By David Marshall
Great Britain’s Women’s u18s rounded off an incredible World Championship performance by beating the Netherlands to finish third and clinch the Bronze medal.
Team GB went into the final game on Sunday knowing that a win would be enough to see them finish in the medal positions. They did not disappoint as they secured their third win of the tournament with a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands.
The tournament got off to a tricky start at the beginning of the week when the Lionesses faced off against Poland and suffered a 2-1 defeat in Overtime.
Things didn’t get any easier from there when Britain’s next match was against eventual winners France. The Gold medalists just had too much for Team GB as they ran out 3-0 winners. However, there were promising signs from the match that this team were capable of achieving something in this tournament.
Team GB senior player Beth Scoon kept a close eye on the team over the tournament and spoke about the importance of sticking together after a disappointing start
Scoon said: “The game against France you’re going up against a very good team but even so you would feel a little bit disappointed by not scoring. Then in the game against Poland coming up a little bit short in overtime.
“However, it does say a lot about the team when you’ve lost a couple of games and you starting to feel sore to not let your head drop and keep going out there.”
Even so, there may not have been many outside of the team and head coach Cheryl Smith that thought they would stand much of a chance against pre-tournament favourites Norway. It would take a titanic performance to beat the favourites and that was what was produced from netminder Ella Howard.
The team managed to hold out through three periods and sixty minutes of pressure where Howard made an outstanding 48 saves to ensure the deadlock wouldn’t be broken and earn her side at least a point. Overtime saw the deadlock remain and the game was decided on a penalty shootout which Team GB prevailed in to earn a historic victory.
Although the camp was rightly jubilant after such a mammoth victory, focus had to return to the job at hand and the next game against China. The team could be forgiven if they were feeling somewhat tired and sluggish after their efforts against Norway and that may have been reflected in a first period that ended goalless.
However, the team rose to the occasion in the second period and Ellie Wakeling scored the only goal of the game to grab the win. Importantly, the win set up the chance to secure the bronze medal if they could beat the Netherlands in the final game.
For one last time, Team GB were required to rise themselves, dig into their energy reserves and pull off one last result that would see them walk away with a medal. A tense first period remained goalless, it was still all to play for.
The second period delivered the breakthrough. Britain took the lead after a goalmouth scramble, the puck was eventually turned into the net by Sophie Campbell. However, the game was not yet won and the teams were level again early in the third period when Esther de Jong equalised for the Netherlands.
Team GB needed to rise to the occasion and they did just that with two goals in two minutes that put them in the driving seat to secure third place. A powerful slap shot from Verity Lewis was to much for the Dutch netminder to handle and a stunning individual goal from Chloe Headland gave her side a comfortable two goal lead.
Headland got her second before a late consolation goal from the Netherlands but the game was already won by that point.
A fantastic achievement from the team, but attention will now turn to building on this success in the hope to develop the game and hopefully deliver further medals and tournament wins in the future.
On the development of the women’s game, Scoon said: “For me, I’m a little biased but I hope with these championships being in Dumfries it will encourage more people up here to get involved in the game because we are behind England a little bit in that case. But there was three Scottish girls in the team so that’s great.
“For Team GB as a whole, there are now a lot of the junior and u18 players playing more with the senior players domestically, which is great because often they don’t look out of place and more than hold their own. They probably do a lot more than players my age did at that stage and hopefully they will continue to develop and progress.”