Year: 2020 (page 1 of 2)

Ugarte optimistic for Mexico

Mexican captain Fernando Ugarte during the Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 2 Group L in Barcelona

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Mexico’s captain, Fernando Ugarte, is one of the great survivors of the sport in his country. He first appeared in the national jersey in the U20 championship in 2001 and he’s been a fixture on the senior team since making his debut in a Division II Qualification campaign the following season. Along the way, he’s taken part in three previous Olympic qualifying tournaments, wearing the ‘C’ in World Championship play since 2007.

So, after a tournament that saw the Mexicans suffer heavy losses not only against the Netherlands and Spain, but also lowly Chinese Taipei last December in the Olympic Qualification process, he’s well placed to take the longer view. In Barcelona he was one of just three players who featured in last season’s World Championship campaign. That made a tournament in which Mexico was seeded three out of four even tougher.

Among the absentees in Spain were Hector Majul and Carlos Gomez, the team’s leading forwards at last year’s home-ice World Championship Division IIB event. First-choice goalie Andres de la Garma was also unavailable. Ugarte, one of his country’s longest-serving players, found himself adopting a role as mentor as well as defenceman.

“Sometimes it’s like I’m a coach, but on the ice,” he smiled. “The thing is, I love the game. I came to this tournament because I love being a part of it, I love to give some feedback and help the younger players.”

Despite his country’s difficulties in Barcelona, Ugarte is optimistic about the future.

“Some of our players here are part of a new generation,” he added. “Some are older, but it’s a first international tournament for a lot of players. There are good players but, especially when coming from U18 or U20 hockey, it’s an important step. It’s hard for them to know how these tournaments are until they play here.

“Hopefully in a few years we can get our country promoted. We’re well established in the Division IIB now, but we hope in a couple of years we will be able to fight for the gold medal with our emerging players.”

The challenge in Mexican hockey remains unchanged. In a tropical climate, in a country where football is king and baseball remains the closest pretender to the crown, it’s not easy for the game to garner much public attention. The player pool is close-knit, often relying on family connections to keep the flame burning.

“I started when I was 10 and Mexico got its first ice rink,” Ugarte said. “But my father used to play back in the 50s. I learned to skate with him, he introduced me to the sport. But in Mexico, nobody talks about hockey so it’s difficult to get support and sponsors.”

Without support, especially financial backing, trips to Europe and beyond for international tournaments can strain the resources of Mexico’s players. A recently established league boasts just four teams – colourful names like Ugarte’s own Teotihuacan Priests, the Mayan Astronomers and the Aztec Eagle Warriors speak of the country’s rich history – but could be a starting point for more.

“Right now it can be difficult to keep people coming back year after year,” Ugarte admitted. “Now we have this league, we’re starting to work with it. It’s still small but we want it to keep people in the game.”

Максим Андреев: «Мы стали первым официальным клубом в Португалии»

Автор материала: Виталий Нестеров – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Родившийся в Казахстане игрок сборной Португалии, Максим Андреев, специально для NToIH рассказал свою историю жизни, а также поведал много интересного о хоккее в стране, где нет ни одного катка.

Немножко о себе ?

— Родился я 27 февраля 1989 года в столице казахстанского хоккея, славном городе Усть-Каменогорск. Любовь к хоккею, начиная примерно с 5 лет, мне привил дедушка. Мы вместе ходили на матчи родного “Казцинк-Торпедо”, а зимой гоняли шайбу во дворе. Профессионально заниматься мне не довелось, родители говорили, что не было во мне заметно тяги к хоккею, но страсть к этому виду спорта была у меня всегда. После школы с одноклассниками зимой часто гоняли шайбу на катке. Я всегда играл в защите, но тянуло попробовать сыграть в воротах, была в этом какая-то своя романтика. Денег на покупку экипировки не было, поэтому первый опыт был получен в самодельных щитках, и основное правило дворового хоккея было “выше колена не бросать”.

