Month: January 2017 (page 3 of 4)

Terry scores shootout gold

By Andrew Podnieks

Troy Terry has done it again. He was the only scorer of ten shootout shooters tonight, giving the USA the gold medal in an incredible 5-4 win over Canada.

Just 24 hours ago, he scored three goals in a shootout to defeat Russia and advance to today’s championship game.

“Before the shootout, I was thinking about trying something different [than shooting between the legs],” Terry explained. “As I came down, I decided I just had to try to go five-hole.”

“I think it’s a Troy effect,” teammate Jack Roslovic enthused. “No matter what, you can cover it all you want, you can sit in the butterfly, he’ll find the five-hole.”

U.S. goalie Tyler Parsons stopped all five Canadian shooters, none of which came particularly close to scoring.

Canadian counterpart Carter Hart stopped four shots, allowing only Terry’s low shot between the pads.

For the Americans this marks their fourth U20 gold, following 2004, 2010, and 2013.

“It was a great atmosphere in the building,” Parsons said. “It gave me chills. It’s unbelievable to win this for your country.”

“Unbelievable,” said Colin White. “There’s no feeling like it. We came together as a team. Four weeks now we’ve been together, and to win a gold medal together is just great. The calmness we’ve had all tournament was huge. We were down yesterday, down twice today by two goals. We stayed calm on the bench and fought back.We always knew we had each other’s backs all tournament, and we came together so well as a team.”

Canada had an early lead of 2-0–and let it slip away–as well as a more critical 4-2 lead early in the third, but the Americans simply refused to give up or be intimidated by the pro-Canadian crowd.

There were countless scoring chances and giveaways forced by puck pressure, end-to-end action, and blinding speed. Canada outshot the U.S., 50-36, but in the end it was another nifty move by Terry that proved the difference.

“It was such an up-and-down game,” Terry said. “We were down two goals twice. I think when we were down 2-0 and came back to tie it we got some confidence because it sucked to go down two goals right away. But, we knew as a team that no matter how we played, we had the confidence to get back into the game.”

Kieffer Bellows, with his second of the game, and Colin White tied the game midway through the third, and despite incredible opportunities to score, the game went into a fourth and final period.

“The 23 of us, all the way from summer camp to Buffalo camp, we knew we had to come up huge,” said Bellows, the American-born son of longtime Canadian NHLer, Brian. “Our country needed us at this point with the hockey. Kids looking up to us, teenagers, older adults that love hockey so much were looking up to us. We came out on top, and hopefully the country’s proud of us.”

The 20-minute, five-on-five overtime was breath-taking and heart-stopping, Canada dominating but both teams having several glorious chances to win. Indeed, the Canadians had the only power play, called because of a too-many-men penalty to the U.S., but it couldn’t put the puck in.

The Fates seemed to will the puck out of the net, believing a shootout was needed to decide this incredible contest of speed, skill, strength, and determination.

Canada’s defenceman Thomas Chabot, named tournament MVP, played a staggering 43:53 in defeat.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done in this tournament,” he explained, “but it’s so hard to lose this game. I put everything I could into representing my country as well as I could and help the team win. I may have got the MVP, but I’m heartbroken. It’s very difficult right now.”

The game was played before a crowd of 20,173, just shy of the single-game mark set in Ottawa in 2009 between Canada and Sweden (20,380).

Emotions were high and the tension thick as the final game of the 2017 World Junior Championship started. The Americans had defeated Canada soundly, 3-1, just six days earlier, but now the gold medal was on the line.

Both teams had developed and matured over the last two weeks, and with everything on the line players gave it their all, and more.

The game started at a feverish pitch, and the raucous Bell Centre crowd was as loud as it’s been this year for the juniors. But just as the Canadians seemed nervous and tentative on New Year’s Eve, tonight it was the Americans who seemed rattled by circumstance, the intensity, and the relentless puck pressure from Canada.

Canada took control early and maintained high energy throughout the period, getting the puck deep and forcing the U.S. defencemen to turn and skate back to make a play.

The opening goal came at 4:38 off the rush. Matt Barzal made a nice pass to Mathieu Joseph, going to the net. Joseph couldn’t handle the puck but it came to defenceman Chabot who buried the puck as Parsons was playing Joseph to shoot.

Canada made it 2-0 at 9:02 thanks to a scramble in the U.S. slot. Adam Fox made an ill-advised swat at the puck with his glove, and it came right to Jeremy Lauzon who waited patiently before ripping a shot to the stick side of a screened Parsons.

Two goals, two defencemen, two French-Canadians. 2-0.

The Americans had a chance to get back into it with a power play, but they would up incurring a minor of their own halfway through to nullify the chance. 

To start the second, though, the U.S. came out with purpose and turned the tables on Canada, getting the puck deep, forechecking effectively, and putting Canada on its heels.

The reward came just 3:04 into the period when Jordan Greenway made a nice pass from the left-wing boards to defenceman Charlie McAvoy, the trailer on the play. He had plenty of time to take aim and drill a shot over Hart’s glove to cut the lead in half.

