Australia has asserted their dominance atop Division II B, overwhelming Croatia by a score of 15-0. Michelle Clark-Crumpton added to her 4 tournament goals with a hat-trick and was player of the game for Australia. The player of the game for Croatia was goaltender Petra Mlinarevic who allowed 13 goals. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment, the player of the match for Croatia was their goaltender, who allowed 13 goals. This may seem counter-intuitive until you analyse the shot totals; 90 for Australia and 3 for Croatia.
Tina Girdler recorded the shutout and was kind enough to provide some comments regarding how she as a goaltender remains focused during long stretches of inactivity. So if you hate watching replays of goals, feel free to scroll on down to the ‘Tina Girdler’ section.
If you are a Croatia fan reading this, I’m so sorry. With the 11-1 drubbing at the hands of New Zealand to open the tournament some solace could at least be had in getting on the scoresheet. But this – I have no words… well, maybe four words: ‘Ninety shots to three’.
From the outset Australia were able to set up in the Croatian zone as if they were on the powerplay. At 2:59 into the period, they had their first goal. Shona Green used a burst of speed to stop a trickling puck from leaving the zone, raced down the left wing and fired a shot at Mlinarevic. The puck took a deflection off the defender and fluttered over the Croatian netminder and into the far corner of the goal.
2:59 1-0 Australia – Shona GreenAssist: Ashlie Aparicio
Rylie Padjen was next to find the twine at 5:03. After Croatia cleared the puck to the neutral zone following another Australian offensive zone faceoff win, Padjen gained the zone and let rip a slap-shot from above the faceoff circles. The perfectly placed shot raced into the top left corner, displacing the water bottle (always a visually pleasing outcome for a shooter).
5:03 2-0 Australia – Rylie PadjenAssist: Dannielle Roberts
Next, Dannielle Roberts’ pass found Anna Badaoui all alone in the slot for her to wire a wrister between Mlinarevic’s pad and blocker. The goal came after some excellent work along the boards by Jaimi Goonan and Isla Malcolm to keep the puck in the zone.
12:27 3-0 Australia – Anna BadaouiAssists: Dannielle Roberts, Kate Tihema
When Tess Reynolds scored at 14:55 with Croatia still not having recorded a shot, the rout was on. Reynolds skated through the neutral zone during a line change, fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that went blocker side on Mlinarevic and into the net.
14:55 4-0 Australia – Tess ReynoldsAssist: Stephenie Cochrane
With less than a minute left in the period, Croatia created a two-on-one opportunity but were unable to parlay that into a shot on goal. The period ended with Australia leading the shot-count 23-0, giving them a shot-share of 100%. Yikes!
Croatia started the second with some offensive zone time, and Tina Girdler had to be sharp to deny Tena Cavka on the doorstep. Cavka found herself all alone between the hash marks and went low-glove on Girdler, but the Sirens’ netminder kicked out the pad to deny the opportunity.
There was a scary moment shortly afterwards when a Croatian defender slid awkwardly into the boards in an effort to deny another Australian scoring opportunity. Play was delayed while the player was attended to. Both teams tapped their sticks in respect and solidarity as she was assisted off the ice.
Mlinarevic had to be brilliant shortly afterwards to deny Natalie Ayris. The Croatian went post-to-post to spectacularly kick out the pad after the cross-crease pass found Ayris at the backdoor.
At 24:43, following another offensive zone faceoff win, Tess Reynolds struck again to make it 5-0. The dynamic forward collected the puck near the half-wall just above the goal line, and from the almost impossibly tight angle her seeing-eye shot found a way through Mlinarevic.
24:43 5-0 Australia – Tess ReynoldsAssist: Stephenie Cochrane
Australia went to the penalty kill briefly when Kate Tihema was penalised for holding. However, that Croatian powerplay was short-lived. Australia’s initial attempt to clear was thwarted by the Croatian defender at the blue line, however, Farrier chased down the puck, passed to herself off the boards and raced in on goal. Marta Vrbancic Fabic sprawled on the ice and tried to poke-check the puck away from Farrier, but instead took a tripping penalty. Farrier came desperately close to scoring despite the interference, Mlinarevic saving the attempt with her shoulder.
Although neither team scored during 4-on-4 play, and Australia didn’t convert on their 15-second powerplay, it didn’t take long for Australia tot add to their total. 7 seconds after Vrbancic Fabic exited the penalty box, Michelle Clark-Crumpton roofed a backhand shot from a tight angle. Remi Harvey did well to keep the puck in at the blue line, and Clark-Crumpton received the pass, skated towards the net from the left faceoff circle, and made no mistake in lifting it over the glove of Mlinarevic.
