Southern contingent key for NZ

Back row (from left): Rachel Park (head hoach), Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, Harriet Fuller, Jemma Read...
Back row (from left): Rachel Park (head hoach), Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, Harriet Fuller, Jemma Read, Krystie Woodyear-Smith, Ashley Richmond, Kirsten Gerken, Jeff Boehme (assistant coach). Middle row: Hannah Cross, Hope Gregory, Abbey Heale, Kathy Gaze (manager). Front row: Jaime Jones, Caitlin Orr, Danielle Strayer, Reagyn Shattock, Rikki-Lee McLean, Terryn Bruce, Rachel Neville-Lamb, Lochlyn Hyde. Absent: Grace Harrison, Caitlin Heale, Rebecca Lilly, Helen Murray, Hannah Shields. Photo: Supplied
The New Zealand women's ice hockey team's prospects rest to a large extent on the southern contingent.

The Ice Fernz will contest the International Ice Hockey Federation Division IIB tournament in Romania next month.

They are chasing gold and much of the work will be shouldered by players who honed their skills in Otago. Nine of the 22 players are based in the region.

Danielle Strayer (Queenstown) has shelved her goalie gear for the duration of the tournament and will play a key defensive role for Ice Fernz. This is Strayer's first appearance for the Ice Fernz, having recently been granted New Zealand citizenship.

''We have a really strong roster and some new players with great potential,'' Ice Fernz coach Rachel Park said.

''This year's rookies are very strong athletes. They're all solid. They bring a really strong dynamic to the team.

''A total of six players on the team are appearing for the Ice Fernz for the first time, of whom three - Hannah Cross, Rikki-Lee McLean and Danielle Strayer - hail from the southern region.

The other southern players are forwards Kirsten Gerken, Hope Gregory, Abbey Heale, Caitlin Heale and Caitlin Orr and defender Rebecca Lilly.

The Ice Fernz' opening game is against a well-prepared Chinese Taipei team on April 1.

At the 2018 tournament, the Ice Fernz finished a disappointing fourth.

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