Когда мне было 13, после одного из таких дворовых матчей ко мне подошёл один из зрителей, наблюдавших за игрой, и спросил не хочу ли я попробовать сыграть за команду одной из школ города, в нормальной экипировке. Конечно, я согласился. Это был Дмитрий Савин, помощник главного тренера команды школы № 7. Я пришёл к ним на первую тренировку и меня взяли в команду под руководством главного тренера Сидорова Николая Ивановича. Команда эта была создана на средства простых работяг местной теплоэлектростанции, но все необходимое у нас было. В это же время я являлся лидером фанатского движения ПХК “Казцинк-Торпедо”. Кричалки, дуделки и лица раскрашенные в цвета клуба, в общем, романтика.

Перед одной из тренировок, ко мне подошёл тренер и сообщил, что сегодня я еду на тренировку со сборной командой той самой УК ТЭЦ, ибо один из вратарей травмирован. Это был мой первый выход на лёд во Дворце спорта. Было мне тогда лет 15-16. Тренировка прошла успешно, и теперь я тренировался и со школьной командой, и вместе со сборной УК ТЭЦ

Самый первый матч ?

Помню мой первый выход на лёд во взрослом чемпионате имени нашего легендарного Бориса Александрова. Играли на главном льду дворца спорта против команды “Ветераны Казцинка”. Можете представить себе эмоции 16-ти летнего пацана, который выходит играть на большую арену первый раз в жизни против 37-45летних мужиков, некоторые из которых только в прошлом году закончили профессиональную карьеру и чьи фамилии мы с группой поддержки скандировали с трибун. Отчётливо помню момент, когда один из хоккеистов ломает клюшку об лёд от досады, что не смог реализовать выход 1 на 1 со мной. Игра получилась провальной, мои мужики все-таки были любителями, и статистика бросков в том матче была 83-6 в пользу команды ветеранов. Нас по нескольку минут подряд закрывали в нашей зоне, разыгрывая “до верного”, выводя защитника на бросок, когда пара игроков уже неслась на добивание. Итоговый счёт игры был 0-23. Самое разгромное поражение в моей жизни, которое тем не менее я вспоминаю с теплотой.

Почему Португалия ?

В 11 классе я параллельно работал фотографом в одном из фотосалонов города, что помогло мне к концу учебного года накопить сумму, достаточную для поездки в Европу. Почему выбрал именно Португалию, честно говоря, не помню. Но в итоге приехал на 2 недели отдохнуть в Лиссабон. Без преувеличения, через неделю я понял, что я влюблен в эту прекрасную маленькую страну. Мне нравились открытые и добродушные люди, мягкий климат, шикарная португальская кухня, самобытная архитектура, богатая природа… В общем, все, что меня окружало. По возвращении домой, на семейном совете я сказал, что хочу попробовать остаться жить в Португалии. Мама меня поддержала, сказав, что если хочется, то нужно попробовать. Я совершеннолетний, и она постаралась хорошо меня воспитать. Поэтому документы из университета, в который планировал поступать в Усть-Каменогорске, я забрал, и через 6 месяцев, в феврале 2008 года, вновь стоял в аэропорту Лиссабона, на пороге новой жизни.

Что было сначала ?

Поехал я туда один, но в Португалии я познакомился со многими украинцами, они и помогли мне устроиться на первую работу – летом я собирал фрукты в садах. Работа непростая, по 9 часов в день под палящим солнцем. Работы никогда не боялся, потом были и стройки, и работа официантом на южном побережье страны, и 3 года на цементной фабрике, где, начав с лопаты и метлы, через какое-то время стал бригадиром. Кстати, первый язык, который я выучил в Португалии, был именно украинский. Жил примерно в 150км от Лиссабона, в маленьком, но очень красивом городке Алкобаса. В 2012 случайно через соцсети познакомился с парнем из Хабаровска, который рассказал мне о том, что в Лиссабоне существует инлайн-хоккей.

Лиссабоне существует инлайн-хоккей

Как началась хоккейная карьера ?

