Year: 2019 (page 2 of 7)

Ice hockey coach warms to the challenge of Olympics

Coach Hu Jiang explains tactics in Beijing last month to members of China’s ice hockey team

By Feng Shuang – China Daily

For coach Hu Jiang and China’s ice hockey players, the clock is ticking to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

He has often felt the weight of a nation in his selection and training of players for the event.

“Ice hockey is quickly growing in China, especially in terms of the number of players and the scale of tournaments. But it still takes time to close the gap with the superpowers in the game,” said Hu, who is also a deputy representing the Heilongjiang province at the National People’s Congress.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has granted China spots in the men’s and women’s section for 2022. China was ranked 33rd in the 2018 men’s world rankings.

Hu has just returned from a training camp in Finland with his players before attending the annual legislative session in March. “We are trying our best to meet the nation’s expectations for the upcoming Winter Olympics.”

The 43-year-old built his coaching reputation with Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province, where he grew up and received training as an ice hockey player.

He started playing the game when he was 10, and turned professional in 1992. “The training of professional teams has always been rigid, with the inevitable injuries and fatigue. But I never allowed any complacency,” he recalled.

He was first selected by the national team in 1997, and remained part of the national squad before retiring in 2008.

Hu attributed his success as a player to hard work during training and his natural fitness.

After his retirement, Hu became an assistant coach with Qiqihar’s men’s hockey team. He was appointed head coach in 2013.

He went on to guide the team to several national championships and trophies between 2013 and 2018.

His love for the game also empowered him to guide his son, Hu Wenhan, 14, to become an ice hockey player.

“To me, ice hockey is the best way to improve physical fitness and the team spirit of a child,” he said.

However, Hu can barely spare time to coach his son, who has been training under his own coaches.

The youth ice hockey friendly between China and Russia in June last year, a match that was watched by President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, was the first time that Hu Wenhan played under his father as coach.

However, Hu insisted that the father-son relationship was not a factor that affected his team selection or tactical decisions on the ice rink during the game. “On the rink, I was the coach and he was only one of the players,” he said.

As a coach to the men’s national team, Hu has long been troubled by the shortage of homegrown talent. During the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan in 2017, he expressed his worries about the lack of top players available for selection after Team China was outscored 32-0 in its three games.

In order to truly catch up with the ice hockey giants in the world, the country should continue to focus on the fundamentals, he said. He noted that the deficiency of top players was not simply because of a lack of young players coming through.

Indeed, young players registering for the game surged to about 20,000 last year compared with a mere 300 players about 10 years ago, he said. In Harbin and Beijing, 200 primary schools have launched ice hockey teams, in which at least 6,000 pupils have participated.

“One problem is that children are giving up the sport as soon as they enter junior high schools as they begin to come under greater academic pressure. Meanwhile, there are barely any middle schools that are running ice hockey teams,” he said.

The lack of channels for young hockey players to progress through the academic system is another important reason, as few colleges in China grant scholarships to children playing the sport, he said.

He noted that a number of players for the Chinese men’s hockey team, such as Ying Rudi, Song Andong and Yan Juncheng, moved to North America for ice hockey training when they were about 10 years old.

Song Andong was the first Chinese-born player drafted into the National Hockey League. He was drafted in the sixth round, 172nd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.

“Going abroad was virtually their only choice if they were to continue to seek a career in ice hockey,” Hu said.

Currently, only two colleges in China, Harbin Sport University and Beijing Sport University, run ice hockey teams, even though the Ministry of Education greenlighted at least seven other universities to host ice hockey teams.

Cost is a factor, he said. There is the maintenance of ice hockey rinks, cost of gear, uniforms, equipment and coaching fees. “Many universities cannot afford the yearly investment of up to 3 million yuan ($447,000) each year.”

He called on education authorities to come up with concrete policies and a plan to support the development of ice hockey so that young players can have a way to get through college with ice hockey scholarships.

“The development of college games is the core part for the sustainable development of ice hockey. By having college hockey teams, we can also encourage the growth of teams at primary and middle school levels,” he said.

“That could be the best way for Chinese ice hockey to truly take off.”