The crowd responded with tremendous support, and the Canadian players got their legs going, coming right back at their opponents. This wave was scuttled by a too-many-men penalty, though, and that cost Canada dearly.

A point shot from Fox drifted to the goal and hit Bellows on the way in at 9:30. Tie game.

The Canadians continued to skate and drew two late power plays, but some over-passing on their part and good defence by the Americans kept it a 2-2 game.

A third power play early in the third gave Canada a chance it didn’t pass up. Nicolas Roy ripped a shot over Parsons’ shoulder at 1:52, and at 4:05 they made it 4-2 when Mathieu Joseph raced past Casey Fitzgerald at the U.S. blue line and made a great deke on Parsons.

But the resilient Americans did not go queitly to defeat. Just 38 seconds later McAvoy fed Bellows in the slot, and his quick shot fooled Hart to make it 4-3.

They weren’t done yet.

Fox made a sensational pass to Colin White to the side of Hart, and White’s perfect deflection at 7:07 found the back of the net. Four goals in just over five minutes and the game was tied again, much to the shock of the Bell Centre fans.

“I saw [Fox] get the puck up there,” White described. “I was behind the net, and I knew if I stayed on that low post he’d get it to me. It was a great play by him, and I was lucky enough to tip that in.”

That set the stage for a wild finish that will go down in history as one of the greatest junior games ever played.

Thomas Chabot, a 19-year-old defenceman who plays for the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs and appeared in one NHL game this season with the Ottawa Senators, was also voted to the tournament All-Star Team, and was named Best Defenceman by the tournament directorate. He scored Canada’s opening goal and added an assist in the final against the United States.

Chabot led all defencemen in tournament scoring with 10 points (4+6), and led the World Juniors in ice time, averaging 26:14 per game.

The U.S. and Russia both placed two players on the tournament all-star team. Russian captain Kirill Kaprizov, who led the World Juniors with nine goals, was named Best Forward and an all-star. 

Individual Awards (selected by the directorate)

Best Goalkeeper: Felix Sandstrom, Sweden
Best Defenceman: Thomas Chabot, Canada
Best Forward: Kirill Kaprizov, Russia

Most Valuable Player (selected by the media)

Thomas Chabot, Canada

All-Star Team (selected by the media)

GK: Ilya Samsonov, Russia
DE: Thomas Chabot, Canada
DE: Charlie McAvoy, United States
FW: Kirill Kaprizov, Russia
FW: Alexander Nylander, Sweden
FW: Clayton Keller, United States

Bronze goes to Russia

By Lucas Aykroyd

Russia edged Sweden 2-1 in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game on Thursday. Denis Guryanov scored the overtime winner at 0:33.

The goal came from a miscue. Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, one of two 2000-born players in this tournament, attempted to feed the puck back to scoring leader Alexander Nylander, who couldn’t control it. Guryanov jumped on the puck and surprised everyone with a quick backhander that slid past Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom.

It’s Russia’s seventh straight World Junior medal. The streak includes gold (2011), silver (2012, 2015, 2016), and bronze (2013, 2014, 2017).

“I’m proud to keep this streak going for Russian hockey,” said captain Kirill Kaprizov.

Guryanov stepped up in the playoffs. The 19-year-old forward from the AHL’s Texas Stars also scored two third-period goals in the 4-3 semi-final loss to the United States, and put two pucks in the net during the shootout finale.

“It’s just amazing to win a medal, especially in the Bell Centre, my home rink,” said defenceman Mikhail Sergyachov, who played three games for the Montreal Canadiens at age 18 this season. “It’s special. Our goalie Ilya Samsonov was amazing. He’s an NHLer, for sure.”

It’s the third straight year with no medals for Sweden, which also finished fourth in 2015 and 2016. They settled for silver in 2013 and 2014.

“We had a lot of chances to put the game away early,” said Rasmus Asplund. “We played well but we made too many mistakes.”

The last Swedish gold – the first and only one since 1981 – came in 2012 under coach Roger Ronnberg, with Mika Zibanejad scoring the 1-0 overtime winner versus Russia in Calgary. That was also the only other time Sweden and Russia have squared off in a medal game since the IIHF instituted the playoff system in 1996.

Kaprizov said: “Our players were completely exhausted last night after losing — physically and emotionally — but we battled to the very end. We knew a bronze medal is still a medal to be proud of.”

In regulation, Jonathan Dahlen scored for Sweden, and Kirill Kaprizov tallied for Russia. Sweden outshot Russia 39-36, and Samsonov saved his best tournament performance for last.

“He came up big for them,” said Swedish captain Joel Eriksson Ek. “We needed to maybe get in front and get some tips, get some rebounds. And we weren’t able to do that today.”

Samsonov, a 2015 first-round pick of the Washington Capitals, barred the door in the scoreless first period, where the Russians took three minors. Sweden, despite outshooting their opponents 15-3, couldn’t break through.

