of the game was 3 – 0 in favour of Bulgaria. Another tough game but probably one that the team feels they could win if they were to play it again. Experience at this level is maybe all that is missing for this team. This was another valiant effort and a lot closer than the previous games. Ireland had their chances as they had fifteen shots on goal in the game. Bulgaria by no means had it easy and were made to work for their win. They outshot Ireland by 48 – 15 with Conway stopping 45 shots for Ireland. Bulgaria also had more time on the powerplay but was only able to convert once when they player advantage.
Special congratulations go to the team’s captain, Sonya McEneaney, who was selected as Ireland’s best player of the game. Sonya has led the team proudly all week despite some tough games. The spirit amongst the team has been high all week and Sonya is no doubt a leading influence on that. Her performance in this game certainly matched her leadership off the ice.
Final Score: Ireland 0 – 3 Bulgaria (0 – 2, 0 – 1, 0 – 0)
SOG: 15 – 48 (5 – 15, 5 – 15, 5 – 18)
PIM: 8 – 20 (2 – 4, 2 – 4, 4 – 12)
Saves: S. Conway (45/48) – K. Ivanova (15/15)