Road to the 2019 CCOA: Kuwait prepares to make IIHF women’s debut

By Liz Montroy – Womens Hockey Life

When Kuwait’s women’s hockey team makes its IIHF debut this April at the 2019 Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA), it will be with a roster full of family connections. Included on the team are several sets of sisters, as well as a set of triplets.

“Almost all the team, they are sisters,” said captain Rawan Albahouh. “They have two sisters, three sisters, they all play together on the same team.”

In fact, familial connections seems to be a significant factor behind how Kuwait’s women’s program has grown since it was resurrected in 2017.

“Most players are family, sisters, cousins,” said head coach Meshal Alajmi, who has represented Kuwait on its men’s hockey team for over eight years.

Sharing the CCOA experience with family will no doubt be exciting for the women representing Kuwait in Division I of the tournament later this season, especially considering the fairly recent relaunch of the country’s women’s hockey program.

A program for female players was initially created in 2007, but consisted of only around 10 people and, lacking support, quickly ended. However, those players reunited in a second attempt to build a program in August of 2017.

Part of this relaunch involved sending Albahouh and women’s national team supervisor Laila Alkhbaz to the 2018 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp. Albahouh learned about growing the sport in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend segment, while Alkhbaz took part in the Leadership Development Program.

This professional development and the efforts of the players in the program seems to be paying off. The IIHF website lists Kuwait as having 203 female players—53 more than the 150 listed male players (also listed are 177 junior players).

However, similarly to other CCOA participants, Kuwait has struggled to find younger female goaltenders. The national team’s two goalies are two of the older members of the team at the ages of 26 and 32.

The country also has just one rink that they use for hockey, which is closed this January and February, meaning that the team is practicing off ice in preparation for the CCOA.

“In our country, it’s not a desert, but it’s hot. So we try to escape to cold places … [the rink] is an escape place,” Albahouh explained of the hockey venue, which the women’s program usually uses at least twice a week.

Albahouh is aware of the challenges she faces with trying to grow and play hockey in her country, but regardless is looking forward to representing Kuwait with her hockey family at the 2019 CCOA in Abu Dhabi.

“We hope to win something,” she said of playing against the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Mongolia. “We are furious to win or bring something for our country.”

Albahouh, who took up hockey after seeing another Kuwaiti girl playing it, is eager to share the game she loves with other girls and women, and hopes that participating in the CCOA will help open more doors.

“Once you [start playing], you cannot stop playing this sport.”

Road to the 2019 CCOA: UAE women’s team brings IIHF hockey to the Middle East

By Liz Montroy – Womens Hockey Life

In just under five months, Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Ice Rink will play host to the 2019 IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA), the first IIHF women’s competition to be hosted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While Abu Dhabi has hosted the Men’s CCOA three times before, this will be a a momentous event for the country’s women’s program.

“It means the world honestly, having the CCOA in Abu Dhabi is really a big deal for us,” said UAE women’s team captain Fatema Al Qubaisi. “All the past years we’ve been hoping for this to happen.”

For Al Qubaisi, this will be an especially important event; she waited over a decade and a half before there was an opportunity for her to play hockey.

“My parents used to take us to the ice rink once a week as a weekend activity,” said Al Qubaisi. “All I really wanted was a hockey team, but it took another 16 years of patience [before] they finally had one for ladies.”

As Al Qubaisi explained, the past few years have seen an increase in women’s hockey programs in the Middle East. Kuwait will be making their IIHF women’s debut at the 2019 CCOA and two non-IIHF members, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have recently started women’s programs.

“I’m very proud of my team to have achieved so much to reach to a point that we are hosting something so big, something serious like the CCOA in our country,” said defender Mariam Al Mazrouei. “This is our chance to prove that this sport means so much to us as girls of the UAE, the first women’s ice hockey team in the Middle East.”

While the UAE became a IIHF member in 2001, the country did not have a women’s program until 2010. They made their first IIHF competition appearance in the 2014 Women’s CCOA Division I tournament, finishing in last place.

The team did not play in the CCOA for a few years following their debut, but returned to the competition in 2017. They improved on their inaugural performance, finishing second to last and notching their first ever IIHF win, a 6-4 victory over India.

