This past weekend the Irish Women’s Development Team competed in the NT-Cup in Norrkoping, Sweden. The team departed from Dublin Airport on Thursday and arrived late in the evening at Sweden’s Skavsta Airport where they were met by their team host Titti and Peking Pumas General Manager Rikard Drakenlordh. We hopped on a bus and drove 1.5 hours to Norrkoping and our cabins in the middle of a massive sporting complex which housed 2 rinks! It was off to bed as it was a long day and the morning run would come all too soon.
In the morning, team captains Kate Morrison, Elaine McCann, and Lorna Hoey took the players for a run and stretching session while the coaching staff ran a few errands which included,NT-Cup getting breakfast. As we found ourselves in a camp ground with a central kitchen it was decided that we should enlist the cooking services of “Coach Gibson” who served up a comfortable home cooked breakfast for the team. After the normal morning routine of eating and getting ready the team headed to the rink for their first session on the ice. This session would be shared with the Norwegian team Jordal. Vytautas and Sean ran an opening and combined teams warm up as Jordal’s coach was not in Sweden. This gave the girls a chance to meet some of other competitors. After a light skate and practice we headed back to the cabins for lunch and prepare for that evenings camp.
We arrived back at the rink around 5:30 and prepared ourselves to be on the ice for a 1.5 hour camp style practice which was organised by Ashley Moore and Rikard Drakenlordh. Coaches Vytautas, Sean and Anders Westberg of Peking Pumas ran the training session over 35 girls across the 3 participating teams. Seanna Conway and Anders worked with Rebekah Burke (Ireland) , Cassandra Nieminen (Peking Pumas), and Erle Hedne (Jordal) while Vytautas and Sean put the players through their paces. After the camp the team headed back to a pasta feast of Spaghetti Bolognaise and Marinara. It was early to bed as the team had a 6:00am run and stretch before breakfast.
Saturday arrived with a lot of excitement and NT-Cupeager anticipation to get into our first game against HASSELBY KALVESTA (the eventual tournament winners) of Sweden’s top women’s division.
Our nerves were a bit too much to overcome and after falling behind to a very good team we found ourselves in a deep hole early, despite fighting hard and not quitting; we struggled against our opponents and ended up losing the game. Goalie Rebekah Burke was our standout player and Seanna Conway did well to come in late in the last period.
With not much time to regroup we had an hour off before playing our next game. After a few adjustments to the lines and a few coaching points the Women took the ice against the host team Peking Pumas. This was a very good game and was close throughout. The Pumas got on the board first scoring a scrappy goal but, the plucky Irish girls managed to grab one back as Gabriela Vlasankova put home a rebound after Catherine O’Reilly’s initial shot was stopped by the Pumas goalie. The score was tied up and remained 1-1 into the halftime break (tournament format was 2x15minutes play , stopped time) Both teams had opportunities to score but, it was a late goal by the Pumas taking the game in the final 5 minutes and despite the efforts of the Irish team they were unable to find an equaliser. Seanna Conway was named the player of the game her second in a row.
Our third game of the day NT-Cupwas against HV71 Queens (the female club of the current Swedish Eliteserien’s Champions) and it was another good test for our girls. We got on the board first with Rebecca Callan grabbing her first goal in the senior ranks. The lead lasted five minutes before the Queens grabbed their first goal of the game. Both teams had several chances to pull a head and it would be the Swedish side that would pull one ahead before the break. After an initial flurry in the early goings of the second period by the Irish team the Queens broke the pressure and momentum of our team and scored a goal against the flow of play. Rebekah Burke stood tall in the Irish goal throughout the game. We ended up losing the game by a score of 5-1 but, this game could have been a much different tale if we managed to grab one back early in the second. Gabriela Vlasankova was recognised as Irish player of the game.
Our final game was against the Jordal team from Norway and this was a good game throughout. Though we ended up losing the contest it was close throughout and both teams deserved to win this game. Rebekah Burke made 28 saves in the loss and was recognised by the organisers as the Irish player of the game.
Overall the day was a resounding success for us and the efforts of the girls have not gone unnoticed. Everyone contributed to the weekend in their own way though some team members that deserved special recognition for their efforts in particular. Our goalies Rebekah Burke and Seanna Conway played extremely well and in my opinion were the two best goalies in the tournament, our defensive unit as a whole was very solid and despite some of the scorelines they all played extremely well. Our forwards did an excellent job and specifically Celia Robillard who took Rebecca Callan and Caiomhe Lynch under her wing and was an excellent leader on the ice for those girls. Our Captains did an excellent job throughout the weekend and were leaders both on and off the Ice.
With the tournament now out of the way, the girls were able to relax on Saturday evening and we enjoyed a social with members of Jordal Hockey and our hosts Peking Pumas we ordered pizzas and had a good relaxing evening of camaraderie amongst the teams.
On Sunday, NT-Cupwe headed to Stockholm to Segeltorphallen and were able to watch a match between the Swedish u-18 Women’s National Team who played the Finland u-18s. As a special treat we were also introduced by Terho Nevalainen, General Manager of the Swedish u-18 National Team to two members (Jenny Lindqvist and Ylva Lindberg) of the 2006 Swedish National Team that won Olympic Silver Medals. After enjoying the game and buying up some of the Segeltorps IF’s swag, the girls got on the bus for a chance to do some shopping in Stockholm and then whisked away to the airport to head back to Dublin.
As Mentioned, the weekend was a big success both on and off the ice. But, that success would not have been without a few people who made the weekend what it was. Special thanks goes to Tony Thornton our Equipment Manager was amazing all weekend and did an excellent job working with the team and was a blessing on this trip. Thank you to those that helped by sponsoring our jerseys, Neil Conway, Conway Investments, and Data88.com. Finally this weekend would not have been able to happen at all if it weren’t for the tireless dedication of Ashley Moore who single handily organised the entire trip and did everything to ensure that the trip was a resounding success for all involved.