Kaprizov drew first blood just 16 seconds into the middle frame. Showing great determination, he cut to the net and flubbed his first attempt, but got the puck away from Dahlin to bang it past Sandstrom.

Kaprizov’s goal – his tournament-leading ninth – tied him for the second-highest number of goals in one World Juniors by any player in the post-Soviet era (after 1991). Sweden’s Markus Naslund set the all-time record with 13 goals in 1993, while Russia’s Pavel Bure had 12 in 1991. Max Friberg, another Swede, scored nine goals in 2012.

About five minutes later, Samsonov was briefly shaken up when Eriksson Ek collided with Carl Grundstrom going to the net, pushing his teammate into the Russian goalie. But Samsonov got up and kept on trucking.

Sweden tied it halfway through the second period on a Russian mistake. Assistant captain Yegor Rykov got the puck right in front of his net, but fluffed his pass, enabling Dahlen to whack it past a surprised Samsonov for his fifth of these World Juniors.

“I saw that he was holding the puck unusually long in that situation, so I tried to pressure him,” said Dahlen. “Then I saw he made the pass really quickly and I just tried to get it in the net because the goalie was not ready. It was a lucky play, but it was in the back of the net.”

Russia failed to click with its two second-period power plays.

Dahlen got a breakaway with under six minutes left, but Samsonov stoned him on the initial shot and the follow-up. The Russian goalie strained himself while kicking out his right leg to foil a late-period Swedish chance. But again, he soldiered on. Fredrik Karlstrom came close just before the second buzzer, putting one off the crossbar.

Chances for both sides abounded in the third period. Asplund sent a lovely pass to Karlstrom on a 2-on-1 rush, but Samsonov came across to foil him. Guryanov waltzed down right wing and rang one off Sandstrom’s left post. Nylander and Grundstrom barely failed to click on a pretty give-and-go.

“We won the first two practice games before the tournament and the five first games in the tournament,” said Dahlen. “We won seven out of nine games but we’re standing here without a medal. Something was wrong. It’s a huge disappointment.”

Both teams will hope for better results at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo. That American border city was the site of Russia’s last gold medal seven years ago.

Sapporo 2017 Attracts 26 Ice Hockey Teams for Men’s and Women’s Events

By Around The Rings

The Sapporo Asian Winter Games Organizing Committee (SAWGOC) today announced details of the ice hockey tournament for the Olympic Council of Asia’s 8th Asian Winter Games next month.

A total of 20 men’s teams will play in three separate divisions: Top Division (4 teams), Division I (6 teams) and Division II (10 teams).
All six of the women’s teams will play in the same tournament.

The grouping of each tournament is based on positions in the 2016 IIHF men’s and women’s world rankings, or in the 2016 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia ranking.

The tournament formats are as follows:

・ Men’s Top Division: A single round robin by four teams

・ Men’s Division I: A single round robin by six teams.

・ Men’s Division II: After a Preliminary Round in Group A and Group B (5 teams in each group), the two group runners-up will play off for third place. The winners of the two preliminary round groups will play in the final for the overall top position in Division II. The 5th to 10th places in the final ranking will be determined based on results in the Preliminary Round in accordance with the IIHF Sport Regulations.

・ Women’s Tournament: A single round robin by six teams.

Based on the above-mentioned formats, the pairings of the games in the respective tournaments have been finalised in accordance with the IIHF Sport Regulations.

Men’s Top Division (4 teams, at Tsukisamu Gymnasium): Kazakhstan, Japan, Korea, China.

Men’s Division 1 (6 teams, at Mikaho Gymnasium): Hong Kong-China, United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Singapore.

Men’s Division II (10 teams, at Hoshioki Ice Skating Rink): Group A – Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, *Independent Olympic Athletes, Philippines, Bahrain. Group B – Malaysia, Macau-China, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Iran.

*The Independent Olympic Athletes will be representing Kuwait Olympic Committee, which is suspended by the International Olympic Committee.

Women’s Tournament (6 teams, at Tsukisamu Gymnasium): Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Korea, Hong Kong-China, Thailand.

The ice hockey tournament will begin on February 18 – one day before the Opening Ceremony of the 8th Asian Winter Games at Sapporo Dome.

There will be free admission for all games in Men’s Division II.

The OCA’s 8th Asian Winter Games will run from February 19-26 at Sapporo, with the speed skating at Obihiro. There will be five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events.

Ice Hockey Schedule Here

Fired up Canada wins

By Andrew Podnieks

Canada rallied from a shaky start and deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to defeat Sweden, 5-2.

The win earns the hosts a spot in tomorrow night’s gold-medal game with arch-rivals United States.

Julien Gauthier had two goals for Canada while Anthony Cirelli and Dylan Strome each had a goal and an assist.

“We had a game plan and we stuck to it: getting in on the forecheck, playing physical, not giving them too much time to move, because they’re a skilled team,” Cirelli said.