С тех пор раз в неделю я начал ездить после работы на тренировки в Лиссабон. 300км пробега, и все это ради часа тренировки. Непросто было приспособиться к роликам после коньков. Как оказалось, неимоверно трудно защищать ворота, не имея возможности скользить. Команда называлась “Oeiras Sharks”, меня там хорошо поддерживали и я обретал уверенность. Параллельно я смог поступить в Политехнический техникум по специальности “Информационные системы и обслуживание сетей”. Думал, что там где-то 90% терминов на английском и мне будет проще. В целом, я не ошибся, но через год обучения возникли разногласия с начальством на фабрике, и меня “под шумок” попросили написать “по собственному”. Обучение в Политехе пришлось заморозить, потому что обучение недешевое, а денег было не так много. Найти работу в маленьком городе очень сложно, и я решил переехать в Лиссабон, поближе к хоккею. Меня приютил у себя на полгода один из друзей, живущих в Лиссабоне. Хоккей все это время был и развивался, товарищеские матчи с другими инлайн-клубами, зимой периодические вылазки на временные ледовые катки, чтобы немного поиграть там. Обычно они совсем небольшие по размеру и борта не выдерживают броска шайбы.

Luso Lynx

О Luso Lynx ?

По факту Luso — команда по хоккею на льду, однако тренируемся мы на паркете на роликах. Все наши игроки играют в других инлайн-клубах, которые участвуют в местном чемпионате. Клуб Luso существует с 2017 года, однако в ноябре 2019 года клуб существует официально, то есть все документы, все налоги, страховки. Мы официально стали первым зарегистрированным португальским клубом. Благодаря официальной регистрации команды нам стало проще сотрудничать с правительством, с Федерацией зимних видов спорта. Тем более, если мы хотим играть в больших турнирах IIHF, то нужно же по бумагам иметь команду, которую ты представляешь, за которую ты играешь. Все благодаря двум людям – нашему тренеру и его жене, которая является сейчас генменеджером Luso и сборной. Наш тренер Джим Алдред – бывший игрок НХЛ, канадец, тренер с большим опытом.

Наши игроки имеют работу: кто-то маляр, кто-то программист, комментатор, бухгалтер, кто-то вообще студент. А я с другом год назад открыл транспортную фирму, и работаем, растём. Занимаемся турпоездками, трансферами, работаем с Uber.

О лиге Андалусии ?

Мы играем в этой лиге третий сезон. Это чемпионат региона Андалусии среди испанских клубов, плюс там играем мы и иногда там принимала участие даже финская команда. Играем мы в Гранаде, весь турнир проходит там, поскольку там аж две ледовые арены.

О сборной Португалии ?

Сборная Португалии существует, да. И в ней играют не только игроки Luso. На важные матчи и турниры, например, на Development Cup, приезжает “десант” португальских хоккеистов, играющих в Швейцарии, у них намного больше опыта. Так что у нас хорошая команда, мы практически готовы к серьезным турнирам. Португалия — член IIHF и мы практически готовы к настоящим турнирам.

2 место в Кубке развития

Об интересе португальцев ?

Для Португалии этот вид спорта, конечно, новый, но именно поэтому есть огромный интерес. У нас есть люди, которые хотят отдать детей в этот вид спорта, но огромная проблема в том, что в Португалии нет катков. Когда появится ледовая площадка, произойдет невероятный скачок вперед.

О гражданстве ?

Паспорта, как такового, нет, он просто не нужен. У меня есть гражданство, карточка. Ну, да, я официальный гражданин Португалии, только по карточке. Карточка — национальное удостоверение, которого достаточно для передвижения по стране и Европе. Понятие паспорт у нас одно — это загранпаспорт. Для гражданина ЕС загранпаспорт делается за 3 часа в любом аэропорту. А пока я никуда заграницу вне ЕС не собираюсь, загранпаспорт мне не нужен, достаточно этой карточки. Казахстан не разрешает двойное гражданство, поэтому пришлось от него отказаться. Самое смешное, что когда я делал карточку гражданина Португалии, местные не могли понять как это по национальности я русский, но паспорт казахский, да еще и место рождения был Казахстан. Я им долго объяснял как это возможно. А сейчас у меня на карточке красуется на португальском языке фраза “Место рождения — СССР”.

Интересная история напоследок ?

