Month: January 2018 (page 1 of 4)

Pyeongchang Olympics the next stop for hockey wanderer from Washington suburbs

Barry Svrluga – Washington Post

Maybe it makes sense that the path to the Olympics from the decidedly temperate, Mid-Atlantic locale of Vienna, Va., in the decidedly frigid sport of ice hockey wasn’t a straight line. Maybe it makes sense that for Garrett Roe to become a center on the U.S. Olympic hockey team that his meandering road had to be from the Washington suburbs to Minnesota to Indiana back to Minnesota to Upstate New York to Austria and Germany, Sweden and, currently, Switzerland.

“I really think it’s mind-blowing,” said Garrett’s father, Larry, an integral figure in the development of youth hockey in suburban Washington.

Garrett Roe isn’t an NHL player, and the NHL is sitting out the Olympics for the first time since 1994. But to be clear, Garrett Roe has devoted his life to hockey, and his status as a journeyman pro in Europe doesn’t mean he’s not a deserving Olympian. He will turn 30 before the Games are over. Most American hockey fans will see him play for the first time at the upcoming PyeongChang Games. And yet . . .

“I don’t expect this year, when I’m 29, to be my best year,” Roe said. “I think my game’s trending great right now. I expect to have a long career.”

Roe said this by phone from the apartment he shares with his wife — also a Vienna native — in Zug, Switzerland, a town of roughly 30,000 people less than 25 miles south of Zurich . There, he is in his first season playing for EV Zug, for whom he has recorded 34 assists and 45 points in 39 games, numbers that place him second and fourth, respectively, in Switzerland’s National League.

Roe is in Europe both by choice and by necessity. His first season with Zug follows an initial foray with Salzburg, Austria, in 2013-14, then a season with Munich in the German league, then two years with Linkoping in southern Sweden. These could seem like hockey outposts, physically thousands of miles from the NHL, seemingly even further from the spotlight. But when the world’s best league couldn’t reach a deal to return its players to the Olympics, national federations had to turn to every corner of the globe where their countrymen were playing to field teams for South Korea. And in Zug, USA Hockey found a talented forward drinking in the world.

“I think it’s been one of the best things I could’ve done,” Roe said. “I’ve lived in a couple of different countries and had a great experience in every place. I’ve met new people, been able to experience different cultures. My wife and I, you kind of immerse yourself in the European lifestyle and culture. You learn things you wouldn’t learn somewhere else.”

That, too, could be said about the entirety of Roe’s career. He has learned things he wouldn’t learn somewhere else.

‘Innate tenacity’

When Garrett was growing up as the youngest of three boys in Vienna, he had a typical athletic mentorship. His older brothers both played hockey. His father took up coaching. He followed them to the rink. That he grew hooked isn’t all that surprising. That he was talented perhaps was.

“He was very good at that age because of his speed,” said Red Gendron, a hockey lifer who has coached in college, in juniors, in the minors and in the NHL. “But mostly, he’s a very tenacious, extraordinarily competitive player. He had speed and skill, but his competitive spirit and his innate tenacity is what was able to put him over the top.”

Gendron is now the coach at the University of Maine, but back then he ran hockey camps. Larry Roe had helped found the Reston Raiders hockey program back when rinks were hard to come by in suburban Washington. Fairfax County isn’t exactly Toronto or Boston. The ponds don’t freeze regularly enough. Hockey can be a tough ask.

But when Roe and others helped start the Raiders in 1993, they found a latent yearning for hockey. The first day of registration, 100 kids signed up. By the second or third year, parents were sleeping out on a Friday night in July so they could be assured of one of the limited spots in the growing club when sign-ups opened Saturday morning.

“Larry Roe,” Gendron said, “is one of those guys who has done a lot of good things for a lot of kids.”

This environment, it produced an Olympian — but not on its own. As Garrett grew, he also became an exceptional soccer player, one gifted enough that he was in a national pool of 30 players for U.S. Soccer’s under-15 team. All this athletic potential was coming to a head.

“He was probably a little bit better in soccer than he was in hockey,” Larry Roe said. “But he basically said, ‘I love soccer. But my passion is hockey.’ ”

His passion, then, took him to a place not typical for kids who go to Wolftrap Elementary and Kilmer Middle School. He went to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn.

“I absolutely fell in love with the place,” Roe said.

For an aspiring hockey player, what’s not to like? One of his classmates was Kyle Okposo, a forward who’s now in his 11th year in the NHL. On the prep team, just ahead of Roe, was none other than Sidney Crosby. Jonathan Toews, a future Chicago Blackhawks star, arrived the following year. The father of 13-year NHL veteran Zach Parise helped with Roe’s transition.

“It’s just a hockey factory,” Roe said. “I really can’t say enough good things about that place.”

‘Different path’

And yet he left early. Back then, Gendron — who had gotten to know the Roes through youth hockey and the USA Hockey system — had taken over a junior franchise in Indianapolis, the Indiana Ice of the U.S. Hockey League . And he wanted Garrett Roe to play for him, even though in his first season of 2004-05, Roe was only 16, and the USHL allows players as old as 20.