“We just played harder,” Gauthier added. “We’ve done a lot of things differently. I think we have better chemistry between all the guys, and that’s why we’re here.”

Goalie Carter Hart was perfect in relief of Connor Ingram who struggled and was replaced after giving up two early goals on three shots. 

Canada outshot the Swedes 43-31 in a hard-hitting, sometimes chippy game that was the most emotional both sides have played all tournament.

“We had a great start,” said coach Tomas Monten, “but we had several chances for a third goal and didn’t get it. Our speed and skill weren’t good enough to get away from their forecheck.”

“We played Canadian hockey tonight,” offered coach Dominique Ducharme. “We used our speed to take away their space and time, and we played a physical game.”

Fans were treated to a wild first period punctuated by several great scoring chances, four goals, one goalie change, and plenty of big-time hits.

The Swedes opened the scoring at 6:05 when captain Joel Eriksson Ek beat Ingram with a long shot. It was the kind of shot a goalie must stop every time.

Less than two minutes later, though, the fired-up Canadians tied the game thanks to some nice work by Cirelli. He got a loose puck behind the net and tried a wraparound. Goalie Felix Sandstrom blocked the shot but the puck bounced over defenceman Gabriel Carlsson’s stick and Mitchell Stephens banged it in.

We weren’t done yet. Carl Grundstrom came in on goal on a partial breakaway and fanned on his shot, but it still dribbled through Ingram’s pads. Coach Ducharme had no choice but to insert Hart.

Hart was perfect the rest of the period, but the Swedes missed the net on some nice chances or drilled a few other good chances into Hart’s body for easy saves. Nonetheless, it was a steadying influence.

Cirelli tied the game at 18:49 when his hard shot beat Sandstrom over the shoulder, another goal that had a bit of an odour to it.

The tide began to turn midway through the second period. Quickly Canada upped the tempo and the Swedes couldn’t respond. Then wave after wave of Canadians forechecked, attacked, created scoring chances.

Cirelli rang a shot off the crossbar, and moments later Canada finally got the well-deserved go-ahead goal. Gauthier jammed a puck in at 12:02, and Canada continued its attack.

Sandstrom deserves full credit for keeping the score close. He made two unbelievable saves off Tyson Jost on the back side, first with a pad, then with the glove.

Sweden’s only decent chance came late when Hart flubbed a shot that trickled to the goal line.

“It was a rolling puck, so I went to catch it, and it bounced out of my glove,” Hart said. “I saw it pop up, and I reached back and got my glove on it. Luckily it didn’t go in.”

Captain Dylan Strome made it 4-2 at 7:38 of the third while teams were four-on-four. His screen shot fooled Sandstrom.

Gauthier closed out the scoring with an empty netter with 1:58 remaining.

Americans going for gold

By Lucas Aykroyd

Troy Terry scored three shootout goals to give the U.S. a 4-3 semi-final win over Russia. It’s the first U.S. playoff win over Russia in World Junior history.

In the best-of-five shootout, which had 14 shots in total, Terry’s hat trick feat equalled that of Jonathan Toews in the 2007 semi-final when Canada beat the United States 2-1.

“He has great skill, great hands,” U.S. defenceman Charlie McAvoy said of Terry, who plays for the University of Denver. “He’s got ice in his veins, and he proved that tonight.”

The Americans will face the winner of Sweden-Canada in Thursday’s gold medal game at the Bell Centre, while Russia goes for bronze.

“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” said U.S. scoring leader Clayton Keller. “It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable to get the win and go for the gold medal tomorrow.

This was one of the most exciting games of the 2017 World Juniors, a fitting showdown between these two old adversaries in Montreal.

In regulation, Colin White scored twice and captain Luke Kunin added a single for the Americans. Keller had two assists. For Russia, Denis Guryanov scored twice and Kirill Kaprizov had the other goal. Guryanov also put two pucks in during the shootout.

Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov let in a couple of shaky goals, but like his U.S. counterpart Tyler Parsons, he was excellent overall. Shots on goal favored the U.S. 44-36.

“Obviously it’s super-tough,” Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergyachov said of losing. “We wanted to win that game. We did everything we could to win. We lost in the shootout. I just want to say thanks to the boys for a great effort.”

The Americans, who earned bronze last year, are seeking their first World Junior gold since beating Sweden in the 2013 final. The previous two U.S. titles came in 2004 and 2010. The Russians, who haven’t won gold since 2011, will look to take their seventh straight World Junior medal.

For the U.S., it was a wonderful end to a longstanding jinx. Russia defeated the U.S. 5-3 in the 2014 quarter-finals, 3-2 in the 2015 quarter-finals, and 2-1 in the 2016 semi-finals.

“It’s unbelievable, especially to do it in that fashion,” Keller said.

The game unfolded with a high tempo and few whistles. True to form, the Americans had the edge in overall play, but the Russians were opportunistic. Both teams’ leaders came to play.