In the 2018 Women’s CCOA Division I tournament, they rose to second place, beating India and the Philippines and losing to eventual champion Malaysia. The UAE team will be competing in the Division I tournament again in 2019, and look to continue to improve upon their previous results.

“[In 2018] we got second place in Malaysia, that was an honour, to have our team play as one … [Our goals in 2019 are] to put on the ice what we’ve practiced during the past years in the game, play as one unit,” said Al Qubaisi. “And of course we hope to win.”

Al Qubaisi and Al Mazrouei, along with other players such as Fatima Al Ali, have been with the national team program since its first CCOA appearance in 2014 or even earlier. Before joining the program, most of them knew about hockey from films such as Mighty Ducks or from their parents’ previous experiences with the sport.

The country’s 78 registered female hockey players, as well as the majority of the national team, mostly play on teams in the UAE’s capital city of Abu Dhabi. However, with the recent formation of a new team in Al Ain, Al Qubaisi anticipates that they will see more players coming from other parts of the country to join the national team.

The national team has received a lot of attention over the last few years with the rising popularity of forward Al Ali and the team’s trip to North America for the NHL’s Hockey is For Everyone month this past February.

However, for Al Qubaisi, who has dropped a ceremonial puck in front of 18,000 fans at a Washington Capitals game and travelled around the world to play a sport she loves, the experience that she names as her favourite hockey experience is a reminder of the joy these players have just being able to play a sport they love.

“The best [experience] of course was the time I first ever put gear on after so many years of waiting.”

Al Qubaisi may or may not realize it, but her and her teammates are the pioneers of women’s hockey in their country, and the 2019 CCOA will no doubt play an important role in the growth of the sport in the Middle East.

Road to the 2019 CCOA: Team Philippines

By Liz MontroyWomens Hockey Life

At the 2018 IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA) Division I tournament in Malaysia, there was one player who lit up the scoreboard at a rate of 2.67 goals per game. Bianca Cuevas scored eight goals (and notched one assist) in three games for the Philippines’ national women’s hockey team. Her eight goals were more than any other female player in both of 2018’s CCOA and CCOA Division I tournaments.

The Philippines’ national women’s team made its IIHF debut at the 2017 CCOA, where Cuevas also demonstrated her scoring prowess, leading her team in points with five goals and four assists through six games.

The journey that Cuevas took to representing her country on the international stage and becoming a leading goal scorer took her from the Philippines to Canada.

Cuevas first started her career on ice as a figure skater. As a young child, her and her older brother were enticed by a skating rink that they saw in a mall in Manila, leading her mother to sign her brother up for hockey and Cuevas up for figure skating.

“Later on, watching my brother, it made me curious and interested in what he was doing, so I wanted to try hockey,” said Cuevas.

Cuevas’ first few years of hockey were spent honing her skills in the co-ed Manila Ice Hockey League (MIHL) and with a youth team that competed in the annual Mega Ice Hockey 5’s tournament in Hong Kong. However, it was in Canada where Cuevas would become the player that she is now.

In 2016, a new rink was opened in the Philippines’ Cebu City, and an NGO called Pandoo Foundation held a hockey camp to celebrate its opening. The three day camp was run by NCAA Division I Niagara University alumni Sarah Zacharias, Sam Goodwin and Robert Martini.

“[Zacharias] approached me [at the end of the camp] and she invited me to train with her team in Winnipeg,” said Cuevas. Zacharias helps coach the Balmoral Hall Blazers of the Junior Women’s Hockey League (JWHL).

After deferring her university admission in the Philippines, Cuevas made the move to Winnipeg to repeat grade 12 in order to play with Balmoral Hall and experience the sport she loves in what Cuevas affectionately calls “the land of hockey.”

“When I first trained with [the Balmoral Hall Blazers]—wow. I still remember my very first training,” said Cuevas of her introduction to hockey in Canada. “After that my body hurt so much … When I first got on the ice, I was also really nervous, and I was messing up all the drills because I was so shocked by how fast and strong they were. I’d never experienced that before.”