“Sometimes players, when they’re overmatched physically, will back down a little bit,” Gendron said. “He took an awful lot of punishment as a young player, but he hung in there to make plays. He’s a tough cat.”

And then came something of a crossroads: As Roe headed into his second season in Adirondack, the NHL prepared to lock out its players in a labor dispute. The Flyers, like most clubs, sent many of their prospects who straddled the AHL and NHL levels back to the minors. Roe, slated to be the top-line center, was bumped back in the lineup. When the lockout ended in January, Roe moved back up. But then he hurt his shoulder. All around, the year was kind of lousy, and he became a bit disillusioned.

“It left a bad taste in my mouth,” Roe said.

The following summer came the offer to play in Austria. Even though some NHL clubs said they were interested, this was guaranteed money. “A bird in hand,” Larry Roe said. So Garrett jumped across the Atlantic. Five years later, he thinks about it still.

“I always tell people: I don’t regret it, because I’m happy with how things have gone in my life,” Roe said. “But at the same time, if I could do it over again, I’d probably try to take another shot at it at home. I’m a big believer in betting on yourself and believing in yourself. In that case, I don’t think I bet on myself.

“It wasn’t like, ‘Screw this. I’m over it.’ But it was like, ‘You know what? Let’s see if there’s a different path.’ ”

That path has now led somewhere new. In the week after Christmas, Roe received a voice mail from Jim Johannson, the general manager of USA Hockey who died unexpectedly Jan. 21. Johannson’s message was simple and calm: Call me. When they spoke, the message was equally simple and calm: Congratulations on becoming an Olympian. Now let’s go to work.

So the kid who used to drive around the Beltway to Capital Centre to watch Peter Bondra and his Capitals go to work, the one who now lists Caps center Nicklas Backstrom as his favorite NHL player — now he will go to South Korea to try to win a gold for his country. What a path.

“It didn’t become real until the day it happened,” Roe said. “Now who knows where it’ll lead?”

 

From pond hockey to Pyeongchang, Stellarton celebrates Olympian Blayre Turnbull

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By Paul Palmeter – CBC News

There’s a new fever spreading over the town of Stellarton. Let’s call it the Blayre Turnbull syndrome.

The Nova Scotia town of 4,200 is firmly behind their new Olympic idol.

“We’ve only had one other Olympian, that was Leslie (Babe) Mason in boxing back in the 1950s,” said Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray. “So to see her achieve this in 2018 is very significant for our town.”

Turnbull and Jillian Saulnier of Halifax have become the first two Nova Scotians to be named to the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team.

Turnbull, 24, grew up with hockey all around her and took her first skating strides on a pond near her home. A sign on that pond now reads “Congrats Blayre: From the Pond to Pyeongchang.”

Turnbull, who plays forward, and her teammates flew to South Korea last week to go through their final preparations for the Games.

Meanwhile, back at her old elementary school in Stellarton, students and staff have been working on a video they will be sending to their now famous alumnus.

“We were trying to find some ways to show how proud we were of her accomplishment,” said G.R. Saunders Elementary School principal Fraser Green. “Also, we wanted to give her a little motivation to let her know that not only the town of Stellarton, but the entire school and province are all behind her.”

In minor hockey, Turnbull skated on boys teams. Every other year she would play on the same team as her younger brother Brent, now a forward with the St. Francis Xavier University hockey team.

There are many girls’ hockey teams in Nova Scotia, and many of the players idolize Turnbull and Saulnier.

The Fundy Highland Pee Wee Selects got to meet Turnbull when they played in a tournament in Calgary hosted by Canadian hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser.

“We were fortunate enough to be in the gold medal game and Blayre actually came down to our bench just before the game and started to talk to the girls,” said Selects coach Craig Clarke. “She watched the entire game and came out on the ice with them after they won.”

Turnbull stood with the team for a picture she later posted on her Instagram account.

When she was the same age as those girls it was becoming obvious she had a lot of talent and potential. Throw in a lot of desire, too.

Her father had coached her on most of her minor hockey teams and as a family they decided she would go away to a prep school in Faribault, Minn.

That school, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, is best known for producing two NHL stars from Nova Scotia, Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon.

Turnbull attended the school at the same time as MacKinnon and won two national championships in her two years with the team.

That paved the way for a full athletic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, where she had four outstanding seasons. Suddenly, she was on the radar of Hockey Canada.

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On the ice Turnbull was finding success at every level. But off the ice she had some very tough things to deal with.

When she was 13 her parents split up and when she was 15 her mother, Margie, died of cancer. It was less than a year later that she left Nova Scotia to go to school in Minnesota.

“She showed incredible strength through that, as did her brother,” said her father, Ron Turnbull. “They both went through a lot at that stage, but they both persevered and have gone on to do very well.”