Kaprizov scored his tournament-leading eighth goal at 11:54 to open the scoring. Behind the net, the Russian captain grabbed the puck, exploded between Terry and Joe Cecconi, and caught Parsons looking the wrong way as he completed the wrap-around. In the KHL, Kaprizov plays for Ufa, the site of the 2013 World Juniors, where the U.S. won its last gold medal.

With 55 seconds left in the first, Keller fired a bad-angle shot from the corner that bounced off White and past a surprised Samsonov. Keller was named MVP at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in April when the Americans won bronze.

“He put it off my butt there,” said White. “I was a little bit lucky there.”

At 1:17 of the second period, Russia jumped into a 2-1 lead. Parsons kicked out Vadim Kudako’s drive from the top of the left faceoff circle, but Guryanov was there to bang in the rebound.

The U.S. got the game’s first power play at 4:52 when Danil Yurtaikin cross-checked U.S. defenceman Adam Fox from behind into the boards, but the acrobatic Samsonov kept them at bay.

At the other end, Kaprizov came within a heartbeat of scoring again on a goalmouth chance, and Alexander Polunin knocked Parsons’ helmet off when the U.S. starter stretched to block the rebound. There was a long delay while trainers checked Parsons out, but he carried on.

“He’s a great goaltender,” Keller said of Parsons. “He’s hard to score on in practice. He’s chill back there. He’s not nervous. He’s not going to let them score an easy one.”

At 10:23, the U.S. tied it up on a great play with their second man advantage. Kunin went hard to the net to tip Jordan Greenway’s feed past Samsonov’s left pad.

White gave the Americans a 3-2 lead with his sixth goal of the tournament at 16:21. His shot from the left faceoff circle tipped off Sergyachov and fluttered past Samsonov’s blocker side.

In the third period, Sergei Zborovski hauled down the fleet-footed Keller on a partial breakaway at 5:14, and a penalty shot was awarded. Keller approached slowly, and Samsonov made a great slove save on his high backhand attempt.

Just 50 seconds later, Guryanov got loose on a breakaway and went to the forehand to slip the disc through Parsons’s legs. A wild celebration broke out at the Russian bench.

In the 4-on-4 overtime, exciting chances abounded at both ends. In particular, Samsonov dazzled when Joey Anderson hit the crossbar, followed up by a close-range save on Caleb Jones, and a stunning grab when Anderson tried to slide it in.

“It was a super-fast and emotional game,” said Sergyachov. “A lot of penalties for us. Our goalie made some crazy saves. Our forwards played their best game in the tournament. We executed well. We made some mistakes in the D zone.”

Of the shootout, Keller said: “When I was watching, they’d score, and then when I wasn’t watching, we’d get the save or whatever. So I thought I’d just not watch the last couple of shooters and it worked out.”

America’s long wait for this first playoff win makes it that much more satisfying.

Singapore’s ice hockey players pay a high price in order to grow sport

By Nigel Chin – Yahoo Singapore

For 15 years since it was founded in 2001, the Singapore Ice Hockey Association (SIHA) has not enjoyed much recognition. But that may change this year, if SIHA has their way.

For the first time ever, the Singapore national men’s ice hockey team is slated to participate in two additional competitions –  the Asian Winter Games (AWG) in Sapporo, Japan, in February, and the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August.

The team usually competes at the yearly International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia, which will be held in Kuwait this March. 

UN-ranked in the IIHF world rankings, the team is not expected to clinch a podium finish. Still, they are looking to spring a surprise or two, said captain Michael Loh.

Loh, 41, has been part of the national team since it was formed in 2008 and has 20 years of playing experience. While he acknowledged that Singapore is still behind its peers in the sport, he feels that the gap is closing.

In the AWG, Singapore is grouped in Division I, the second tier behind the Top Division which consists of top ranked countries in Asia. Only the United Arab Emirates is ranked in Division 1, which also consists of Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia and Thailand.

“All these countries, we’ve played them before,” Loh said. “Our margin of defeats over the years go by, it’s getting smaller. All I can say is that for every game, we will do our best to spring a surprise.”

His thoughts were echoed by Ryan Tan, the youngest member of the team at 17.

“I recognize that there are definitely challenges, but I find that there [is] no fear. We just have to skate harder, play harder, be smarter and work better together as a team,” the Raffles Institution student said.

“If we can do that, I don’t see why we cannot take on the stronger opponents.”

Captain Michael Loh is the oldest player in the national team at age 41.

Preparation for the upcoming tournaments is proving to be challenging though.

There is only one ice rink – The Rink at JCube – available for training and friendly matches. 

Players have to share time on the ice with not just the public, but also two other sports – figure skating and short track speed skating.

The team also pays for rink rental fees out of its own pocket. It costs up to $1,250 per hour to rent the rink at a prime time slot, and $520 per hour after 10pm.

In order to save costs, the players train regularly into midnight five to six times a week, sacrificing sleep time. It is not an easy task, given that most hold full-time jobs, or are still studying.

