2022-2023 Games 3 and 4 – EV Bolzano Eagles vs Aisulu Almaty; Game 5 – vs Salzburg Eagles
(Approximately 5 min. read).
The Eagles’ early success in the European Women’s Hockey League (EWHL) has extended into our second week of play. In our second series, we faced Aisulu Almaty, from Kazakstan, followed by a game against the Salzburg Eagles. With a split against Aisulu and a dominant win against Salzburg, we’ve held the top of the early-season standings.
Game 3 – Aisulu in Austria
In the first game of the home/away split with Aisulu we traveled to Radenthein, Austria where the team centralizes for the length of the EWHL season. Unfortunately, our bus arrived several hours earlier than expected and we were left with an awkward window of time to prepare. This was reflected in the start of the game, when we were pushed back on our heals with an Aisulu goal two minutes into the start.
We fought back hard and were rewarded about 12 minutes in when I shoveled a rebound across the crease to Mia Campo Batagin (11:47), where she securely put away the back-door goal. The start of the second period was much more favorable. In the first shift, Manuela Heidenberger scored (20:51) off an assist from Marissa Massaro. Five minutes later, Aisulu once again tied the game.
With five penalties against Aisulu in the first period and five against Bolzano in the second, the game was a test of endurance and special teams. The shots reflected the difference. While we dominated the shots in the first at 7:14, the second and third proved to be a different story and we were forced to rely heavily on the talents of our young goalie, Ilaria Girardi.
Early in the third, Elenora Bonafini roofed a goal (42:28) from an improbable angle just outside the crease giving us the lead. Yet, the star of the third was our goaltender with 13 saves. With her performance, we held onto the 3-2 lead for a win (1:1, 1:1, 0:1; shots 31:27).
Game 4 – Aisulu at Home
The following Wednesday, we played a rematch in Bolzano. With girls rushing to the rink from school and work, I had a feeling we were in for a tough game. Instead, we started strongly both in effort and pace.
However, Aisulu was successfully playing the trap against us and we struggled to cleanly break out of our defensive zone. Towards the end of the first, their forecheck found success when an errant breakout pass was collected by their defenseman and thrown back on net. With the unexpected transition from breakout to defense, I lost my player out of the corner and she was able to tip in the goal unimpeded.
We continued to battle back but struggled to put meaningful shots up against their goaltending. And some days, bounces just don’t go the way you hope they would. The second goal for Aisulu was definitely emblematic of that. On a two versus two rush, our defenseman successfully intercepted the Aisulu pass, yet it managed to bounce exactly to the stick of their other player, who despite being covered somehow managed to send the puck bouncing into the far side of the net.
The first shift of the third period, Aisulu put away their final goal, claiming a 3-0 win (0:1, 0:1, 0:1) despite the shots being 24:9 in Bolzano’s favor.
Game 5 – Salzburg in Salzburg
The Wednesday loss to Aisulu was demoralizing. I personally felt I hadn’t stepped up to the challenge but upon watching the game video back, I saw a lot of positives and was hopeful the game against Salzburg would be more successful. We once again rode the bus to Austria, this time slightly farther, to the city of Red Bull.
In Salzburg, we were missing quite a few of our key players: Captain Mara Da Rech, Mia Campo Bagatin, Samantha Gius, and Elisa Innocenti were all home sick. But it proved not to be an issue as other players stepped up to the fill the gaps.
While the first was scoreless, the ice was tipped in our favor. We outshot the home team 10:17 and most of their shots were from outside of the key scoring zones.
Early in the second, that momentum broke the flood gates and Amie Varano scored low five-hole (24:44). A few minutes later, Marissa Massaro put up her first EWHL goal (29:59) in the Bolzano jersey. By the end of the second, we headed into the locker room with a 4-0 lead and a 6:17 shot advantage through the period.
Early in the third an errant bounce allowed Salzburg on the board, but we quickly continued our offensive assault with a beautiful solo-effort goal from Perathoner (47:47). On a rush, she made a move through the defensemen’s stick and a second net front move with a backhand that found the crossbar and the back of the net. The final score was 6-1 (0:0, 0:4, 1:2).
We have a small break from EWHL games for the next two weekends and in the meantime we will face our first three opponents of the Italian Championship (IWHL). On October 22, we head back to Austria to face the Kärnten Lakers of the EWHL.
I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.