Year: 2018 (page 3 of 27)

Kakko aims to win for Finns

Kaapo Kakko celebrates a goal with his Finnish teammates during the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

By Derek O’Brien –

For the past several years now, the Finnish rosters at the IIHF World Junior Championships have featured players projected to be among the top few picks at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. In 2015 it was Mikko Rantanen, in 2016 it was Patrik Laine, in 2017 it was Miro Heiskanen and in 2018 it was Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Now, in 2019 it’s right winger Kaapo Kakko.

Kakko plays for TPS Turku in the Finnish Liiga, where he’s having a fine rookie season. He got his first taste of the pros last season with a six-game stint as a 16-year-old. This season, he has been more productive with 18 points (7+11) in 26 games, which puts him fourth in team scoring and third in the league among junior-aged players behind Aleksi Heponiemi and Rasmus Kupari.

“It’s a high-level league,” Kakko said of the Liiga. “I think this year I have more strength and power, so I can play my game a little bit better.”

Going into greater detail about his game, Kakko said: “I think my strengths are my offensive game and my hockey sense, finding players and making plays. I need to improve more on the defensive side of the puck.”

At 17 years of age, it’s hardly a surprise Kakko is the youngest player on his team by a couple of years. He considers himself fortunate to have received good guidance from some of the leaders on the team, particularly team scoring leader Ilari Filppula and captain Lauri Korpikoski. Unfortunately, Korpikoski has yet to play this season as, in September, he was diagnosed with myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by a virus, which can be fatal in serious cases. As scary as that sounds, Kakko is optimistic about the outlook.

“It will be a few more games,” he said about the timing of Korpikoski’s return. “Fortunately, the team has managed to play pretty well and we should be even better when he returns.”

Like the other Finnish prospects who came before him, he’s also had a fair bit of success on the international stage. Last season, he had 10 points in seven games at the U18 World Championship in Russia, helping Finland to the gold medal.

Kakko doesn’t find it much of an adjustment moving back and forth between the pro game and top-tier international junior hockey.

“Both are high-tempo,” he compared. “When you get these top teams from the world, top-level junior hockey is almost like professional-level hockey – it’s not that different. Both have a lot of good players.”

In his first taste of U20 international hockey this season, he doesn’t look out of place on a Finnish team that looks poised for more success. Bringing a young roster to a tournament in the Czech Republic in November, the Finns dominated Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic, outscoring them 16-5, en route to a first-place finish. Kakko himself had three points in three games.

“Of course we’re happy, but we’re not very surprised,” Kakko said confidently. “We have a lot of good 2001-born players in our country, so I think we can play against anybody,” he said of a group that includes himself, Anton Lundell and defenceman Mikko Kokkonen, who could all play in the upcoming World Juniors and a second U18 World Championship in April.

Projected as one of the top picks for next summer’s NHL Entry Draft, Kakko is already been compared to Jack Hughes, the American whose name is at the top of many lists.

“I know who he is, obviously,” Kakko said of Hughes. “I know he’s a good player and he’s always been ranked No. 1 in the draft rankings, but that’s all I really know about him.”

Kakko and Hughes faced each other in the gold medal game of last year’s U18 World Championship and will likely meet again on New Year’s Eve in Victoria, when Finland and the USA play Group B’s final game. However, Kakko denied any personal rivalry.

“Maybe that’s how the media will build up the game, but we’re just going to look at it for what the game means to the team,” he dismissed. “They’ve got a lot of good players, we’ve got a lot of good players and we’ve played against a lot of those guys before. It won’t be about Hughes and it won’t be about me, it will be Finland and the USA, and it should be a good game.”

On the draft, Kakko said: “Of course, I want to get picked as high as possible, but I don’t want to think too much about it because it’s a long way from now. It doesn’t really make any difference in how I play this season. Every year, I just want to be the best hockey player I can be, draft or no draft.”

Bringing focus back to his teams, Kakko said: “On the international stage, winning the World Junior Championship is my main goal. At the club level, I want to play as well as I can and help TPS win.”

While some young Finns, such as former TPS teammate Olli Juolevi and a few of the hopefuls for this year’s junior national team, opted to go overseas at a young age, Kakko has opted to stay the course at home.

Lafreniere looks to join Crosby, McDavid in exclusive World Junior group

Forward can become sixth 17-year-old to play for Canada in tournament

By Kevin Woodley –

Alexis Lafreniere is looking to join Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid in some exclusive company.