В январе 2015 года посол Чехии в Португалии пригласил своих друзей из Чехии к нам поиграть в хоккей. И вот приезжает два автобуса чехов. Значит, один автобус с чехами, а второй просто битком забит чешским пивом, потому что маленькая пивоварня в Чехии проспонсировала им эту поездку. Это было самое лучшее пиво в мире, которое я пил. Затем у нас было застолье накануне одного из матча и вратарь их, так сказать, получил травму, если вы понимаете о чем я (смеется). И мне пришлось встать на ворота на одну игру за команду Чехии

Americans win Rivalry Series

Hilary Knight (right, with Alex Carpenter and Dani Cameranesi), who topped the points race en route to gold at the 2019 Women’s Worlds, led the way again as the U.S. women won four out of five Rivalry Series against Canada

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

February looms large on the international women’s hockey calendar, and the U.S. showed it’s still the big-time favourite heading into the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada (31 March to April 10 in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia).

The Americans finished up with four wins in the five-game 2019-20 Rivalry Series against Canada. Relying on speed and puck possession, coach Bob Corkum’s team dictated the play and outscored their cross-border foes 15-9. The U.S. are the defending Olympic champions and have won five straight Women’s Worlds.

Meanwhile, in the Euro Hockey Tour playoffs, Finland triumphed with three straight victories, blanking host Sweden 4-0 in the final. The Finns made history with a silver medal on home ice at the 2019 Women’s Worlds in Espoo.

U.S. superstar Hilary Knight led that tournament with 11 points (7+4=11), and the two-time Women’s Worlds MVP (2015, 2016) paced the Rivalry Series with three goals and an assist. Alex Carpenter (2+2=4), who was profiled by the New York Times prior to Saturday’s 4-3 series-closing win in Anaheim, and Kelly Pannek (0+4=4) also had four points.

Of Knight’s continuing prowess, Corkum said: “Not surprised at all. She’s been doing it for a long, long time. She’s one of the many, many leaders we have in that dressing room, and she certainly answered the bell.”

Victoria Bach was the top-scoring Canadian (2+1=3), and 2018 Olympic MVP Melodie Daoust and Halifax native Jill Saulnier also totalled three points apiece (1+2=3). Bach, who was the 2019 CWHL rookie of the year with the Markham Thunder, won U18 gold in 2014. However, the slick 23-year-old forward, a former Boston University star, has yet to make her official IIHF debut.

In a worrying reminder of Espoo, Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin sat out the concluding 4-3 overtime loss at the Honda Center with an undisclosed injury. The lone woman to score in three Olympic finals, Poulin, 28, only hit the ice for a grand total of 4:44 at the last Women’s Worlds, where Canada settled for its first bronze medal ever.

Both teams struggled to convert with the power play during the Rivalry Series. Special teams will be particularly crucial for new Canadian coach Troy Ryan’s team as it quests for its first Women’s World gold medal since 2012.

Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Rivalry Series

The Rivalry Series, now in its second year, kicked off with a pair of December games. The U.S won Game One (14 December) 4-1. Amanda Kessel scored the winner and added an assist, and goalie Alex Cavallini (nee Rigsby) shone with 31 saves in Hartford.

In Game Two (17 December) in Moncton, Carpenter’s first-period goal lifted the Americans to a 2-1 win. Goalie Aerin Frankel (Northeastern University) won her national team debut with 27 saves. U.S. newcomer Abby Roque (Wisconsin) scored a goal in each December game.

Game Three (3 February) in Victoria attracted a capacity crowd of 7,006 to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, reminiscent of the vibe during the 2019 World Juniors. Bach sent the Canadian fans home happy when she tallied the 3-2 overtime winner on a beautiful set-up by Nova Scotia native Blayre Turnbull.

“It was so exciting,” said Canadian veteran Brianne Jenner, who opened the scoring on a shorthanded breakaway. “Every goal tonight, the bench just went wild. Especially when it’s one of our younger players, to see them get a goal, we’re pretty excited.”

In Victoria, Knight got her 200th career national team point on a second-period power play goal. She would play an even bigger role in Game Four (5 February) in Vancouver.

This was the first time the Americans had played there since the 2010 Olympic final, and Knight, 30, hadn’t forgotten that bitter 2-0 loss. First, she fed Hayley Scamurra for the winner, and then she shushed the partisan crowd after adding a late empty-netter to clinch the Rivalry Series with a 3-1 victory. It all happened in front of Knight’s childhood idol, Cammi Granato, who had welcomed the U.S. team for dinner at her North Vancouver house the night before.

