2021-22 Game 3 – EV Bolzano Eagles vs KSV Neuberg Highlanders
(Approximately 8 minute read)
Olympic Pre-qualification Break
After our disappointing 0-2 start against the Kazakstani team, we went into a two week long Olympic Pre-qualification break. Ten of my new teammates and our Coach left to face off against Spain, Austria, and Kazakstan for a bid to the 2022 Beijing qualification round. They were successful and will continue to battle for an Olympic spot mid-November in Fussen, Germany. While they were gone, I made a trip to visit my family in Milan and ran practice for the remainder of the team. My first veteran Reggie Dunlop moment.
We also got the unfortunate news that Chelsea Furlani, a key player and leader for us, was out with a broken finger. This meant I would be playing center for the upcoming game and would complete my rotation through every possible position (besides goalie) in only my third game.
The girls returned in time for one practice together. It was, as one might expect, marked by poor focus and our coach took note. After several broken drills, he sent us to the line for sprints to send the message that we needed to get it together. This, combined with getting a little too excited to have gym access after not lifting for several weeks, had me struggling. My chronic hip problems returned with a fury. I even had to skip my planned Friday-on-the-farm for a full day of yoga and rolling.
By Saturday, I felt great, but it may have just been the game day excitement. The Neuberg Highlanders had made the trip from Austria to our home rink in Bolzano.
Surprisingly, the opening draw, maybe my first face-off ever, went alright. The puck spit out to Sammy Guis who sent it back to our D for a regroup. Unfortunately, the d-to-d pass was picked off by the forechecker. The Highlanders player rang a shot off the post and it bounced directly to the stick of a girl far side for an easy empty net tap in. 11 seconds in and we were scored on.
Shortly after, a harmless dump-in found it’s way into our net as the D tried to bat it down. Thankfully, the goal was called back for being off-sides, but the energy on the bench was heavy with dejection and our play on the ice looked how we felt.
We slowly started to regain some life when a penalty shot was called for a Highlander player covering the puck in the crease. Elena (Perry) Perathoner sold the fake well, but their goalie stabbed the puck away skillfully as Perry tried to pull the puck back cross-crease.
Despite two powerplays, we struggle to generate any offense and messy passes plagued nearly every shift. We headed into the locker-room for intermission with the score 1-0 and a group-wide frustration about the focus thus far.
The second period start was a case of maddening deja-vu. I got out battled on the opening draw and the puck was sent back to their defenseman. She passed to her d-partner and sent it up the right wall. A seemingly non-threatening 2 on 3, caught our defenders a little too deep and the shot from the high slot beat our goalie glove side. We made it only 15 seconds into the period. Through the next few minutes we continued to struggle to gain any momentum and had nearly no quality scoring chances.
After the Highlanders made it 3-0, coach told me I was trading spots with Valentina (Betta) Bettarini, and moving back to D. I was paired up with Laura Lobis, a 2006 birth year teenage phenom, who has already made appearances with the Italian Senior National Team. My first foray into playing center ended with a respectable face-off rate of 9 wins and 2 losses. I’ll chalk that up to beginners luck.
The hockey gods cut us some slack the rest of the period: An interference call put us down on the penalty kill. The Highlanders hit crossbar and nearly scored on a few rebound messes, but nothing went in. With five minutes to go in the second, Franziska (Kika) Stocker walked down the wall from the point. She held onto it through pressure, taking a heel-to-heel step as she rounded the net, before sniping near side. We were finally on the board! Our first goal of the season put the game at 3-1.
A few minutes later we set up for an o-zone face-off following an icing call. Our forwards lined up goal-front so when the puck went into the corner off the draw, I dropped down to pin their defenseman. Sammy Gius supported and came away with the puck. She attacked against four players to backhand roof it. This time I heard it. An eagle kaakaws when we score at home! What a beautiful sound. With the difference narrowed to 3-2, we started to feel hopeful on the bench.
In the third, with the urgency for another goal, coach moved Kika up to forward and we shortened the d-side of the bench to a four person rotation. Thankfully we were able to generate some momentum and we got a few offensive chances. After a weird pickup off a rim, I fed Lobis across the blue-line. She let off a killer one-timer through a screen but the goalie was able to glove it. We soon got another chance. Anna (Callo) Callovini moved the puck up the wall to Mara Da Rech for a quick release slap shot. Perry re-directed the shot five hole from blocker-side of the net. 3-3! Kaakaaaww!