Lafreniere seeks to become only the sixth 17-year-old to play for Canada in the IIHF World Junior Championship. Crosby and McDavid are on that list, along with Jason Spezza, Eric Lindros and Jay Bouwmeester.

Being mentioned in the same breath as these players does not phase Lafreniere.

“It’s nice, they are big names,” Lafreniere said. “But I try to make my own road.”

Lafreniere, who turned 17 on Oct. 11 and isn’t eligible for the NHL Draft until 2020, is taking part in Canada’s selection camp for the 2019 World Junior Championship this week. Canada coach Tim Hunter doesn’t view age as an impediment to making the team, and already had Lafreniere lead the team stretch after the first practice Monday.

“He is capable of playing on this team because he is good enough,” Hunter said. “We like what he brings as a player. He doesn’t play like a young player. He’s real smart, plays heavy, plays hard and doesn’t have those young player moments where ‘oh this is hard’ or he forgets his assignments and what have you. We like him. He’s capable of making this team.”

The 6-foot-1, 192-pound forward had 80 points (42 goals, 38 assists) in 60 games in his first year with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, becoming the first 16-year-old since Crosby to score more than 40 goals. Lafreniere was named rookie of the year for both the QMJHL and the Canadian Hockey League.

He followed that up by captaining Canada to gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, scoring 11 points (five goals, six assists) in five games for a share of the tournament lead, and has 54 points (17 goals, 37 assists) in 31 QMJHL games this season.

“He’s an amazing player. He’s not here for no reason,” said forward Max Comtois, the Anaheim Ducks prospect who’s played against Lafreniere in the QMJHL this season and was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the 2018 World Junior Championship. “He’s the youngest here and I think he can help this team a lot.”

Playing against older players in the QMJHL like Comtois, who had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 games with the Ducks before being sent back to Drummondville, should help Lafreniere in a tournament traditionally dominated by 19-year-olds. And he is already comfortable playing for Canada, having represented his country at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and IIHF under-18 World Championship last summer, and the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2017.

“The challenge is bigger, so you have to raise your game and I was able to do it, but I’ll have to do it again in this camp,” Lafreniere said. “There is always a little pressure, but I don’t try to think about it. I just try to focus on playing my game and work as hard as I can and try to help my teammates.

“I am confident. I know I can do great things on the ice, but I just have to work hard and do it in practice and in games.”

As for being the youngest player, the only obvious sign is metal cage Lafreniere has to wear on his helmet.

“I don’t feel younger,” Lafreniere said.

Comtois, who with Ottawa Senators forward Alex Formenton are the two returning players from last year’s team, said he doesn’t think age will be a problem when the tournament starts Dec. 26.

“No, he’s a big boy, he can skate, he can hit,” Comtois said. “He’s got his place here and I think he is going to show everyone he has his place here.”

Malaysia’s U20 triumphs again

Malaysia defends its IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia title

By Martin Merk –

One year ago Malaysia hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia as the first IIHF-sanctioned event in the brand-new Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium at the outskirts of the capital of Kuala Lumpur and finished the event in first place ahead of Kyrgyzstan. During the weekend history repeated.

Having the first full-size ice rink has benefitted Malaysia. Since men, women, adults and juniors can practice and play at the first full-size ice rink of the country, the national teams have improved in international play and won all three Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments they played in – a program aimed at the IIHF’s smaller Asian members not competing in World Championship events.

The Malaysian U20 national team continued the winning streak by winning this season’s IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia on home ice.

The first to game days proved to be easy with a 14-3 victory against the United Arab Emirates and a 12-2 win in the neighbouring clash against the Philippines. Last year’s runner-up Kyrgyzstan was equally successful beating the Philippines (13-2) and the United Arab Emirates (12-3) with clear margins.

Saturday night’s deciding game was a nail-biter. The Kyrgyz outshot the hosts in each period but ill-discipline made their life difficult. Rafel Zichry Onn Mohammed Rhiza opened the scoring for Malaysia after already 22 seconds when Nikolai Magiev was assessed a match penalty for kicking an opponent. The Malaysians capitalized on the five-minute man advantage with the 2-0 goal from Ilhan Mahmood Haniff.

Kyrgyzstan didn’t give up and cut the deficit in the first period with a Andrei Triskhin goal. And had the chance to tie it up early in the third period. Zhanbolot Tagayev missed out on a penalty shot at 1:13 when Vinodraj Sundram blocked the puck with his hands but 46 seconds later Ernazar Isamatov tied it up.