Blayre Turnbull hopes to win a gold medal in South Korea in her mother’s memory.

Her best friend is USA goalie Alex Rigsby. They bonded when they played together at Wisconsin. Turnbull is helping Rigsby deal with her own mother’s fight against cancer.

In two weeks, those two best friends could be on the ice battling against each other for a gold medal.

Native daughter ready to wow hometown fans in Olympic women’s hockey

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By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News

When golfer Jack Nicklaus won the Masters in 1965, the great Bobby Jones said, “He plays a game with which I am not familiar.”

On the South Korean women’s ice hockey team, players say forward Park Jong-ah plays a game with which they are not familiar, such is the level of her skills. And South Korea, ranked 22nd, will need every bit of her scoring touch at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, where it will face three top-10 nations: No. 5 Sweden, No. 6 Switzerland and No. 9 Japan.

The 21-year-old has been an instrumental figure in South Korea’s improbable transformation from a perennial doormat to an emerging force. No one has scored more momentous goals for South Korea over the past year than Park.

It was Park who netted the game winner in the thrilling, 3-2 shoot-out victory over China at last year’s Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. China had defeated South Korea 10-0 and 20-0 at two previous Asian Winter Games, and Park finally put South Korea over the top with her goal.

During regulation, Park had scored an equalizer that made it 1-1. South Korea fell just short of a bronze medal in Sapporo, but it was still the country’s best finish at the regional competition.

In April last year, at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship Division II Group A tournament, Park put South Korea on her back and carried the team to the title with a 5-0 record. It earned South Korea a spot in the next level of the IIHF championship, Division I Group B, for 2018.

South Korea scored 21 goals, and Park had her hand on 10 of them, with four goals and six assists. With those 10 points, Park ranked first on her team and second in the tournament.

Last July, South Korea hosted world No. 5 Sweden for two friendly matches. South Korea lost both games, by 3-0 and then by 4-1, and it was none other than Park who netted the team’s lone goal, on a third-period breakaway.

Suffice it to say, South Korea’s offense will only go as far as Park carries it. At 21, Park is far from a seasoned veteran herself, but will likely play alongside a pair of highly-promising teenagers on the team’s top line — a 16-year-old winger Kim Hee-won and a 17-year-old center Grace Lee.

In this file photo, taken July 29, 2017, Park Jong-ah of South Korea (C) celebrates her goal against Sweden during the teams' friendly game at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)

Park Jong-ah of South Korea (C) celebrates her goal against Sweden
during the teams
‘ friendly game at Gangneung Hockey Centre in
Gangneung, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)

Park will also be a huge crowd favorite during the Olympics. All hockey games will be played in Gangneung, a sub-host city of all ice sports during the Olympics, and Park is a Gangneung native. Whenever she played in the city, be it during the IIHF world championships or friendlies against Sweden, fans held up a huge sign, “Park Jong-ah, Proud Daughter of Gangneung.”

Park and the rest of her team ran into an unexpected hurdle before the Olympics, with the formation of a joint Korean team, with 12 North Koreans having been added to the 23-player South Korean roster.

Of those 35 players, only 22 can dress for games during the Olympics — 20 skaters and two goaltenders — and at least three North Koreans must be inserted into the lineup.

The two squads have been practicing together since the start of this week, and it’s not clear which three North Koreans will emerge come the Olympics. But one thing is clear: Park is in no danger of losing her spot and she’ll be counted on for significant offensive production.

“I’d love to score in every game,” she said in an interview last fall. “I’ll try to help the team take the bronze medal.”

Korea Olympic Roster

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

THE MEN’S ROSTER

For the first time ever Korea will play on the Olympic stage with men’s and women’s ice hockey teams. The 25-man roster for the 2018 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament is now set.

The team in PyeongChang 2018 will look similar to the one that historically earned promotion to the top division of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship last spring by surprising the world at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Ukraine where it left countries like Kazakhstan, Hungary and Poland behind.

All players will join from Korea’s three Asia League teams Anyang Halla, High1 and Daemyung as well as from Sangmu and will be led by two Korean-born former NHLers, head coach Jim Paek and assistant coach Richard Park.

With the bigger roster size than last spring in Ukraine several more players will be on the team including Brock Radunske and Mike Testwuide, who missed out on the last tournament, but also two players who have never played an IIHF event with the men’s senior national team before, defenceman Hyung Gon Cho and forward Jung Woo Jeon, with 23 years one of the youngest player on an otherwise experience squad. Only 22-year-old defenceman Yeongjun Seo is younger.

34-year-old Radunske is the oldest player on the roster. Kisung Kim has been the longest with the national team having represented the Korean men’s national team in 13 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship tournaments, Woosang Park played in 11.