“We are doing as much as we can,” SIHA president Alphonsus Joseph told Yahoo Singapore. “It’s always hard to find ice time and we can only do it at indecent hours.

“It has become normal… Next day, everyone has to go to work, but it’s just part of the sacrifice for being in the national team.”

An opportunity to grow the sport

SIHA views 2017 as the best opportunity to bring awareness and grow the sport in Singapore. 

The association is also hoping that their participation in more tournaments this year will attract more sponsors and donors. 

Currently, it operates with a yearly budget of about $750,000 according to Joseph. About $700,000 is spent on expenses for ‘ice time’ and a bulk of this cost is funded by the players. Only $15,000 to $20,000 is spent on the national team program.

World Juniors Semi-Finals Preview

By Jeff Langridge – The Hockey Writers

Sweden vs. Canada

Quarter-Final Results: Sweden- 8-3 over Slovakia; Canada- 5-3 over Czech Republic

Sweden has been the best team in this tournament since the beginning. They have only trailed for 15:41 of the WJC and that was oddly enough against Finland. That domination continued in the quarters as they absolutely demolished Slovakia.

By the 13:07 mark of the second period, it was already 5-0 Sweden. They did receive a bit of a scare as the Slovaks managed to score three straight goals to make it 5-3. That was all Slovakia could muster as Sweden went on to score another three goals to ease into a 8-3 victory.

Canada looked good in the preliminary round all the way up to New Year’s Eve when they faced the US. Their offense was shut down almost perfectly and the 3-1 loss resulted in them finishing in second in Group B. They did, however, get an opponent that they had dominated in the pre-tournament in the Czech Republic because of that loss.

The Czechs put up a bit more of a fight in this one, though. They scored the first goal and even when they started trailing, they kept it close for pretty much the rest of the game. It was not enough though as Canada would move on to the semi-finals with the 5-3 victory.

Canada is going to have their work to cut out for them if they want to get to the Gold Medal game. After last year’s disappointing finish, Sweden is not an opponent you want to be facing until the final. This should be a very close game, possibly the best of the tournament.

USA vs. Russia

Quarter-Final Results: USA- 3-2 victory over Switzerland; Russia: 4-0 Denmark

We have a age-old rivalry in this match-up as the USA takes on Russia. This will be the second match-up between these two teams in this tournament as the Americans beat Russia 3-2 on December 29.

The US dominated against Latvia and Slovakia but locked it down defensively against Russia and Canada. Knowing that they have already won twice against strong opponents should give them a confidence boost for this game. However, they did just scrape by the Swiss as Nico Hischier single-handedly brought his team back from 2-0 down to tie the game. Unfortunately for the Swiss, they took a bad penalty just after tie the game and Jordan Greenway quickly took advantage and made it 3-2.

The Russians had largely underachieved throughout the tournament, losing to both Canada and the US. They did probably get the easiest opponent in the quarters however as Denmark surprised a lot of people. That run ended against the Russians as they were completely outclassed as Russia cruised to the 4-0 victory.

Russia might have been underachieving, but Kirill Kaprizov has been one of the best players in this tournament. The Russians will need him and his line to be on top of their game to stand a chance against the US.

Finns finish off Latvia

By Lucas Aykroyd

Finland booked its ticket to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, New York with a 4-1 relegation win over Latvia in Game Two on Tuesday night.

The Finns won Game One of the best-of-three series 2-1 at the Bell Centre on Monday.

Assistant captain Villi Saarijarvi got the third-period winner for Finland and added an assist. Juuso Valimaki scored twice, and Eeli Tolvanen chipped in a goal and an assist, while Aapeli Rasanen had two helpers.

“We were finally able to score,” said Finnish captain Olli Juolevi about the third period. “After we scored the first goal, they were probably a little bit frustrated after that and they took those bad penalties there. That helped us to secure the win. Still, it was not a good game, but that’s not the big thing right now. The big thing is we finished the series 2-0 and we are finally off.”

Renards Krastenbergs replied for Latvia.

Finnish goalie Veini Vehvilainen won his final duel with Latvia’s Mareks Mitens. Shots favoured Finland 42-23 in this choppy, penalty-ridden affair, and they had three power-play goals.

The Finns finish ninth, their worst placement in any IIHF competition since 1955. Last-place Latvia is demoted to the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A.

“We’ll be back,” said Krastenbergs. “We’ll go [to Division I] next year, we’ll win, and we’ll come back better.”

The placement was a major disappointment for Finland after winning gold on home ice in Helsinki last year. The Finnish federation’s decision to fire coach Jukka Rautakorpi and replace him with Jussi Ahokas mid-tournament was unexpected. But it worked out as well as it could under the circumstances.

Ahokas led Finland to 2016 U18 gold in Grand Forks, North Dakota in April. Rautakorpi had seen declining results at his previous three World Juniors, finishing fifth in 1999, sixth in 2008, and seventh in 2009.

