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Great Britain made the perfect start to their Women’s World Championship Division 1 Group B tournament, beating Italy 1-0 in Riga. Jodie Alderson-Smith scored the goal, while Nicole Jackson made 44 saves for the shutout. It was GB’s first win over Italy since 2009 in Torre Pellice.

Mike Clancy welcomed five debutants into the squad – Jamie Endrizzi, Laura Horwood, Chloe Needham-Potts, Ellie Patrick and Lizzy Saunders – and they were presented with their caps in the dressing room before warmup.

The game started at a fast pace and never really slowed. Italy forced a save from Jackson in the opening 30 seconds but the GB goalie set her stall out early.

GB were on an early penalty kill as Aimee Headland sat for slashing but the special teams were on form, working hard to restrict the Italians to long range efforts and clearing when the chance came.

A scoreless first saw the shots even at 9-9, GB’s best chance came from Rachel Cartwright. Italy made the early going but GB came into the game more as the period progressed.

The middle period saw GB’s only powerplay chance of the game, Italy’s Aurora Abatangelo bringing down Casey Traill in centre ice with an illegal hit. Despite making the Italian goalie move there were no clear scoring opportunities.

Later in the period after GB killed two penalties of their own – Aimee Headland’s shorthanded breakaway the best chance – the deadlock was finally broken just over two minutes from the buzzer.

Laura Horwood, one of the debutants, picked up the puck on the near boards at halfway. Skating into the Italy zone a rinkwide pass found Katie Marsden, who centred to the blue paint where Jodie Alderson-Smith applied the finish to open the scoring at 37.55.

GB nearly made it two in the dying moments of the period, Katie Marsden again taking the puck from Horwood’s faceoff win and shaking off the defender but her shot just missed the right post and the period ended with GB 1-0 ahead.

While the shots in the final period were 17-8 in Italy’s favour, once again GB’s strong ‘defend as a unit’ mentality kept the Grade A chances to a minimum and when they doid get through Nicole Jackson was at her very best to keep the door firmly closed.

In GB style late drama saw an Italy powerplay inside the final four minutes and a spell with an extra attacker but GB’s blue wall held out and started the tournament in the best possible fashion.

Nicole Jackson was named GB’s player of the game.

After the game head coach Mike Clancy said: “The players were exceptional, sticking to our plans and systems and matching Italy in terms of physicality which we’d highlighted from previous games.

“This is the perfect start but we have to be ready to go again tomorrow.”

GB’s next game is against Poland on Monday, face off at 12.30 local time (10.30am UK time).

Women’s World Championship Division I Group B – Great Britain results & schedule 
Sunday 31st March: Great Britain v Italy – W 1-0 (Alderson-Smith 1+0, Marsden & Horwood 0+1; Jackson 44 saves)
Monday 1st April: Poland v Great Britain – 12:30 (10:30)
Wednesday 3rd April: Slovakia v Great Britain – 12:30 (10:30)
Friday 5th April: Slovenia v Great Britain – 16:00 (14:00)
Saturday 6th April: Great Britain v Latvia – 19:30 (17:30)

Photo credit: Karl Denham