The Balmoral Hall roster was full by the time Cuevas arrived in Winnipeg, but Zacharias found her a team that she could play games with in the Manitoba Women’s Junior Hockey League (MWJHL), the Western Predators.

“I remember the head coach told me that when he first saw me, he was pretty iffy about me, he didn’t think that I would be able to handle it and my skill level was just not there,” Cuevas said of an end of season interview she had with her team’s coaching staff. “But I dealt with it by working hard and persevering … and he said that I greatly improved.”

Cuevas noticed this improvement when playing in the 2017 CCOA. She felt faster and stronger, and was able to score a significant number of goals. Her teammates and coaches from the national team told her that they also noticed a difference in the way she played.

After the 2017 CCOA, Cuevas returned to Canada, where she was accepted into the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Cuevas wanted to be able to keep playing hockey, and so tried out for the Richmond Rebels of the South Coast Women’s Hockey League (SCWHL), a Senior AA league with teams in BC’s Lower Mainland as well as on Vancouver Island and in Kamloops and Prince George.

While Cuevas didn’t make the cut for the Richmond team, she was referred to the North Shore Rebels, who made their SCWHL debut in the 2017-18 season. The Rebels missed out of the playoffs in their first season, but are looking stronger after their first five games of the 2018-19 season, and already just one win away from matching their total number of wins from last season.

Besides playing in the SCWHL, Cuevas hopes to be able to continue to play for the Philippines’ national women’s team, which will compete in the 2019 Women’s CCOA Division I tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in April.

While in the past, any Filipino woman who played hockey could make the national team, Cuevas is anticipating that the coaching staff will need to make cuts for the 2019 CCOA. The Philippines currently has 33 registered female hockey players, a significant increase from when Cuevas first started playing in 2009. When she first started, representing her country on the international stage was far from her mind.

“If you asked my 10 year old self or 12 year old self, I probably would say that that would never happen, because we didn’t even have enough girls for a line.

“When I started playing there were only two, three girls, so I would never have imagined being able to represent my country playing hockey … It’s actually quite cool and quite amazing how far we’ve gone and how much we’ve grown.”

2019 Worlds: Day 6 Recap

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Group A

United States beat Russia, 10-0

Goals

  • United States – Amanda Kessel, Cayla Barnes, Kendall Coyne Schofield (2), Megan Bozek, Lee Stecklein (2), Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Jessie Compher
  • Russia – n/a

After a tough-fought 5-1 loss against Canada yesterday, the exhausted Russian team was no match for Team USA’s firepower. Eight different goalscorers put Team USA into the double digits, and two players—Lee Stecklein and Jesse Compher—got their first goals with the national team. Although Russia was able to generate some offense, ultimately they were unable to get enough shots on Alex Rigsby to beat her, and she recorded a 12-save shutout.

Canada beat Finland, 6 – 1

Goals

  • Finland – Ella Viitasuo
  • Canada – Loren Gabel (2), Rebecca Johnston, Brianne Jenner, Sarah Nurse, Erin Ambrose

The game had the makings of a goaltender battle — Noora Raty v Shannon Szabados. But then the Canadians chased Noora Raty out of her net after she gave up three goals. Eveliina Suonpaa couldn’t stop the scoring either as she was tagged for another three goals. On the other end of the ice, Shannon Szabados made 22 saves.

Group B

Japan beat Sweden, 3 – 2

Goals

  • Japan – Haruna Yoneyama, Akane Shiga, Ayaka Toko
  • Sweden – Emma Nordin, Sofia Engstrom

What a stunner. In a battle to stay in the tournament – and the top tier – presumable underdog Japan prevailed.

Penalties hurt the Swedes as the clock ticked down as both the game tying and the game winning goal were scored while the Japanese had the player advantage. The teams entered the third period tied before Sweden took the lead. Japan responded four minutes later tying the game and took the lead seven minutes later. That would be all she wrote as Sweden couldn’t make a last minute stand.

This marks the first time Sweden was relegated out of the top tier.

Czech Republic beat Germany, 2 – 0

Goals

  • Czech Republic – Alena Mills (2)
  • Germany – n/a

Prolific Slovenia grabs gold

In one of the best years in recent history for the Slovenian women’s national team it earns promotion to the Division I Group B after winning the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A in Dumfries

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Slovenia powered to the summit the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A on the back of a devastating performance from its free-scoring first line.