Offensively cursed, the Finns totalled just 12 goals in six games. It was their second-worst World Junior output ever. In 2015, also in Montreal, they had eight goals in five games.

“There was pretty much zero confidence after those first three games,” Juolevi said of losing to the Czechs, Danes, and Swedes. “It was tough. But we stayed together and we believed we had to be patient and we could score those goals, especially in the last two games. It was not easy when you can’t score that many goals.”

Latvia, which has 13 roster members playing in North America this season, was participating in its sixth elite World Junior Championship. Only twice in history have the Baltic underdogs avoided relegation (2009, 2012).

Finland drew first blood. On an early 5-on-3, Tolvanen cruised into the high slot and winged one under the crossbar at 1:31.

The Latvians hung tough and tied it up on their second man advantage with 3:37 left in the first period. Krastenbergs dued up a wrister from the faceoff circle that zipped through Vehvilainen. It was the Oshawa Generals forward’s third goal of the tournament.

Finnish defenceman Jesper Mattila went off with an apparent lower-body injury less than a minute later after Rihards Puide caught him with a knee on the forecheck. However, Mattila would return to the game.

“It’s been a tough ride for us,” said Mattila.

The Finns struggled to put their Baltic rivals away. With under six minutes to play in the middle frame, Latvia got a two-man advantage for 1:38, but Vehvilainen held down the fort.

Ahokas’s troops couldn’t capitalize with their subsequent power play before the second buzzer. Julius Nattinen had the best late chance, ringing one off the post.

Finally, at 1:28 of the third, Saarijarvi hammered a power play one-timer from the centre point to put Finland up 2-1. Mitens battled to stem the rising Finnish tide, but couldn’t prevent Valimaki from whacking in a loose puck for a 3-1 lead just over a minute later.

The Latvians didn’t give up, but their zeal only stalled their momentum. Martins Dzierkals was penalized for going hard to the net and bowling over Vehvilainen. Tempers flared late when Latvia’s Valters Apfelbaums crushed Urho Vaakanainen with a high hit in the Finnish end.

It was a rough ending all around. Kristian Vesalainen skated off gingerly after taking a puck in the head area in front of the goal during the game-closing Finnish power play. Valimaki rounded out the scoring for Finland on a 5-on-3 with 2:34 left.

“We wanted to get two wins from these games and we got two wins,” said Valimaki. “That’s all that matters.”

The three best players of the tournament were named for each team. For Latvia, it was Mareks Mitens, Karlis Cukste, and Martins Dzierkals. For Finland, it was Veini Vehvilainen, Villi Saarijarvi, and Aapeli Rasanen.

“It’s our first year here,” said Krastenbergs. “The other teams are more confident and have better players. They’re bigger countries with bigger opportunities.”

Besides 2016, the Finns have three previous World Junior gold medals (1987, 1998, 2014). With nine players eligible to return for Buffalo, they will aspire to better things next year.

South Korea to stage Euro Ice Hockey Challenge event for first time

South Korea will play host to one of four Euro Ice Hockey Challenge (EIHC) tournaments next month in preparation for the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, it has been announced.

The competition, where the host nation will be joined by Hungary, Denmark and Japan, is scheduled for February 6 to 12.

It will be held in the Goyang in Gyeonggi Province, northwest of Seoul, and represents the first time the country has ever played host to an EIHC tournament.

The event will see the four teams compete in a round-robin format.

The EIHC is a series of friendly competitions which are staged during international breaks set by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

They are held each September, November, December and February.

Austria, Poland and The Netherlands have been chosen to hold the other three EIHC tournaments in Feburary.

South Korea, ranked at number 23 in the world, claimed a shock win at the last EIHC event in Budapest in Hungary in November.

The Asian side overcame the hosts 3-2 in the final to earn their first EIHC triumph.

Their previous best result came when they finished second in 2014.

The 2017 Asian Winter Games in the Japanese city, which staged the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, are due to take place from February 19 to 26.

South Korea have never won an ice hockey gold medal at the Asian Winter Games and they will be hoping the EIHC will allow them to fine-tune their preparations for the event in Sapporo.

The country will also be making their debut appearance at the Winter Olympics on home ice at Pyeongchang 2018 as they qualified by virtue of being the host nation.

Canada to face Sweden in SF

By Lucas Aykroyd

Julien Gauthier scored twice in the third period to lift Canada to a 5-3 quarter-final win over the Czech Republic and set up a showdown with unbeaten Sweden.

It wasn’t a picture-perfect performance for the hosts, but it was a big relief to make the final four.

“In the first period we were panicking a little bit, but in the end I think it’s a big win for us,” said Gauthier, whose squad trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes despite an 11-4 edge in shots.

Canada, with five returning players from last year’s 6-5 quarter-final loss to eventual champion Finland, was hungry to avoid a second consecutive disappointment. The Canadians, who last won gold in Toronto in 2015, also failed to medal in 2013 and 2014.