Seven players on the roster have their roots in North America but have become Korean citizens after playing for Asia League teams from the country for several years. Goaltender Matt Dalton, defencemen Alex Plante, Eric Regan and Bryan Young, and forwards Brock Radunske and Michael Swift are originally from Canada, forward Mike Testwuide from the Untied States. Radunske, nicknamed “Canadian Big Beauty”, spent most time in Korea having joined his club Anyang Halla in 2008.

The team in PyeongChang 2018 will be the strongest line-up ever and also includes the team’s best scorers from the recent World Championship Division I including Jin Hui Ahn, who had two goals and five points in five games, Kisung Kim (3+1=4), Sangwook Kim (1+3=4) and Swift (1+3=4). Swift is currently also the scoring leader of the Asia League with 14 goals and 42 points.

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THE WOMEN’S ROSTER

Athletes from the north and south of the Korean peninsula will walk under the unification flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games not for the first time. But for the first time ever in Olympic history athletes from the two Korea’s will compete together as a team in an Olympic event at the 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament.

To make this ambition with a short preparation time come true, 12 players from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (commonly known as “North Korea”) crossed on Thursday the normally closed border to join the 23 players of the Republic of Korea (“South Korea”) earlier than other athletes from the north and form a unified team.

According to the agreement between the two countries and the IOC and IIHF for this ambitious project, 22 players will be selected for each of the games from the exceptionally big tournament roster and at least three North Koreans will play in each game.

Ten months earlier at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A at the Olympic ice arenas in Gangneung, the two countries competed in the same division that served as a test event. Just crossing the border to compete was already historic considering that the inner-Korean border forms one of the biggest political divides. But after the game the two teams came together for a historic joint team photo to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April 2017. It was much more important for the 5,800 fans in attendance than the result – the southern team edged their northern rivals 3-0.

It was also thanks to that gesture that the idea of a joint team was born when the governments of the two Korea’s discussed sending North Korean athletes to the Olympics in the south. And eventually came to an agreement with about four weeks left.

The roster includes all 23 South Korean players who have already been preparing for the Olympics and have been together in a similar line-up for the past two years. That includes players like Do Hee Han, who was named the best goaltender of the tournament last year, or the scoring leader of that team, captain Jongah Park.

The team improved during the last years by becoming centralized and being joined by Koreans who have learned their hockey abroad. Six players have two citizenship and for them the 2018 Olympics means discovering their Korean roots. One of the interesting story lines is Yoonjung Park, who recovered her Korean citizenship. She was born in Korea and adopted by an American family. In the U.S. she is better known under the name Melissa Brandt and her (non-Korean) sister Hannah Brandt will be competing at the tournament as well, but for Team USA.

Last Thursday one goaltender, four defenders and seven forwards crossed the inner-Korean border to join their new colleagues in one of the most confidence-building measures between the two Koreas that are formally still in a state of ceasefire since the end of the Korean War in the 1950s. Also a coach, Chol Ho Pak, crossed the border and will join the team staff of the unified team that will compete under the unification flag and with a separate abbreviation (COR).

The 12 players were all on the team that came to Gangneung last April in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A, just that this time they will compete together on one team and with the Korean peninsula on the jersey. Among them are the top-two forward lines including two players who made the top-20 scoring list at the event, Su Hyong Jong and Un Hyang Kim. Most of them have competed for the DPR Korea national team for many years and they are aged between 21 and 28. The 28-year-old is Ok Jin, who on Sunday got her birthday cake in South Korea and represented DPR Korea in six IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship events.

The very youngest and oldest players on the unified team come from the south. Heewon Kim is just 16 and one of eight millennial’s on the team. Soojin Han is 30 and has represented the Republic of Korea in eight IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship events and two Asian Winter Games.

Sarah Murray from Canada will serve as the head coach of this historic team. The daughter of former NHL, Team Canada head coach and IIHF Hall of Fame member Andy Murray came to Korea in 2014 to improve the national team program and prepare the players for the Olympics. She will have plenty of players to choose from, which will be a challenge at the same time.

It’s 35 players who will compete in Group B against Sweden, Switzerland and Japan but who are also ambassadors of a historic sport and peace project in the not always easy relations between the two Korea’s.

Israel Wins U20 Division III

By Ivan Tchechankov – IIHF.com

Two days before the end of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III the winner was determined. In the first game of the fourth competition day Israel beat closest rival Iceland 6-2 and secured the first place in the tournament and promotion for the next’s year Division II Group B. In the previous games the Israeli hockey talents defeated China 3-2, host Bulgaria 4-3 and Australia 7-2.

After a rest day on Saturday the round robin tournament will finish on Sunday when Israel plays New Zealand, a team who is certain to finish in last place with no points so far and goals difference of 11-35.

It was a historic day for Israeli ice hockey as the U20 national team won its first IIHF U20 event in its fourth participation. The debut was in 1997 and the next two were in 2016 and 2017 with a 4th and 5th-place finish. Israel has played in 14 IIHF U18 Championships since 2001, but has just one first place in the Division III Group B in 2013. There are no players from this winning team on the current U20 roster, but 5 years ago there was one American, Derek Eisler, on the team’s officials list as “team staff”. Since 2015 he is the head coach of all Israeli teams (Men, U20, U18) in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program with one exception – the U18 team last year. After the deciding victory against Australia, Eisler was happy to share his feelings with IIHF.com.