With 8 minutes to play, their defensemen stepped up on our rushing forward, sending her spinning to the ice. We went onto the power play for a tripping call. At first we struggle to gain possession but after Kika made a nice mid-air keep-in at the blueline, we were able to settle down. Kika fired a point shot off my thigh (not a very effective tipping strategy by me) and after a battle the rebound squirted out to Betta on the point. I curled out to the glove side dot and Betta fed me with plenty of time to pick a corner. My first EWHL goal. Maybe the game winner!
As we came out of the celebratory hug the ref signaled for a crease violation. No goal.
With just over two minutes to play, the game remained tied at 3-3 and tense. After a nice entry from Callo, which created a 2 on 1 opportunity with Lobis, Kika was able to come through the crease and burry the rebound. I jumped like a spaz on the blue line. We did it! We came back to win!
A minute later, with a minute left in the game, a two on four rush, that didn’t look threatening, turned dangerous. Our back-checker and defenseman miscommunicated and the puck was pushed through our D’s feet, turning her around. From tight in the slot, their player pulled to her forehand and put it in far side. 4-4.
Overtime and Shootout
When the buzzer rang, I looked around for Furlani – “Whats the tie format?” I found out we would be going into 5 minutes of 3v3 overtime and if that didn’t settle it, a five-player shootout.
I started the OT with Sammy and Kika. But like the first shifts of each period, OT kicked off with the Highlanders getting several good chances. One early shot pinged off the far post, nearly ending the game. We countered with our own rush. Kika and I switched across the blue line and she ripped a rocket from the slot, but her shot flew wide. The rebound popped to Sammy who ran a cycle with me. I cut the seam and shot for a hole I saw blocker side. Unluckily (or unskillfully), I hit the shaft of the goalie’s stick. After a tense five minutes of back and forth chances, OT ended in a stalemate.
The nail-biter pace continued through the shootout. Their first shooter missed high and after she shot, coach unexpectedly signaled that I would be up first. As I skated out to the blueline, I was thinking about the goalie’s aggressive poke check during the penalty shot earlier in the game. I wondered if the move I planned was the right decision, but decided to go for it. Even though I didn’t sell the fake very well, my pull to my backhand had the goalie beat blocker side.
Instead of burying it into the wide open corner, I choked, and pitchforked my backhand high over the net.
The rest of the shooters continued, with one Highlander and Perry each scoring (Perry destroyed the sell on her fake shot and had all day to tap her backhand into the empty net). We were one-for-four each going into the final shooters.
After Dani saved the Highlander’s next attempt, and with the win on the line, Emily De Cristofaro, a fifteen year old player who got very few minutes during regulation time valiantly stepped up for a try at winning it all. She pulled forehand, then backhand, but sadly their goalie was there to make the pad save.
As we moved into the sudden death, extra shooter, round, Perry took the ice for a second attempt. She made another great move but her five hole shot wasn’t able to sneak through. The Highlander’s player returned with a good move that had upstairs dangerously exposed, but thankfully she missed wide.
This meant another round of shooters would be required and coach signaled to me. In disbelief, I wondered: I’m back up? I’m being trusted to go again after that disaster?
Before taking the ice, I asked Kika if I should try the same move or something different but she advised that I “go with my gut.” It was not the most reassuring advice for someone who struggles with IBS.
I exhaled a deep breath to calm my nerves and then took off with the whistle. As I moved laterally, I noticed the goalie was delayed in squaring up to me. I abandoned the move I planned and made the last second decision to shoot high glove side. Miraculously, it went in!
I was fired up but holding my breath – there were far too many “but, no” moments today. Thankfully, the Highlanders’ shooter tried a complicated move and fumbled the puck wide without even getting a shot off!
First win! What a comeback! What a relief!
Next Up: Bratislava
This week, we have three practices as a group. It will be a great opportunity to get us ready for an away series against HC SKP Bratislava and a rematch against the Highlanders this upcoming Saturday and Sunday.
Miscellaneous for the Stat-Curious
The Apple Watch my mom got me for my birthday this year has been fun for looking at workout statistics. A past-teammate recommended the Hockey Tracker app and this game was my first time trying it out. Although, I think there are definitely some inaccuracies, it was really interesting to see my heart rate spike with my nerves on the shootout attempts and to see that I covered over 2 miles during the course of the game.
It was also really nice to have functioning game tape and I’m grateful to Women’s Sports Replays (@womenssportsreplays) for creating clips of the game.
I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.