Bulldogs’ Abbie Culshaw hoping to land golden promotion with GB in Spain

GOING FOR GOLD: Abbie Culshaw, in action for Bradford earlier this season at Little Horton Lane. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

BRADFORD BULLDOGS’ forward Abbie Culshaw is hoping it will be third time lucky with Great Britain at the IIHF Women’s World Championships. 

Mike Clancy’s team got their campaign at the Division 2A tournament in Jaca, Spain off to a winning start with an 8-0 win over Chinese Taipei on Sunday.

They continue their quest for gold and the promotion that comes with it when they take on the hosts on Tuesday evening (7pm UK time). An encounter with Mexico follows on Thursday before GB wrap up their tournament against Lithuania on Friday.

It is 24-year-old Culshaw’s third world championships and, like all of her GB team-mates, the coronavirus pandemic means it will be her first since playing on home ice in Dumfries in 2019.

That tournament saw GB earn silver, a repeat of their second-placed finish the previous year in Slovenia. 

THE LAST TIME: Abbie Culshaw (No 6) celebrates scoring for GB against Slovenia in the last World Championships, held in Dumfries back in 2019. Picture courtesy of Ice Hockey UK.

But Culshaw, who also played in the Olympic Pre-Qualification tournament in Nottingham last November – when GB had to again settle for second-best when losing out to Korea on goal difference – is confident her latest experience of playing at the worlds will finally see GB end their wait for the golden moment they desperately seek.

“Since the Olympic Qualifiers, we’ve had some very productive training camps,” said Culshaw. “We wanted to take that momentum that we gathered from Nottingham forward into future international tournaments. 

“The team is looking good with a nice blend of youth and experience and, together as a group, we feel confident.

“The aim is definitely gold this year, we’ve just missed out on the past couple of tournaments with a silver, but we all feel like the team has come a long way since then, so we will definitely find it hard to settle for anything less.” 

Given the length of time since the last worlds, Culshaw says it is less obvious about where the main threats to GB’s hopes of gold will come from, although she suspects Latvia – relegated last time out – and hosts Spain to provide the stiffest opposition.

“Latvia have just come down from the division above, they seem like they are a really fast and physical team,” she explained. “Also With Spain being the host nation they will have the home crowd advantage but I’m hoping we can overcome that. I don’t think we should take anyone in the group lightly as it’s been that long since a tournament, it’s hard to tell where other teams are at.”

Outside of her GB experiences, Culshaw, from Blackburn, has kept busy on the ice by dividing her time between the Bulldogs in North Two (Laidler) and Whitley Bay in the Women’s NIHL Elite League, both leagues helping develop her game in time for her latest international outing.

“It’s not been a bad season with the Bulldogs, just missing out on the play-offs, while the women’s league is currently all still to play for,” she added.

SUPPORT: The guidance and backing from Bulldogs’ coaches Andy Brown (right) and Hannah Gibson (left) has been a big help, says Culshaw. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

“Bradford has helped massively and with Andy (Brown, head coach) and Hannah (Gibson, assistant coach) behind you and having faith in you, it’s always easier to concentrate on playing the game. 

“I feel I have made a contribution on the ice both defensively and offensively. It’s challenging playing men’s hockey as they are naturally faster and more physical, so I really have to push myself in order to keep up. 

“Although the women’s game at Elite level is fast, it is not as quick as the men’s game, with obvious physical differences. In the women’s game there is a little more time and a slightly different, physical side to the game. 

“This can allow you to develop other areas of your game such as skill and decision-making. It’s obviously more of a level playing field in terms of speed and physical attributes, so you would expect to have more of an impact.

“The speed of the men’s game, though, does stand you in good stead for International games.”