Congratulations for the great tournament! You’re the champions, how does this sound to you? Your team surprised many here in the Winter Palace.

Yeah, when you look at the schedule, the last game is China-Australia. This was supposed to be the final for the gold and silver medals. For us though, this was a motivation to make a run at China. We got the late power play goal to beat them and the next day the momentum was with us to prevail over the tough Bulgarian team. So at that point we thought we are doing pretty good here and our confidence went even higher.

Did you expect such results in Sofia or are you one of the surprised people here?

I expected that our team will be in the hunt for the medals – silver or bronze. As a head coach I had this scenario with two wins and one defeat after the first three games. I thought that we can play very well against Australia and Bulgaria, but maybe to concede to China. So my expectations were exceeded for sure.

Where are the secrets for this success? In this division some small details can make big difference.

If you look at that team, the difference is that we have many pieces to solve the puzzle. We have great goaltending, solid defence and good forwards. We have more kids that are playing overseas in North America. They are coming older and playing there on a pretty good junior level hockey. There are players from teams in Sweden and Austria. So conditionally we have our best overall roster and we also were really concentrated to be a team and to make sure to explore this team intelligence that we have been talking about. We also found the right defencemen for the power play unit and players that are ready to block shots and be solid penalty killers. We have some guys from the Israeli league who are taking their roles as contributors on the other lines, so we brought a well-rounded team here for the championships.

As a coach you want to induce the team work, but are there any players that you want to point out for their efforts in the tournament?

Our two goalies were really, really good. Without those two guys we wouldn’t be here. Raz [Werner] did a great job against China and today it was Yehonatan’s [Reisinger] turn to make big saves. So they both raised to the occasion and played that level they are supposed to. And without good quality goaltending you can’t win gold medals. I have the luxury to alternate good goalies every game. The last two years Raz was the best goalie in the U18 Division III Group A and U20 Division III Championships. Yehonatan won silver medal last year with the U18 team and was also voted as the best goaltender.

It seems that if Israel wants to develop hockey, it can be done easily with all the connections that the country has in Russia and North America. Do you see this trend coming in the future?

I see big trend coming for Israel hockey. I think with the success this U20 team just had here, the kids back home are watching it, everybody in Israel is seeing this. There are more and more projects for ice rinks and there will be more people playing hockey. So I think just the sheer volume of interest will go up. The economics is there, the connections are there, everything is in place. Now it’s just a matter of people willing to put a time and effort in growing hockey in the country and to use these connections wisely and build it up.

The silver and bronze medals were up for grabs on Sunday at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia after Israel had secured the top spot and promotion on Friday (see story and interview).

Four teams had chances to finish in the top-three. Iceland was ahead in this race with seven points before the last game day, followed by China and Bulgaria with 6 and Australia with 5.

In the first scheduled game Israel completed its perfect record (5 wins/5 games) with a 5-0 blanking of New Zealand, which finished last with zero points. Mark Revniaga, the captain of the Israeli team, scored two goals and finished the tournament with the most goals (11) and points (15). He was selected as the best forward by the directorate of the championship. Mark, whose father was assistant coach for the Israeli team in Sofia, is playing for New York Apple Core in Brewster. Raz Werner, a goaltender for the Grastorps IK in the Swedish U20 Elite, had the only shutout in the whole event after making 26 save and finished the competition with a 2.00 GAA and a 93.41% save percentage.

“We brought a well-rounded team that had all the pieces to produce and we worked as a team the whole week. Everybody was involved and followed our game’s strategy,” said the head coach Derek Eisler. Even when his team earned the promotion on Friday, he was seen on the stands, scouting the Kiwis and preparing the tactics for the last game. So it is not a coincidence that Israel was first in almost every statistical category in the end – scoring efficiency (19,53%), power play (44,44%, 12 from 27), goaltending (92,31%) and in second place for penalty killing (84,85%).

The drama unfolded in the next matchup on Sunday: Iceland vs. Bulgaria. The hosts could finish on every position from second to fifth in the standings, depending on their match, but also on the last encounter of the day: China vs. Australia. A win for the Icelanders would guarantee them second place, a win for Bulgaria would guarantee the third place for the host nation. And the Chinese players were watching the game from closeby, cheering for the Bulgarians, so they could have a chance to finish second by defeating Australia.

Iceland was leading half of the way on an early goal by Edmunds Induss at 2:52, but in the second period Daniel Dilkov tied the score at 13:08. With his aggressive style Miroslav Vasilev took three opponents to the right circle and then passed the puck back to Dilkov, who was alone in front of the net. He was able to beat the goalie with his third try.