28:02 6-0 Australia – Michelle Clark-CrumptonAssist: Remi Harvey (Based on the game footage, I believe Tash Farrier should also have been credited with an assist here, but she’s not credited with one on the IIHF scoresheet)
Just over two minutes later Croatia were once again collecting the puck from their own net. This time Clark-Crumpton turned from scorer to provider. Her rebound went to Natalie Ayris on the opposite side of the goal, and Mlinarevic had no chance as Ayris deposited it into the yawning cage. It was already 7-0 Australia, and there was just under half of regulation time remaining.
30:46 Australia – Natalie AyrisAssist: Michelle Clark-Crumpton
9 seconds later, Tina Girdler had her second save of the match, and Tash Farrier was heading to the box. Marta Vrbancic Fabic skated into the zone, drew a hooking penalty, and fired a shot at Girdler from above the circles. Girdler flashed the glove to keep Croatia off the scoresheet.
Australia have been sensational all tournament in being aggressive on the penalty kill and Croatia were unable to generate any meaningful zone time. In fact, Australia were able to still generate large amounts of offensive pressure while being a player down.
A couple of minutes later, after killing the penalty, Australia lit the lamp. Michelle Clark-Crumpton was the beneficiary of some excellent work by Rylie Padjen who entered the zone, skated past the goal line, button hooked back behind the goal and left a drop pass for Clark-Crumpton. Mlinarevic drifted over to her right side, expecting Padjen to emerge with the puck, but instead it was Clark-Crumpton who had the entire net at her disposal on the opposite side of the goal for the wrap-around attempt.
34:08 8-0 Australia – Michelle Clark-CrumptonAssist: Rylie Padjen
Croatia opted for a goaltending change in an attempt to spark a response from their team, Mirna Sertic coming in for Petra Mlinarevic.
When Shona Green went off for slashing at 35:27, and Natalie Ayris for tripping at 36:24, Croatia had a golden opportunity to get on the scoresheet, or at least add to their paltry shot-total, with over a minute of a two-player advantage. Although they did win the initial faceoff and maintained possession, they were unable to get a shot on net. Australia did well blocking shots and clearing pucks from danger.
At 37:54, with the first penalty killed, Croatia’s second powerplay was negated when Tena Cavka was called for cross-checking. In a bizarre move, Petra Mlinarevic was recalled to the Croatian net, substituting Sertic.
With Ayris out of the box, Australia had their first real powerplay of the game (the previous powerplay had been 15 seconds long), and converted with usual aplomb. After Aparicio saw her initial shot saved by Mlinarevic, the puck came out to Cochrane at the point. Her pass went to the ever-dangerous Georgia Moore who loaded up for a wrist shot before passing to an open Aparicio. The Melbourne Ice connection paid dividends, Aparicio had more than half the goal to shoot at as a result of the deceptive pass, and one-timed the puck into the net.
39:08 9-0 Australia – Ashlie Aparicio (PPG)Assists: Georgia Moore, Stephenie Cochrane
There would be no further additions to the score-line in the remaining seconds. The shot count for the second period was 32-3 in Australia’s favour (91.4% shot-share) and 55-3 for the match (94.8% shot-share). Just a dominant performance. But at least it couldn’t get much worse for Croatia, right?
Things got much worse for Croatia. When Jaimi Goonan went to the box for tripping at 43:58, Croatia were once again on the powerplay. Once again Australia took an aggressive approach. Once again Croatia did not record a single shot on goal. However, one difference was that Australia would light the lamp with their first short-handed goal of the competition.
Sharna Godfrey went coast-to-coast, collecting a Georgia Moore pass in her defensive zone, skating around the Croatian forward in the neutral zone before going inside-outside on the defender in the ensuing one-on-one opportunity and roofing a forehand shot over Mlinarevic’s glove. Australia had hit double digits.
45:20 10-0 Australia – Sharna Godfrey (SHG)Assist: Georgia Moore
Croatia wouldn’t have time to process the stunning goal for long, 12 seconds later Godfrey was at it again, this time converting on a tight angle after some good work by Padjen and Harvey to gain the zone. It was now the second time in three games that Croatia had allowed 11 goals, and the scoring was far from over.
45:32 11-0 Australia – Sharna Godfrey (SHG)Assists: Rylie Padjen, Remi Harvey
When Marta Gorsic went to the box for hooking, there was a feeling of inevitability that Australia would add to the score sheet. That feeling was justified when Kate Tihema’s pass to the slot was snapped above Mlinarevic’s blocker by Ayris.
