Black Sticks Ladies And The World Hockey League Finals - Pre-Tourny Hype



Argentina, the home of crying rugby players and hearty steaks also doubles as one of the best hockey-playing nations in the world. Argentina's ladies are ranked third in the world and they will play host to the ladies version of the World Hockey League Finals where our own Black Sticks ladies will be gunning to make their mark on the hockey world.

New Zealand hockey is in a purple patch with the ladies squad capable of competing and beating any team on their day, which is reflected in their 4th-place ranking in the world. Like their male counterparts, the ladies squad has a collection of young but experienced players who have developed quickly over the last three years or so, nailing a high-tempo style that has become a staple of Mark Hager's coaching.

The World Hockey League Finals is where the cream rises to the top. The three teams ranked ahead of the kiwis in the world are Netherlands, Australia and Argentina will all be in action in Rosario while Germany, Korea, Great Britain and China make up the rest of the teams competing; all eight teams are ranked in the top-10.

Loving the weather in Buenos Aires 🙌🏻. @nzblacksticks

A photo posted by Petrea Webster (@petreawebster_06) on

Without a few big names, or players who have been pillars of Black Sticks hockey for a number of years, some may view this as a weaker Black Sticks squad. Only goalie Sally Rutherford is over the age of 28, yet in true hockey fashion eight players have more than 100 caps to their name. This team will rely on the work of Anita Punt and Stacey Michelsen to offer an attacking threat with Punt's speed and Michelsen's ability to eliminate defenders up there with the best in the world.

Unlike previous versions of this group, Michelsen and Punt will have a variety of other attacking options at their disposal as well. What was once a very young attacking group now has plenty of experience with the likes of Sophie Cocks, Olivia Merry, Charlotte Harrison, Petrea Webster and Gemma Flynn likely to cause opposition defenders all sorts of problems. Flynn especially is a goal-scoring maestro and is coming off a National Hockey League where she led all goal-scorers with 10.

Rose Keddell and Sam Charlton add a hard-working dimension to the Black Sticks and they have a strong defensive core that will also make this team hard to break down. Liz Thompson was a standout player in the NHL and the 20 year old already has 86 caps to her name while Brooke Neal and Ella Gunson will offer plenty of support. 

While a gold medal is the objective of any team taking part in the World Hockey League Finals, the kiwis have a great chance to at the very least medal and there's every chance that they make the final. The start on Sunday against Korea which should give the Black Sticks a good opportunity to gain confidence and nail their plans in game one before they face Netherlands the following day. The finish their pool stage against Germany with Hager and his team likely to be eyeing up victories of Korea and Germany who are the two lowest ranked teams in Rosario, with a strong performance against the Dutch desired but not a must-have.

It all starts on Sunday though and while the way the Black Sticks go about their business will provide some intrigue, all that matters is beating Korea. They need to get their World Hockey League Final campaign off to a winning start and as this is one of the best Black Sticks squads named in recent memory, there's no reason why they won't.