Malaysia got chances for the lead when Tagayev was assessed penalties first for interference and later for checking to the head and neck area. 74 seconds later Nurul Nizam Deen Versluis scored what would become the game-winning goal at 11:08. With five seconds left Chee Ming Bryan Lim scored the 4-2 goal into the empty net.

In a game for third place the Philippines avenged last year’s loss against the United Arab Emirates and won the game 7-6. The Filipinos fought back from a 6-4 deficit in the second half of the third period. The game-winning goal from Benjamin Jorge Imperial came with 83 seconds left in regulation time.

Malaysia’s Mohammad Hariz Mohammad Oryza Ananda (8+6=14) and Chee Ming Bryan Lim (7+5=12) led the tournament in scoring before Emirati forward Mohamed Alkaabi (7+2=9) and a trio from Kyrgyzstan: Ersultan Mirbek Uulu (5+3=8), Zhanbolot Tagayev (5+3=8) and Sultan Ismanov (4+4=8). Lim won the Most Valuable Player award while Alkaabi was named Best Forward. Ernazar Isamatov was selected as Best Defenceman while the Philippines’ Jaiden Mackale Roxas won the vote for Best Goaltender.

Saturday’s game ended the U20 Challenge Cup of Asia that was played the whole week in two separate divisions.

Overall Ranking:
1. Malaysia
2. Kyrgyzstan
3. Philippines
4. United Arab Emirates
5. Thailand
6. Mongolia
7. Indonesia
8. Kuwait

The IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia continues with the men’s and women’s senior categories in spring.

The 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia for men’s teams will take place at the same venue in Malaysia from 2-9 March 2019. The tournament will be played in two groups where the top-two Group B teams will have the chance to play a playoff game against the bottom-ranked Group A teams similar to the format known in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. Defending champion Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia are seeded in Group A while Macau, Indonesia and Oman play in Group B.

The 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia will be played 14-19 April 2019 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The top-division tournament includes Chinese Taipei, New Zealand U18, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore while the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, India, Mongolia and Kuwait will play the Division I tournament. For Mongolia and Kuwait it will be the first participation’s with a women’s national team in IIHF play.

Thai score high

Thailand celebrates after winning the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia Division I and several individual awards

By Martin Merk –

The IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia program started with two U20 tournaments for the smaller Asian programs held this week at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium outside of the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The eight teams play in two separate divisions. While the top division is going on with Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines, the Division I tournament has already ended with Thailand as the winner.

The Thai won all three games in their group with an impressive goal record of 54-1 to show they want to play at a higher level next year. Their most narrow game was the first one, a 14-1 victory against Mongolia. After a 15-0 blanking of Indonesia the day after first place was already locked for the Thai even before ending the tournament with a 25-0 win against Kuwait.

The top 12 scorers of the tournament were all Thai led by 17-year-old Nathaphat Luckanatinakorn with nine goals and five assists in three games, who was named Best Forward of the event. Mongolia’s Sumiyabazar Byambajav followed in 13th-place as best non-Thai scorer with four goals and one assist.

Thailand’s Chayutapon Kulrat was voted Best Defenceman while Kuwait’s Ahmad Alsaegh won the award for the Best Goaltender. He had three busy games facing 182 shots, almost the same number that all other goaltenders faced combined!

Mongolia recovered from the opening-day loss and moved up to second place. The Mongolians beat Kuwait 9-2 before winning 3-1 against Indonesia in a game for second place. The team dominated the game with 39-16 shots on goal and decided it early with a 3-0 first-period lead. Indonesia finished in third place thanks to a 10-3 opening-day victory against winless Kuwait.

Seattle NHL expansion approved by Board of Governors

seattle becomes 32nd team; will begin play in 2021-22 season

By Dan Rosen –

Seattle is home to the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

The NHL Board of Governors voted Tuesday to approve the expansion application from the NHL Seattle group to bring the yet-to-be-named team into the League for the start of the 2021-22 season.

In addition, the Board of Governors approved a realignment package that calls for the Arizona Coyotes to move into the Central Division, making way for the new Seattle team to play in the Pacific Division.

There are eight teams in the Pacific Division, including the Coyotes. There are seven teams in the Central Division.

The Coyotes will remain in the Pacific Division until Seattle enters the League.

Seattle’s ownership group, led by David Bonderman, private equity CEO, will pay a $650 million expansion fee, $150 million more than Bill Foley and his group paid to bring the Vegas Golden Knights into the NHL for the 2017-18 season.

