SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – She looked into the camera with a Basque-style beret on her head she received as a present from the organizer and with a big smile in her face. She had all reasons to smile. Captain Carola Saletta and her teammates just won the tournament in Donostia-San Sebastian.
After beating the Netherlands 5-1 in the deciding game the Italian women’s national team reached first place in its Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round group to advance to the next round.
The Netherlands had the upper hand in this pairing between 2012 and 2015 until the Italians started to move up the ranking step by step with a fourth-place finish at the Division I Group B tournament in 2016 and confirmed the trend also in the Olympic Qualification.
Both teams entered the final day with a clean record. The Netherlands took the first place after two days and beating Slovenia 14-1 and Spain 2-0. Italy edged Spain 2-0 as well in its first game and beat Slovenia 8-1.
In the final game the Italians made sure it won’t be a narrow battle from the very beginning. Chelsea Furlani opened the scoring after just 29 seconds of play. The Vermont-born forward, who has been playing in Italy since 2011, then doubled the lead with her power-play marker at 7:03 and three minutes later Silvia Carignano made it 3-0.
For the Netherlands the game looked almost over before it even really started. The Dutch came one goal closer when Mieneke de Jong scored at 3:46 of the second period but her match penalty for tripping Furlani five-and-a-half minutes later harmed the team.
Eleonora Dalpra deflecting a shot from Linda de Rocco and Anna de la Forest de Divonne capitalized on the five-minute power play to make it a 5-1 lead that was there to stay until the end of the game. With these goals De la Forest de Divonne (1+7=8) and Dalpra (3+4=7) took the top spots in tournament scoring.
“We won thanks to our team spirit. We dominated this game and I’m very glad about the result. Now we will prepare for the next round,” said Italy head coach Marco Liberatore according to the website of the Italian Ice Sports Federation.
For the next round the team will travel to the Paris region. In Cergy-Pontoise the Italians will play host France, Latvia and China from 15 to 18 December. The winner of that group will remain in contention for a sport in PyeongChang 2018 and advance to the Final Olympic Qualification in February 2017.
For host Spain the tournament ended in happy mood as well as the team beat Slovenia in a game for third place, 5-1. Since joining the Women’s World Championship program in 2011, Spain has never been ranked ahead of Slovenia and lost its two previous encounters 5-3 and 3-1. The Spaniards made the difference with four unanswered goals in the first 13 minutes of play including two from Ainhoa Merino. Click here for scores and stats. Click here for an overview of the men’s and women’s Olympic Qualification.