“It’s obviously better than last year,” said captain Dylan Strome. “It feels good to be on the winning side of the quarter-finals. Obviously you’re not satisfied yet, but I think it’s a good step.”

The last time Canada faced Sweden in the World Junior playoffs was the 2009 gold medal game in Ottawa, a 5-1 Canadian victory. Sweden won the last two meetings, 6-5 in a shootout on 31 December, 2010, and 5-2 on 31 December, 2015.

“They’re a good team, and we’re going to have to be aware on all sides of the puck,” Strome said of the Swedes. “In the offensive zone, they can attack just as quickly as we can.”

Mitchell Stephens, who missed two games after injuring his ankle versus Latvia, was a force in the quarter-final with a goal and two assists. Blake Speers and Thomas Chabot added a goal and assist apiece, and Anthony Cirelli had two assists.

“I think we can still be better,” said Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme. “We were good at times but we need to be better over 60 minutes.”

David Kase, Tomas Soustal, and Simon Stransky scored for the Czechs.

“If we play Canada ten times we can maybe beat them once or twice,” said Czech coach Jakub Petr.

Connor Ingram, who was originally projected to back up Carter Hart at this tournament, made his second straight start in net for Canada. The 19-year-old Kamloops Blazers goalie did enough to preserve the win. Canada outshot the Czechs 41-19, testing Czech netminder Jakub Skarek from every angle.

With the loss, the Czech Republic finishes sixth. It hasn’t won gold since back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. Its last medal was bronze in 2005 — also the last time it made the semi-finals.

Stransky reflected on the tournament: “We started pretty good against Finland. We won that game. I thought it was going to be good. But then we lost two games against Switzerland and Denmark in overtime. Then Sweden. The key game was against Denmark. It was just unlucky, but we’re going home now.”

Prior to this game, Canada had won eight of the last nine games against the Czechs. The Czechs, however, won the previous encounter, 5-4 in a shootout on 28 December, 2013.

Defenceman Kale Clague replaced Philippe Myers on Canada’s top pairing with Chabot. Myers suffered a concussion in the 3-1 New Year’s Eve loss to the Americans.

The game got off to a relatively cautious start. Canada was outshooting the Czechs 8-1 when defenceman Noah Juulsen took the game’s first penalty for delay of game midway through the first, putting the puck over the glass in his own end. However, Petr’s team didn’t get a shot on goal during the man advantage.

With 3:11 left in the first, the Czechs stunned the Bell Centre faithful by taking a 1-0 lead on a flukey play. Captain Filip Hronek’s shot from the side bounced off Adam Musil in front and then hit the referee standing to Ingram’s right. Kase pounced on the loose puck and golfed it into the open side.

“I’ve never seen one go straight to a guy,” said Ingram. “I’ve seen it go off a linesman for a breakaway or a 2-on-1 or something like that. But I’ve never seen it cause an open net like that before. That’s something new. It’s going to happen once in a blue moon, I guess.”

Canada tied it up at 3:45 of the second period when Stephens centered it from the corner to an unguarded Speers, who redirected it through Skarek’s legs for his first World Junior goal.

That got the home team and fans fired up, and Stephens made it 2-1 Canada on a set play at 7:27. Anthony Cirelli won a faceoff in the Czech end and the Saginaw Spirit forward one-timed it in before Skarek could move.

Of Stephens, Chabot said: “He’s a guy who’s always working his ass off on the ice. He’s always first on pucks, winning every battle. He’s also a good, fast player. We’re glad to have him back in the lineup.”

However, the Czechs drew even on their first shot of the middle frame at 8:53. Soustal got the puck past Jake Bean at the Czech blue line, burst down right wing and executed a toe drag around a sprawling Juulsen before zinging it past Ingram’s glove.

At 13:32, Chabot made it 3-2. He took a pass from Stephens and stepped in, stickhandling around a sprawling Radek Koblizek before whipping home a low stick-side wrister.

“He’s a fun guy to watch,” said Ingram of Chabot, who played one game for the Ottawa Senators this season. “He’s making himself a household name across Canada right now. It’s exciting to see. The guy’s got a ton of skill.”

At 3:18 of the third period, Gauthier, a 2015 first-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, gave Canada some breathing room at 4-2. Nicolas Roy centered it to Gauthier from behind the net and he surprised Skarek with a quick top-corner shot.

The Czechs had an answer at 5:54. Ingram made a pad save on Necas’s turn-around shot, but Stransky deftly backhanded the rebound in. But Gauthier restored Canada’s two-goal edge just 43 seconds later, banging in the rebound from Clague’s long shot.

“Especially in the second and third, we were hemming them in their D zone,” said Stephens. “We had a lot of energy.”

In the final minute, Petr pulled his goalie and called his timeout, but it was too late for a Czech comeback. The three best Czech players of the tournament were named post-game: Filip Hronek, Michael Spacek, and David Kase.

Canada has won the World Juniors five out of the 11 times it has hosted (1991, 1995, 2006, 2009, 2015).

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