The Seattle team will play at Seattle Center Arena, the former KeyArena which is scheduled to undergo a privately financed $700 million renovation. The project was waiting for NHL approval of the expansion team before it could begin. The capacity for an NHL game at KeyArena will be about 17,400.

KeyArena opened in 1962 and was the home of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics from 1967-78 and 1985-2008 prior to them relocating to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

The ownership group is also scheduled to pay approximately $75 million to build a 180,000-square foot practice facility with three ice sheets in Northgate, a shopping area in the northern part of the city.

The arena and training facility are scheduled to be completed in advance of the start of the 2021-22 season.

The Seattle ownership group was hopeful to have the 2020-21 season be its inaugural season, but beginning in the 2021-22 season allows for completion of arena renovations.

Seattle will follow follow the same rules for the 2021 Expansion Draft as Vegas did in 2017, but Vegas will be exempt.

The NHL authorized the Seattle ownership group to file an application for an expansion team at the Board of Governors meeting in Manalapan, Florida a year ago.

A season-ticket deposit drive was held March 1, securing 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes and 32,000 in the first 31 hours. There is a waiting list of about 10,000 names.

The NHL Seattle group presented its plan for the franchise the Board’s Executive Committee at its meeting in New York City on Oct. 2. The committee gave a report in the Board meeting Tuesday prior to the vote.

Although Seattle has never had an NHL team, the Seattle Metropolitans, who played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915-24, won the Stanley Cup in 1917, defeating the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association 3-1 in a best-of-5 series.

World Juniors: Hungary Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

When the Division I Group B International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships begin later this week, no team is likely hungrier to win than the Hungarian squad, which was relegated from Group A after going winless in five games last year, scoring only 11 goals and allowing a group-high 25.

The teams of Group B in Division I begin play Saturday in Tychy, Poland. Hungary will open against Japan, which was promoted from Division II Group A after ripping through Group B with four regulation wins and one overtime victory.

This year’s team would probably like to lean on 1999 forward Zsolt Szalma, who scored three of the team’s 11 goals in 2018, and finished with four goals and two assists combined in nine international junior games last year. But he’s been less effective in international play this year, with only a pair of assists in seven games.

Hungary’s top offensive threat in international junior play leading up the WJC has been right wing Natan Vertes, a 2000 who has eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games. Forward Akos Mihaly, a 1999, has three goals and two assists in seven international games while 1999 forward Hunor Csaszar has recorded five points, all of them assists.

Four players have totaled four points in international junior play. 1999 center Balint Horvath was able to reach four points (three goals, one assist) in just three games. 1999 forward Bruno Kreisz needed five games to reach four points, scoring a pair and helping on two more. Marcell Revesz, a tall (6’4”) forward, has three goals and an assist in eight games. Nandor Fejes, a 1999, leads all Hungarian defenseman with a goal and three assists in six games. Mate Seregely has only two points, both assists, but the 2000 blueliner recorded those points in just three games.

Hungary should probably be expected to play well in the WJC, if its performance in the Friendly International tournament is any gauge. The U20 team beat France, a Division I Group A squad, 4-3 on Nov. 10. Horvath had a pair of goals in that game, including the game winner in overtime. Three days earlier, the Hungarians beat Italy, which will be in Group B, 6-2, with two goals from Revesz and one from Horvath. The team’s only loss was a one-goal defeat to Slovenia, also in Group B. Vertes netted a pair in that one.

Q & A With Sam Uisprapassorn

Sam Uisprapassorn celebrates Latam Cup

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

We caught up with Sam Uisprapassorn coach of Colombia national ice hockey team and Chapman University hockey. Sam has guided Colombia to Pan American gold and most recently the Latam cup Championship

Can you tell our audience little bit about yourself and your hockey background?

I grew up in Southern California, the son of a Thai father and Colombian mother. I was 8 years old when Wayne Gretzky became an LA King and once I saw the games on TV I knew I wanted to give the sport a shot. I started playing at Paramount Iceland which is actually down the street from where Zamboni is headquartered (fun fact). It seems as I lived on the ice from there on out playing pee wee through my College years.

How does the Coach of Chapman University hockey team end up coaching the Colombia national ice hockey team?

I believe I have the best coaching jobs in all of hockey. I get to coach my alma mater and the national team that is culturally so close to me.

I saw that there was a Colombian national team that had participated in the first Pan-American hockey tournament in Mexico City in 2014. I sent the team an email offering to help in any way possible. A few months back went by without a response and then one day I got a call that the Head Coach position was open and it all goes from there.