The third period started with power-play goal for Iceland. Six minutes later Dilkov, who plays for the MsHKM Zilina U20 team in Slovakia, scored again after carrying the puck through the neutral zone and blasting a shot from the top of the left circle. The Bulgarian top line had the upper hand on the opposition most of the time, but the score was still 2-2 when Iceland was called for icing 18.6 seconds before the end.

Stanislav Muhachev, the head coach of Bulgaria, took a time-out and drew a combination. Veselin Dikov won the faceoff and passed the puck back to Dilkov, who shot through traffic. Suddenly the puck was again on Dikov’s stick and he scored the game-winning goal from close range in the open net after the Icelandic goalie was out of position.

“I need to sit down, can’t stand on my legs right now. We thought that the faceoff will be in the right circle, so during the time-out I drew a combination for this side and then it turned out it is in the left. Nothing you can do after that. I was just watching how the puck bounced back to Dikov,” explained Muhachev immediately after the nerve-wracking game.

“It’s a great tournament for us. The only sad note is that we couldn’t beat Israel as we had our chances. But when you compare the teams in the group and our preparation, I think the third place is success. Our top line played on high level. Dilkov was impressive with his movement and skating, Vasilev showed his speed and energy. He was very emotional during the whole process and was fully involved in every moment, taking things internally. And I want of course to point out the captain – Dikov. I’ve know him since he was a child. He was a true captain and helped this team a lot with his leadership. Without him this would not be achievable.”

In the last game China defeated Australia 6-1 and took the second place having the tie-breaker against Bulgaria after beating the host badly on Thursday (10-4). The captain Rudi Ying had two goals and an assists to finish second on the tournament’s scoring list with 14 points (8+6) ahead of Dilkov (8+5) and Vasilev (5+7). The expectations were high for China as the project for developing the game in the country for the 2022 Winter Olympics is in full mode. The first two games were frustrating though – a 2-3 loss against Israel and 1-2 defeat to Iceland. After that China won three in a row with a 27-7 goal record.

“Our players are looking much better than the opposition here, but we missed our chances in the first games and made some mistakes too. We outplayed every other team, but against Israel, for example, we scored only two goals on 36 shots and allowed three on just 12 shots. If there was a playoff-system as a year ago, we would have had a chance to win it all, but this tournament is very short and you can’t afford to lose a game,” said the China’s U20 national team head coach Alexander Barkov.

“Israel won the tournament deservedly as they played smart and tactical hockey in all games. They did that against China, waiting for their chances and scored the game winning goal on a power play eight minutes to the end. Against us their coach matched his top line to our top line all the time and didn’t take any risks. It worked again,” Bulgarian head coach Muhachev explained his opinion about the tournament winner.

Iceland had to settle for fourth place while top-seeded Australia was fifth. Winless New Zealand is relegated to the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III Qualification.

Russia Olympic roster

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

THE MEN’S ROSTER

After the International Olympic Committee has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee due to doping allegations, it was announced that clean Russian athletes would be invited to compete as Olympic Athletes of Russia under a neutral flag at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

An OAR Invitation Review Panel determined the pool of Russian athletes who have fulfilled the pre-games testing requirements and could be invited according to several criteria available to the panel. The original number of 500 athletes has been reduced by 111 by the panel last week.

From this list three goaltenders, eight defencemen and 14 forwards have been chosen to play as Olympic Athletes of Russian in the 2018 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament by the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia.

The invitations to all athletes will be formally issued at the OAR Delegation Registration Meeting on 27 January in PyeongChang. No roster has been announced yet for the Olympic Athletes of Russia women’s ice hockey team.

The men’s team has a slightly younger roster than in the past with an average age of 27 years and will include a couple of new players.

For Mikhail Grigorenko, Ilya Kablukov, Kirill Kaprizov, Dinar Khafizullin and Nikolai Prokhorkin it will be the first top-level tournament in senior international ice hockey as unlike the others they haven’t played at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship or the World Cup of Hockey with the men’s national team before.

Three players from the team were on the roster in Sochi 2014 including Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Vyacheslav Voinov. For Datsyuk and Kovalchuk it will be the fifth Olympic Winter Games participation and joining an exclusive club. Only two players – Finns Raimo Helminen and Teemu Selanne – played more, in six Olympics.

39-year-old Datsyuk is the oldest player on the roster and 20-year-old Kaprizov the youngest.

All 25 players nominated play for Russian clubs in the Kontinental Hockey League. More surprisingly, the selected players represent just three clubs. 15 players are under contract with Russian champion and league leader SKA St. Petersburg, eight players join from second-placed CSKA Moscow and two from Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

The team coached by Oleg Znarok is seeded in Group B together with the United States, Slovakia and Slovenia.

THE WOMEN’S ROSTER

After the International Olympic Committee has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee due to doping allegations, it was announced that clean Russian athletes would be invited to compete as Olympic Athletes of Russia under a neutral flag at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

An OAR Invitation Review Panel determined the pool of Russian athletes who have fulfilled the pre-games testing requirements and could be invited according to several criteria available to the panel. The original number of 500 athletes has been reduced by 111 by the panel last week. Not invited were athletes who the IOC suspended as part of the as part of Oswald Commission findings (see press releases from 12 December and 22 December).

