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Goalie Grace Harrison almost pulled off a miracle for the New Zealand Ice Ferns in Auckland on Monday night.
New Zealand was beaten 2-1 in overtime by a talented Polish team filled with players who are used to playing in the high-powered European circuit.
''It's the best I've seen the Ice Ferns play. It could have come down to the flip of a coin,'' team general manager Jan Goulding told the Otago Daily Times yesterday. New Zealand led 1-0 at the end of the first period. Anjali Thakker scored after 16 minutes. There was no score in the second period and Poland equalised with a goal by Kamila Weiczorek in the third. It took four minutes of overtime before Poland won the game, when Weiczorek hit the back of the net a second time.
Harrison (15), a pupil at St Cuthbert's College in Auckland, was making her international debut for the Ice Ferns. Her goal was hammered by the fleet-footed Polish forwards but she never flinched and defended 44 of the 46 shots fired at it, earning the MVP title for the New Zealand team.
Harrison's most memorable save came in overtime when first line striker Sheree Haselmore, of Gore, gave away a penalty for tripping an opponent.
It is difficult for a goalie to stop a one-on-one charge but Harrison defended the crisp shot by Marta Bigos to keep the Ice Ferns in the game.
Harrison was the third-ranked goalkeeper after the first day of the week-long championship, after Hungary's Aniki Nemeth and Poland's Agata Kosinska, and the only New Zealander in the top three on the ranking list.
Coach Corey Down was pleased with the New Zealand performance.,''We have a young group and they started playing from the drop of the puck,'' he said.
''The supportive New Zealand crowd helped as well.''
He was pleased with Harrison's performance.
''She's the second-youngest in the team and the youngest goalie to start for New Zealand.''
Harrison was born on May 11, 1997 and is seven months older than Canterbury's Caitlin Heale, who was born on December 12 that year. They both made their international debuts against Poland.
The Polish players were skilled on skates and quick on the ice, and played in the European style that demands skill and teamwork, not the bash and crash that typifies ice hockey in North America and New Zealand.
''They were pretty quick,'' Down admitted.
''It was just a little mistake that let them win the game. We had a little lapse in concentration and it gave them the opportunity.''
The other players to enhance their reputations were the frontline trio of Renata Gottgtroy (Auckland) and Gore's Kirti Langford and Sheree Haslemore.
NZ v Poland
New Zealand 1