47:24 12-0 Australia – Natalie Ayris (PPG)Assists: Kate Tihema, Rylie Padjen
Two minutes later, Croatia took another penalty, this time it was Eva Cavka sent to the box for elbowing. It is pretty rare to see no hat-tricks in such a high-scoring contest, and Michelle Clark-Crumpton rectified that on the ensuing powerplay. Moore made a nifty pass ahead to Green who backhanded a shot-pass to the front of the net. Clark-Crumpton found the puck first amidst the mass of bodies in the crease, and was able to find the time and space to take the puck from her backhand to her forehand and into the net. A well-deserved hat-trick for the Inferno star.
50:19 13-0 Australia – Michelle Clark-Crumpton (PPG)Assists: Shona Green, Georgia Moore
At 50:48 Mlinarevic would be replaced by Sertic in net once again. At least Mlinarevic’s final act was making a save and not retrieving the puck from the net. Again, she was the player of the match for Croatia, it’s hard to pin a loss on the goaltender when as a team you allow 90 shots and only generate 3.
The goaltending change did little to stem the scoring tide. Ashlie Aparicio was next to tickle the twine. The Melbourne Ice forward collected a Shona Green cross-ice pass and backhanded it through a helpless Sertic.
54:40 14-0 Australia – Ashlie AparicioAssists: Shona Green, Eiland Kenyon
Croatia were frustrated at their play and took two penalties with some post-whistle shenanigans. Nika Simic and Karla Sojat went to the box for roughing and slashing respectively at 56:35.
17 seconds later, Georgia Moore blasted a one-timer from above the left faceoff circle. Moore is known for her powerful shot and Sertic didn’t have a chance to move from the time it left Moore’s stick and bulged the roof of the net. Anna Badaoui provided the assist and Australia had a 15-0 lead.
56:52 15-0 Australia – Georgia MooreAssist: Anna Badaoui
Australia finished the third period with 35 shots and allowed 0 (100% shot-share), and finished the match with a lead of 90 shots to 3 (96.78% shot-share).
Tina Girdler, who recorded the 3-save shutout, was kind enough to provide some insightful comments on the game.
How do you maintain focus with the puck at the other end so often, when your team fires 90 shots on goal?
My focus is primarily on the puck. While I will head check players to ensure there are no surprises, I visually track the puck every time it is in motion to ensure I remain present. Nothing else matters. If I ever begin to lose focus, whether from internal or external stimulants, I use a song as a mental primer to get back into the game.
Are you willing to divulge a particular song?
Cruel Summer by Taylor Swift.
By head checking players do you mean making sure you know where everyone is on the ice?
Yes. It affects the way a goalie will position themselves or make a save selection. It’s more obvious with a two-on-oh but I exaggerate when I’m tracking in this manner to remain focused so you’ll see my whole head turn quickly before flicking back. I won’t just assume based off the corner of my eye.
I know a lot of NHL goalies are trained with head movements as the body naturally follows. It’s what saved [Devan] Dubnyk’s career if I recall correctly.
It helps with your accuracy for definitive movements in the crease. You do it right you feel like you’ve got all the time in the world to read the next shot.
Final Thoughts and What’s Next
It would be inadequate to say that Australia spent long stretches camped out in the Croatian zone. Australia had enough offensive zone time to not merely camp out, but rather, build monolithic structures and create entire communities in this mis-matched affair.
You can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for Croatia. There comes a point when a match ceases being competitive and becomes, instead, an event – sparking giddy joy for one team and their fans, and harrowing memories for the other. However, give Australia credit. They didn’t let up at all; their scoring increased each period, and they didn’t allow a shot at all in the final frame; quite remarkable.
Australian Coach Stuart Philps added that “The girls stayed focused by focusing on the details of the game and made sure their execution was high.” Next up for Australia is Ukraine.
I really want to thank Women’s Sports Highlights for providing me with the video files of the highlights. If you love women’s hockey or any other women’s sports, give them a follow on Twitter, they cover a huge range of sporting competitions.
Also, a massive thanks to the wonderful photography of Mats Bekkevold who has allowed me to use his images in my articles. He is a huge women’s hockey supporter and is well worth a follow, click the links to follow him on Instagram and Flickr.
And finally, apologies for the delay in getting this article out, I was travelling back from a friend’s wedding in Queensland, had university assignments due, and another friend’s wedding yesterday. All things going well I should have the write-ups for Australia’s games against the Ukraine and New Zealand over the next couple of days.
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