From this list three goaltenders, eight defenders and 12 forwards have been chosen to play as Olympic Athletes of Russia in the 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament by the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia.

The invitations to all athletes will be formally issued at the OAR Delegation Registration Meeting on 27 January in PyeongChang.

With several players retired or not on the list of eligible athletes, this Olympic Athletes of Russia team will be one of the new generation. With an average age of 22 it will likely be the youngest team in the tournament.

Only six players were part of the team in Sochi 2014 including Yelena Dergachyova, Angelina Goncharenko, Anna Shokhina, Yekaterina Smolina, Olga Sosina and Svetlana Tkachyova. Although just 25, Sosina is one of the most experienced players having played both in Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and in eight Women’s World Championships. 29-year-old Smolina has the same number of tournaments but had her two Olympic experiences in Turin 2006 and Sochi 2014. Also 33-year-old defender Skachyova, the oldest nominated player, would play her third Olympics after Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.

At the other end of the scale 11 players are 20 years old or younger. Three were born in 1999, three in 1998 and five in 1997. 17 players would play their first Olympic Winter Games and five players have never played at a top-level championship with the women’s national team: Anastasia Chistyakova, Diana Kanayeva, Viktoria Kulishova, Alyona Starovoytova and Valeria Tarakanova.

16 of the 23 players were on the roster of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship last spring.

Norway Olympic roster

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

THE MEN’S ROSTER

For the first time head coach Petter Thoresen, a four-time Olympian himself in the ‘80s and ‘90s, will be reunited at a top-level event with both of his sons, forwards Patrick and Steffen Thoresen. Another pair of brothers is Ken Andre and Mathis Olimb, who have played together on the national team numerous times.

Otherwise the team looks similar to what hockey fans have been used to recently. 19 of the 25 players nominated played last spring at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Nine players are right now busy in the domestic league while the rest plays abroad. Eight players join from clubs of neighbouring country Sweden, two each play in the Czech Republic and in Germany, one each in Austria, Russia, Switzerland and the NCAA.

Patrick Thoresen, who plays for Russian champion SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, is the most famous player on the team.

37-year-old Anders Bastiansen is the oldest player on the team. He, Patrick Thoresen and Mathis Olimb will play their third Olympics after Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. 20-year-old defenceman Johannes Johannesen is the youngest player on the roster.

Three players will play the first top-level tournament in PyeongChang 2018 – Ludvig Hoff, Henrik Holm and Eirik Salsten – while all others have played in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship before.

Norway, which finished in last place in Sochi 2014, hopes to reach the quarter-finals this time. In Group C they will play Sweden, Finland and Germany.

Q & A With Ralph Melki

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By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Lebanon is a new to the ice hockey world and in April of 2017 Lebanon played there first every game against another newcomer Haiti in Saint-Lautent Quebec, Canada. In total Lebanon played 10 games in 2017 against various countries & club teams, But the most note worthy was the President Cup in Abu Dhabi. We had the great pleasure to Interview the coach of Lebanon Mr Ralph Melki who is always looking for a game to play.

How did you get into coaching hockey and where did you coach before taking the Lebanon Job?

Pascal Malkoun is the president of the Lebanese hockey association and also a personal good friend of mine. He offered me the opportunity to coach the Lebanese national ball hockey team last year. Since we are ISBHF members, so we compete in our first world championship tournament in Czech Republic in Pardubice last June. After that tourney we decided to start our ice hockey program with a different group of guys.

How did you hear about the Lebanon National Team and why did you decide to be there head coach?

I knew about the Lebanese Hockey Association since it’s debut, since I’m also a co-founder of the association.

In April of 2017 Lebanon played there first game against another newcomer in Haiti, How nervous were you?

Very nervous, maybe even more the the players lol. But I had to hide it lol. Once the puck was dropped in the 1st period, then I got into my game my coaching zone.

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Lebanon played in there first major International tournament at the President Cup in Abu Dhabi. How did the team perform?

The team did very good for our first international tourney. We were in game, tight scores. We didn’t win any games but we learned a lot

 

All together Lebanon has played a total of 10 games in 2017 which players have perform well and who has surprised you the most?

Gabriel Waked, Ricardo Tabet, Dory Sarkis and Elie Khalil they all been great for us. Gabriel Waked, I was surprised by how calm he is and how calm he Handel’s all the games situations.

Your Goalie Gabriel Waked has been claimed by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. What can you tells us about him and do you think he can play pro hockey?

Gabriel Waked, absolutely there’s no doubt in my mind that the kid will be a pro player one day and I wish him all the best in the pursuit of his dream.

We know the political situation in Lebanon is not great at the present moment, but are there any future plans to build an ice rink and play games in the country?