The combination of captain Pia Pren, Sara Confidenti and Julija Blazinsek delivered 47 points in five games to set the team atop its group in Dumfries. Pren, 27, led the way with 20 (6+14) as she dominated the scoring for the tournament. Confidenti (7+7) and Blazinsek (7+6) were the key beneficiaries of those 14 helpers.

It added up to scoring power that no other nation could rival. While Slovenia hit 24 goals in its five games, the next best tally came from Mexico, trailing some way behind on 14 goals. The Slovenes also recorded the two biggest wins in the competition: 7-1 against Mexico and 6-1 against Australia.

However, there were some anxious moments for Slovenia, despite that impressive offence. The opening game against newly-promoted Spain ended in a shoot-out loss. North Korea, complete with several players who featured on the cross-border Korean team at the Winter Olympics last year, also put up a fight before losing out in a shoot-out. But, in a fiercely competitive tournament, nobody could produce consistent results. Slovenia began the final day’s play against Mexico knowing that victory would guarantee gold regardless of other results.

It wasn’t quite plain sailing: the Mexicans, always an awkward opponent in this championship, took an early lead through Joanna Rojas. The assist came from Claudia Tellez, a 2016 draft pick for the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL. That was a big lift for Mexico, which had its own hopes of top spot, and drew a cheer from the GB fans who came to watch the early game. A Slovenia loss would have given the host nation a shot at promotion if it could beat DPR Korea in the last action of the tournament.

But Slovenia was not about to slip at the last. Four goals in the closing minutes of the opening frame – Pren scored two and assisted on the others – turned the game, and the tournament, decisively.

Slovenia’s success follows the decision to move Olimpija Ljubljana, the country’s leading women’s team, to the cross border Elite Women’s Hockey League. Although the team found life tough in a competition that features rivals from Austria, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Italy, the experience of competing at a higher level provided a big boost for many of the team. Nine of Franc Ferjanic’s roster came from directly from Olimpija, while others, including Blazinsek, spent some time on that team over the course of the season.

For Pren, hockey at that level was nothing new. Before Olimpija joined the EWHL, she played several seasons with Sabres Wein and the Southern Stars, and also had a year in Sweden with Linkoping. But now she’s hoping that more girls from Slovenia will get the chance to pursue the game. Prior to this month’s tournament she gave an interview to Telekom Slovenje’s SIOL website. While acknowledging that a national championship that involves just three clubs makes it difficult for potential players to find a place to play, she was also upbeat about the progress that could be made in future.

“For starters, I want to see women enjoy the same conditions as male players in Slovenia, so that in future generations we can have the same opportunities to practice,” she said. “This would be real progress and it will come in the future. It might come in small steps and I understand that it will happen after the end of my playing career but I believe we will make progress.”

Slovenia wasn’t the only nation celebrating progress. Spain, making its first appearance, followed up last year’s promotion with a bronze medal. A 3-2 victory over Australia on the final day took Spain to nine points, with its other successes coming in that shoot-out win over Slovenia, a 2-0 regulation triumph against Mexico and a shoot-out loss to the North Koreans.

Great Britain, the host nation, took silver for the second year running. A 2-1 victory over the Koreans on Tuesday left Cheryl Smith’s team one point behind Slovenia and ruing a 2-4 loss against the eventual champion earlier in the week. DPR Korea took fifth place. At the foot of the table, Australia failed to win a game and was relegated to Division IIB after three seasons at this level.

2019 Worlds: Day 5 Recap

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Group A

Finland beat Switzerland; 6-2

Goals

  • Switzerland – Evelina Raselli, Alina Muller
  • Finland – Susanna Tapani, Rosa Lindstedt, Linda Valimaki, Michelle Karvinen (2), Minnamari Tuominen

At the beginning it looked as if the Swiss were going to give the Finns a run. Switzerland opened the scoring and phenom Alina Muller tied the game in the second period, but Finland broke out after that scoring four unanswered goals. Switzerland didn’t win a single game in preliminaries but will move on to the quarterfinals as all five Group A teams advance.