You have had success with Colombia winning the Pan American tournament twice and now the Latam Cup. What do you tribute your success to?

I give our players all the credit for the success I have had with this team. I have been fortunate to work with a group of players who have won as a group playing roller hockey or individually at the College or Junior level on the ice. When I took on the role of Head Coach I came in with a clear direction and systems that I wanted to implement offensively, defensively and the player bought in and executed shift in, shift out. I’m proud of our players for taking this approach and it’s the main reason for our success.

Team Colombia

Colombia is a very new to the game of ice hockey how would you judge the talent on the team?

Our group is made up of Colombian players based in the US, Sweden and Colombia. Our players from Colombia have to be some of the most talented I have seen throughout my coaching career. This is a big statement since there is no regulation size hockey rinks in the entire country. The skill development through roller hockey is very evident.

About a third of our team is based in the US and this has really helped bring our team along. It’s an advantage to have players out of the ACHA and ECHL.

What are the challenges for the advancement of ice hockey in Colombia?

I would say the biggest challenge is developing the ice hockey infrastructure. As I mentioned before, there are no ice rinks in the country. The same could be said for the other countries we compete against.

Chapman University Hockey team is not having a great season, do you think you can turn the season around?

The Chapman program is currently in a rebuilding phase. I would expect better results by the end of the season and beyond.

Chapman University

You are also a Golf nut and the founder and CEO of Cut Golf can you tell us little bit about this adventure?

I love golf as much as I love hockey. About two years ago decided that having to pay $35-50 for a tour quality golf ball was insane. Started doing some research and was able to find a way to launch Cut Golf where we offer a tour quality golf ball for under $20 ($19.95 to be exact). It’s absolute blast and I lead our organization more like the captain of a hockey team versus your typical CEO.

who are some of your favorite Ice hockey or inline players?

I’m very old school. I grew up idolizing Wayne Gretzky. Brendan Shanahan, Luc Robitaille, Eric Lindros and Steve Yzerman were some of my favorite players growing up. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

India’s national women’s hockey team comes to Airdrie

India’s national women’s hockey concluded its first ever trip to Canada

By Scott StrasserAirdrie City View

India’s national women’s hockey concluded its first ever trip to Canada with two exhibition games in Airdrie. The team defeated the AMHA bantam Rockies team 5-1 and lost to the Rockies midget team 3-1.

In a historic first trip to Canada, India’s national women’s hockey team spent a few days in Airdrie Nov. 19 and 20, when the team played a pair of exhibition games at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.

The team – comprised of players from the remote region of Ladakh, at the base of the Himalayas – was in Canada for the Hayley Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival. Known as Wickfest, the annual tournament and coaching seminar brings together women’s hockey teams from around the world for games, player development sessions and coaching clinics.

After the players enjoyed stops in Vancouver and Calgary, their trip to Canada concluded with further coaching at training sessions and the two exhibition games in Airdrie.

According to Airdrie Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) Director of Hockey Operations Darrin Harrold, the relationship with the Indian team started in January 2016, while he was working for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). He said he met the Indian players – some of whom were still very new to the sport, at the time – at an IIHF coaching clinic in Ladakh.

Fast forward two years, Harrold said, and he made a second trip to Ladakh, this time with Wickenheiser – the retired Team Canada captain and four-time Olympic gold-medal winner.

“The whole idea was to go there first and then bring the national team to Wickfest,” Harrold said. “Because I’d gone on the trip, they wanted to come to Airdrie and see what Airdrie is like.

“It’s cool to see it come full-circle. I went to their neck of the woods, and now they’re here in ours.”

While India has had a men’s national hockey team since 1989, the women’s team formed just two years ago, according to Harrold. Many of the players learned to skate and play with hand-me-down gear.

Though much of India’s climate is generally warm, winter temperatures in Ladakh drop enough to freeze the ponds, which is where the players got their start.

Diskit Angmo, who plays left defence for Team India, said the trip to Canada was a whirlwind. Along with Wickfest, the tour included attending Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers practices, and meeting Wayne Gretzky.

“Being an ice-hockey player, it’s always a dream to come to Canada,” she said.

Along with meeting a hockey legend and watching NHL players practise, Angmo added the hospitality the Indian team experienced in Canada was another highlight of the trip.

“Back in India, it’s very difficult for us to grow this sport,” the 22-year-old said. “But here in Canada, we are getting so much love from the people here. They’re supporting us so much, and it’s been really great.

“We have never been loved so much in our own country, where this sport is not so supported. But here, people are loving us so much, encouraging us and they are getting inspired by us – that’s the main thing we should take back home.”