Absolutely it’s our goal and dream to play in Lebanon. It’s the reason why we are doing all this. I will tell you that it’s a work in progress at this point.

What would it mean to you and Lebanon Ice Hockey Association to play ice hockey Lebanon?

That will be a dream come true

What would you say is your best asset as a head coach?

Communication, bring the guys together and a unified them.
Image result for Ralph Melki

 

The Arab Cup is going to be a club Tournament this year. Can You tell us what will your club team be called and is there going to be a camp for Lebanese players?

Our name will always be team Lebanon or the Lebanese cedar. Yes and our training camp will start on February 10th.

Who was or is your favorite player to watch play in the NHL?

I had 2 players, Patrick Roy and Wayne Gretzky.

Germany Olympic roster

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

THE MEN’S ROSTER

After the German Ice Hockey Association had shortlisted 30 candidates last week, the final roster of three goaltenders, eight defencemen and 14 forwards has been announced today by the German Olympic Sport Association today.

After having missed the Olympics for the first time in over six decades in Sochi 2014, the German men’s national team will be back for PyeongChang 2018 after winning its qualification tournament. For former NHLer Christian Ehrhoff it will be the fourth Olympics, for Marcel Goc the third and for Dennis Endras the second participation while all other players have never played at the Olympics before.

“We have a good mix of experienced players,” said head coach Marco Sturm after the last cut. Several players have had more than 100 national team games including Yannic Seidenberg (147), Felix Schutz (132), Marcus Kink (128), Patrick Hager (122), Moritz Muller (121), Frank Hordler (116), Christian Ehrhoff (110) and Marcel Goc (104).

16 of the 25 nominated players were part of the German national team that competed on home ice in Cologne during the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship where the team reached the quarter-finals.

“It’s important that a big part of the team has played together and knows our system. Opposed to the World Championship we only have three preliminary-round games so the team play has to work from the first game on,” Sturm says looking to the group-stage games with Finland, Sweden and Norway as opponents – a strong group as he calls it. “But we want to try to annoy the big ones.”

All 25 players join from the German DEL led by champion EHC Red Bull Munich with seven players and Adler Mannheim with six.

Goaltender Mathias Niederberger, defencemen Konrad Abeltshauser, Sinan Akdag and Justin Krueger as well as forward Stefan Loibl didn’t make the final cut and are listed as “on demand” for the Olympics.

The German team will convene on 3rd February for a camp in Fussen. On 6th February they will travel to Switzerland for an exhibition game against the host in Kloten before flying to Korea the next day.

Finland Olympic roster

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

THE MEN’S ROSTER

The list of players includes 13 previous Olympic medalists – nine on the women’s and four on the men’s side. On the men’s squad players combine for 21 previous Olympic participation’s while the women’s squad will be more rejuvenated with nine players who will play their first Olympics.

16 of the 25 players on the men’s roster join from KHL teams including five from Jokerit Helsinki, the Finnish club in the Russian-based cross-border league. Six players play in the Finnish Liiga, two in Switzerland and one in Sweden.

Lasse Kukkonen is the most experienced player and will participate at the Olympics for the fourth time. He as well as Sami Lepisto (2010, 2014), Juuso Hietanen (2014) and Petri Kontiola (2014) have been part of the team that won bronze at the last Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament four years ago. The youngest players are 1999-born Miro Heiskanen and Eeli Tolvanen, who recently played at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“I have a good feeling with the team. The preparation went well and gives us confidence. We are aware of the good opportunity we have and we are ready to seize it,” head coach Lauri Marjamaki said.

Sochi 2014 finalist Sweden, Norway and Germany will be Finland’s opponents in Group C.

THE WOMEN’S ROSTER

On the women’s team goaltender Noora Raty and forward Riika Valila will play in their fourth Olympics. Valila will also write history as the oldest female athlete from Finland to compete in the Olympic Winter Games surpassing figure skater Ludowika Jakobsson. The 44-year-old originally retired from international ice hockey after playing at the 1998 and 2002 Olympics (under her maiden name Nieminen) but staged a comeback at the 2014 Olympics and has also played at the last three Women’s World Championships. With Petra Nieminen also the women’s team has a 1999-born player.

12 players join from Finnish clubs, seven play in the Swedish women’s hockey league, two join from college teams in Canada and the U.S. respectively and two play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League for Kunlun Red Star in Shenzhen, China.

“The team includes the best available players. The selection criteria were clear. They have to fit for the roles, adapt to the group, be in shape and have skill,” said head coach Pasi Mustonen.

Finland is seeded in the “upper” Group A with current world champion USA, defending Olympic champion Canada and the Russians. The top-two teams will receive a bye to the semi-finals while the bottom two teams have to play a qualification game against one of the top-two Group B teams. Finland’s declared goal is to win a medal.

With 45 hockey players, the sport of ice hockey will be prominent in the Finnish Olympic delegation of currently 61 athletes.

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