Canada beat Russia, 5-1

Goals

  • Canada – Natalie Spooner (3), Rebecca Johnston, Blayre Turnbull
  • Russia – Liana Ganeyeva

It was the Natalie Spooner show as she tallied her 50th-52nd goals for Team Canada as well as a primary assist to give Canada a safe lead early in the game. Russia pulled goaltender Anna Prugova after three goals in favor of Morozova who let in two. Russia struggled taking four early penalties, and getting no shots on goal the entire second period.

Despite losing Marie Philip-Poulin early to injury, who made her first appearance in this Worlds tournament this game for Canada, Russia could not pull it together to score more than one late power play goal by Liana Ganeyeva. Shots on goal ended 45-8 for Canada. Spooner was given player of the game along with Russia’s Anna Shibanova.

Group B

Czech Republic beat Japan, 3 – 1

Goals

  • Czech Republic – Denisa Krizova, Vendula Pribylova, Tereza Vanisova
  • Japan – Hanae Kubo

The Czech Republic continued their roll in Group B, winning their third straight game and securing their spot in the quarterfinals.

France beat Germany, 3 – 2 in overtime

Goals

  • France – Lara Escudero, Estelle Duvin, Chloe Aurard (ot)
  • Germnay – Nicola Eisenschmid, Kerstin Spielberger

It took an extra 1:44 of hockey for France to win their first game in the top tier but Chloe Aurard scored, unassisted, to secure the win in their final preliminary game. They’ll face either Sweden or Japan for the 9th place game.

Gold for Chinese Taipei

The Chinese Taipei players celebrate a goal in the deciding game against Iceland for tournament win at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Chinese Taipei enjoyed a perfect week in Romania as it won the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B. After posting five victories from five games, the team secured its second promotion in three seasons of IIHF competition, improving on last season’s silver medals at this level when it finished behind Spain in Valdemoro.

The race went down to the final day, although Chinese Taipei held the upper hand going into the tournament’s decisive game against Iceland. The Icelanders had lost game two of their campaign against New Zealand and knew that only a win in regulation would be enough to pip Chinese Taipei by virtue of a better head-to-head record. New Zealand was also in the mix, and its 5-1 victory against Croatia in Sunday’s opening game would set up a three-way tie on 12 points if Iceland could beat the impressive Taipei roster.

The ladies from the North Atlantic gave it a good go: this game was alive until the final 10 minutes, when Hui-Chen Yeh and Sing-Lin Tao scored twice in 13 seconds to turn a precarious 3-2 scoreline into a commanding 5-2 advantage that endured until the hooter. First Yeh stole the puck in the Iceland zone and advanced to make it 4-2, then the next attacking face-off for Chinese Taipei saw Yang-Chi Lin launch a point shot that Tao redirected past Karitas Halldorsdottir. The game, and the tournament, was won.

So what made the difference for Taipei after it came close 12 months earlier? With many players returning for Romania, the big change was a question of style. In Spain, goals flew in at either end; in Brasov, the defence tightened up. The team allowed just eight goals in the whole event – half the number from a year ago. Tzu-Ting Tsu saw her GAA drop from 2.98 to a miserly 0.72, giving up just two goals in the three games where she featured. Understudy Yun-Tzu Wang was also trusted with more minutes and produced improved numbers in this event. That all meant that a slight drop in productivity from the team’s scoring leaders, Hui-Chen Yeh and Ting-Yu Tsu was not a big problem; this was very much a case where a defence won a championship.

Iceland’s loss saw it drop to third place behind New Zealand. Second place for the Silver Fernz represents the country’s best-ever finish in IIHF World Championship play. Previously NZ’s best was a third place in Division IIB in 2017. For Iceland, it’s now three bronze medals in four seasons at this level.

Even after the top places were confirmed, there was still drama to come. The final game saw host nation Romania face Turkey needing a two-goal victory to secure its survival. A win in regulation would set up a three-way tie between those two nations and Croatia, each with three points. A two-goal swing for Romania would doom Croatia, while Turkey could still be demoted if it lost by five or more.

