Italy completed a perfect display at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B in Katowice, Poland, sweeping aside Denmark 4-1 in Saturday’s decisive game to top the group and earn promotion to next year’s Division IA.
The game, and the tournament as a whole, was a personal triumph for Italy’s captain Nadia Mattivi. She had a goal and two assists on the night, taking her tally for the competition to 4+7 and make her the top point scorer. Teammate Anita Muraro finished on top of the goal-scoring chart with her sixth of the event.
The teams went into this tournament as the favourites. Denmark was looking to bounce back after suffering relegation from Division I last season, while Italy missed out on promotion in 2016 when it lost 3-2 to Austria in the gold medal game. A new, extended format this year placed both nations in Division I Group B, with hopes of promotion.
Early group games went to form: Italy and Denmark won four out of four, and had five shutouts between them. Eugenia Pompanin, Italy’s starting netminder on Saturday, had been flawless in her two previous games as she blanked Great Britain and Poland, while her understudy Elisa Biondi gave up just two goals in her two starts. Denmark had been marginally more potent on offense, but could not boast quite the same resilience at the back.
Ultimately that proved decisive when the teams took to the ice. There was little between them in terms of territory or chances – both managed 19 shots on goal – but Pompanin’s greater assurance between the piping proved too much for the Danes. Early on she was alert to deal with a danger Amalie Andersen effort from the point and came up big to deny Julie Henriksen’s slaloming move through the Italian defence, while Italy took its chances at the other end.
Mattivi set up Mara da Rech for the opening goal in the eighth minute, then started the move from which Italy made it 2-0 in the 16th. This time the finish came from Greta Niccolai, an assured shot beyond Cassandra Repstock-Romme after a lovely instinctive spin and pass from Rebecca Roccella.
Denmark finally found a way past Pompanin on the power play in the 18th minute – Andersen’s effort from the blue was the first to beat the goalie in 197 minutes of action – and almost tied the game before the hooter when Amanda Refsgaard hit the piping, but Italy was not to be denied.
Muraro got her sixth of the competition with a solo effort early in the second period. Tracking back on the PK, she blocked a shot from Linn Thomsen and chased the puck down the ice to calmly convert a one-on-one against Repstock-Romme. Then, as Denmark chased the game, Mattivi wrapped it up with an empty net goal.
Outside the battle for top spot, host nation Poland claimed third place thanks to wins over Great Britain, China and Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs, defeated in their showdown with the Brits, finished without a victory and will be relegated to next year’s qualification tournament. Click here for scores and stats.