Six young Queenstown women played a key role in an historic World Cup ice hockey win in Bulgaria this week.

Gracie Hellmrich, Lucy Boniface, Aoife Orr, Polly Bennetts, Inge Kemp and Jessie Strain, all of whom play for the Wakatipu Wild women’s ice hockey team, were part of the New Zealand under-18 women’s team competing for the second year in the IIHF Division 2, Group B tournament in Sofia.

While last year they made history by winning a game (ultimately winning two), and finishing fourth of the five teams, this year they doubled down, winning the tournament.

The U18 women’s team now moves up to Division 2, Group A.

It’s just the 10th time a Kiwi ice hockey team’s picked up a gold medal, the first time a NZ women’s ice hockey team’s won a gold medal in about 14 years, and just the second time the country’s had back-to-back gold medal-winning teams, following the U18 men’s win in South Africa last year.

Polly, 15, a forward, was a joint-leading scorer at the tourney, with 12 points, while Aoife led the defencewomen on scoring.

Fresh off their flight home at Queenstown Airport yesterday, Polly tells Mountain Scene the win was ‘‘just insane’’.

Golden girls: Queensotwn members of the gold medal-winning New Zealand under-18 women’s ice hockey team at Queenstown Airport yesterday are, from left, Jessie Strain, 16, Inge Kemp, 17, Lucy Boniface, 16, Polly Bennetts, 15, and Aoife Orr, 16 — absent is captain Gracie Hellmrich

‘‘I never would have thought this would have happened, especially after coming fourth last year; it’s crazy.’’

Assistant captain Lucy, 16, says the final game — against Bulgaria — was nerve-racking.

After ending the first period 1-0 up, the home country scored on the Kiwis twice.

‘‘We kind of went goal-for-goal for a little bit, and then there was three minutes to go, we were tied 2-all and they scored.

‘‘We stressed out [and] chucked pretty much everyone out there.’’

Pulling their goalie enabled them to have six players on the ice, going, quite literally, for gold.

Polly: ‘‘They rimmed the puck — I don’t know why you’d do that on an open net — but we got lucky and got a goal.

‘‘I was on the ice when the buzzer went — I literally just chucked my stuff and just went flying to the goalie, came out and dropped to my knees.

‘‘It was just insane.’’

Wild coach Colin McIntosh is bursting with pride for his young charges, noting every one had an impact.

‘‘I wasn’t really surprised, because they’ve been playing meaningful minutes for the Wild for the past two full seasons, [but] I’m definitely extremely proud to see them succeed, and especially get a gold medal.

‘‘It’s unreal.’’

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