The Turks made a fine start, jumping to a 3-1 first-period lead with Cagla Baktiroglu banking two goals and an assist. But Romania rallied, tying the game in the second period and going in front when Ana Voicu potted her second of the night in the 48th minute. Suddenly, the home team could see a way of escaping the last place in the table but a Dilara Lokbas goal two minutes later tied the game at 4-4. Tied at 60 minutes, Romania could no longer catch its nearest rivals. Despite claiming a winner in overtime through Timea Csiszer, the Romanians will be in the Division II Group B Qualification next season.

2019 Worlds: Day 4 Recap

Pernilla Winberg scored the game-winning goal against France on Sunday in round-robin play

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Group A

USA beats Switzerland, 8-0

Goals

  • United States – Alex Carpenter, Dani Cameranesi (2), Megan Keller (2), Amanda Kessel (2), Hilary Knight
  • Switzerland – n/a

Team USA cruised to a victory against the Swiss to stay in control of Group A heading into their final game of preliminary round play. Phoebe Stänz was named the Player of the Game for Switzerland, and Keller for the United States. Janine Alder remained in net all game for the Swiss and made 41 saves, despite the onslaught of goals from the American attack.

Group B

Sweden beats France, 2-1

Goals

  • Sweden – Melinda Olsson, Pernilla Winberg
  • France – Lara Escudero

Sweden desperately needed a win in this one to avoid relegation, and they got one in a nail-biter against the French. Escudero actually opened the scoring in the first, France’s best period of the game; they put up 10 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes and 10 for the rest of the game. Sweden came storming back in the second, netting two goals to gain a 2-1 lead and outshooting the French, 15-4. Caroline Baldin turned in another great performance for Team France, stopping 38 shots to keep it a one-goal game.

Emirates win on home ice

Scoring chance for Emirati forward Saeed Al Nuaimi against Hong Kong goaltender Ching Ho Cheung

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The United Arab Emirates won the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Qualification on home ice in Abu Dhabi and will be promoted to next year’s Division III tournament.

During four days it was a neck-and-neck race between the hosts and newcomer Kyrgyzstan, who both had four wins in four games. Players who originally learned their hockey in Russia and Kazakhstan such as Vladimir Nosov, Mikhail Chuvalov, Vladimir Tonkikh and Alexander Titov dominated the scoring race in the Kyrgyz colours, however, due to eligibility issues with foreign-born players occurring, their first four games were forfeited and the tournament win was out of sight.

The scoring leader was still a player born in Russia though. Artur Zainutdinov, who grew up in Tatarstan, has been playing in the Emirates Hockey League for the Al Ain Theebs since 2016 and gave his debut for the national team with 13 goals and 18 points in five games followed by UAE veteran Juma Al Dhaheri with 6 goals and 14 points.

The Emirates started with an 11-1 victory over Hong Kong, beat Bosnia & Herzegovina 10-3 before winning a Gulf clash against Kuwait 13-1. Then they beat the other newcomer Thailand 8-2 before facing Kyrgyzstan on Saturday evening.

The last game against Kyrgyzstan was a neck-and-neck race as well. The Kyrgyz went up three times but the Emirates always found the answer to tie the game at three after two periods. 22 seconds into the last frame Zainutdinov gave the UAE its first lead in the game but four unanswered goals made it a 7-4 win for Kyrgyzstan. It was their only win in the standings due to the forfeited games while the Emirates won the tournament ahead of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kongers recovered from the tough loss against the hosts on the opening day and beat Kuwait (12-2), Thailand (6-5) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (7-0) while getting three points against Kyrgyzstan. In the deciding game for second place against Thailand the Hong Kongers rallied back from a 4-0 deficit after 21 minutes. They tied the game at five with 2:37 left in regulation time with a goal from captain Alvin Cheuk Him Sham and with 40 seconds left Ka Ho Wong scored the game-winner on a power play.

Thailand moved this season from the Challenge Cup of Asia to the World Championship program and finished in third place in its debut thanks to a 5-4 shootout win against Bosnia & Herzegovina in the first game of the tournament and beating Kuwait 9-1. The Bosnians were fourth thanks to a 9-0 blanking of Kuwait.

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