Mayor Peter Brown was a keen spectator at the two exhibition games India played in Airdrie, and performed the ceremonial puck drop at both. Team India overcame the AMHA Rockies female bantam team 5-1 in its first win on Canadian soil, before losing 3-1 to the Rockies midget team the following night.

“I think it’s wonderful, and they’re so respectful and so thrilled to be here,” Brown said.

“When you look at where they practised and learned to play hockey, and all of a sudden, they become the national team for India for the ladies – it’s really amazing.”

Macedonia Wins The Development Cup

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Development Cup 2018 in Fussen, Germany the Macedonian national ice hockey team became champs.
As an underdog at the start of the tournament, Macedonia playing in there first official international tournament, the Macedonians showed to be tough opponents  on the ice, finishing in first place after the preliminary round with three wins and no defeats.

The favorites Ireland were beaten in the first game with a 9: 6 victory.  Macedonia then played Andorra who were outclassed by a final score of 9: 4.
In the last game of the preliminary round  Macedonia played Portugal, who like Macedonia won all the games up to this point. So it was the decider game for first place in the preliminary round. In a thrilling and high-class match Macedonia prevailed 5: 4, and won the preliminary round.
After the preliminary round Macedonia went into the play-off semi-final as first placed played last place Andorra.  The Andorrans were much more tougher in the semi final, but Macedonia secured a 6: 3 victory and entry into the gold medal game.
Portugal who were bronze medalist in 2017 tournament and who clearly prevailed against Ireland in the semi final round took on the upstart Macedonians, but it was Macedonia who took the upper hand in the first period and never looked back defeating their opponents 12:3 and taking home the Gold.

World Juniors: Norway Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

Norway doesn’t have a hockey tradition like its Arctic Circle neighbors Sweden and Finland. It’s still a step behind. But it continues to move up. For instance, its U20 men’s national junior team was promoted to Group A of Division I for the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship.

The Norwegians have been there before. They were promoted in 2013 to the highest level, where they competed in the same division with Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Russia, only to be relegated after one year. Norway’s squad was also in Division I Group A in 2017, but was relegated to Group B after winning only once in five games.

There is no single area that Team Norway needs improve on to stay in Group A beyond 2019. It simply needs to compete at a higher level in all aspects of the game.

In winning the Group B gold in 2018, the Norwegians went undefeated, winning three times in regulation and twice in overtime. They scored 18 goals and allowed only five. There was really no flaw to isolate.

The goalies, for instance, could have hardly played any better. Jorgen Hanneborg recorded a 1.26 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in three games, while Jonas Wang Wikstol finished with a 0.50 GAA and .971 save percentage. In 11 games this season with the Lillehammer Ice Hockey Club in the GET-Liagen, Norway’s premier hockey league, Hanneborg has posted a 3.03 GAA and a .902 save percentage. Wikstol has played two games this year with the Stavanger Oilers of the GET-Liagen, where he has a 2.50 GAA and .889 save percentage.

Both are 1999s and should be minding the nets in the 2019 tournament next month.

If Team Norway keeps its goals-against this low, it won’t need to score much. But if offense is needed, Norway will require a performance like the one turned in by 1998 forward Jacob Lundell Noer in the 2018 WJC. He scored four goals and set up six, good for third overall, had a tournament-best +8, and was named his team’s top player.

After Noer, offensive output in the 2018 tournament dropped sharply. No one had more than five points. Forward Martin Ellingsen scored four times and recorded one assist while forward Christoffer Karlsen had a pair of goals and added three assists. Still, only eight players had more points than the pair of 1998s in the WJC.

Ellingsen has not played in North America, but Karlsen has — eight games in the USHL in 2016-17 split between the Tri-City Storm and Sioux Falls Stampede.

This year’s team offensive anchor just might be Morten Skirstad Hodt, a 1999 forward who has three goals and 16 assists in 14 games for Frisk Asker in Norway’s U21 league, and Frisk Asker teammate Sander Hurrod, a 2000 who also has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists).

Other possible offensive contributors include:

Filip Lalande, a 1999 who scored six goals and set up six in 14 games for Valerenga in Norway’s U21 league.

Samuel Solem, six goals, fours assists in 14 games in Sweden’s SuperElit U20 league.

And maybe 1999 defenseman Hakon Engh, who in a dozen games with Storhamar in Norway’s U21 league has three goals, six assists, and is a +15.

Team Norway will open the 2019 tournament against Belarus on Dec. 9.

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