Asked afterwards about what she recalled about the back-and-forth with Canadian fans following the Olympic gold medal game, Knight didn’t hold back: “We were told to go back to our country and die. So I took it pretty personally. It’s salt from 10 years ago. We could play these guys 100 days out of the year and it would still be the same. And I think that’s what the fans feel – they feel that fabric of the competitive rivalry.”

The blinding speed of the U.S. trio of captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, Brianna Decker, and Dani Cameranesi gave the Canadians fits as the series wore on.

Game Five in Anaheim (8 February) was far from a formality. With an attendance of 13,320, it was the largest U.S. crowd ever to witness a national women’s team game. The previous record of 10,158 was set on 6 January 2002 when the U.S. beat Canada 7-3 at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

Megan Bozek potted the 4-3 power-play winner just 42 seconds into overtime. Canadian starter Genevieve Lacasse made a stellar glove save on Bozek’s initial howitzer and then flailed Dominik Hasek-style to sweep the puck out of the crease. But Lacasse couldn’t recover in time to stop the hard-shooting American blueliner’s follow-up.

Monique Lamoureux-Morando tipped in the 3-3 equalizer for her first Rivalry Series goal with 11 minutes left. She is vying to solidify her return with the Stars and Stripes, along with her sister Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. The 30-year-old twins took time off to have children after leading the U.S. in the 3-2 shootout win over Canada in the 2018 Olympics final.

The U.S. gained momentum as this series went on, and if the shots on goal totals in the last two games (26-12 and 30-20) are any indication, Canada’s netminding needs to be elite if the Americans are to be dethroned in Halifax.

Euro Hockey Tour Playoffs

Ranked third in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking as the best European team, Finland lived up to its advance billing in this six-nation tournament. Coach Pasi Mustonen’s team had a perfect 3-0 record and a 15-3 goal difference in the final event of the current Euro Hockey Tour, held in Tranas, Sweden.

The Finns never trailed, beating Germany 3-1, Switzerland 8-2, and Sweden 4-0 in the final. Forward Petra Nieminen led the tournament in scoring (3+5=8). The 20-year-old is enjoying a breakout season with the SDHL’s Lulea HF (24+30=54 in 34 games for third in league scoring). Established stars Susanna Tapani (1+7=8) and Michelle Karvinen (4+3=7) placed second and third respectively in the points race.

All things considered, coming second was a worthy feat for Sweden. 2019 was tumultuous for the Damkronorna.

The Swedes were shockingly relegated for the first time ever at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship after a 3-2 loss to Japan left them in ninth place. The blue-and-yellow women’s players also staged a protest in search of better treatment from the Swedish federation. That resulted in the cancellation of the annual 4 Nations Cup, originally slated for Lulea in November.

It wasn’t a totally consistent performance for the hosts. The Russians outshot coach Ylva Martinsen’s troops 29-19 in their opener, but goalie Sara Grahn’s strong performance helped the hosts to a 3-1 win. However, the Czech Republic’s Natalia Mlynkova scored twice, including the shootout winner, to lift her nation to a 2-1 victory over Sweden. Czech goalie Klara Peslarova sparkled in this tournament, surrendering just two goals on 53 shots in her two starts for a 0.96 GAA and 96.2 save percentage.

That said, the Swedes are favoured to secure promotion back to the top division in April. They will face Austria, the Netherlands, Norway Slovakia, and host France in Angers in April’s Division I Group A tournament.

The resurgent Russians topped Switzerland 3-1 in the third-place game, sparked by a pair of assists from team scoring leader Anna Shokhina (1+4=5). The Swiss are still looking for answers after the post-PyeongChang retirements of key players like goalie Florence Schelling and defender Christine Meier.

Long-time Czech captain Alena Mills stepped up with the winning goal and added an assist as her team edged Germany 2-1 for fifth place. There was a significant historical highlight in Transa for the German women, however.

Andrea Lanzl became the all-time leader in international appearances among German national team players (both male and female) when she suited up against Finland. It was her 322nd international game, surpassing Udo Kiessling (321), who was also the first German NHLer in 1982-83 with the Minnesota North Stars. Lanzl, a 32-year-old forward, has played in eight top-level Women’s Worlds, starting in 2005, and two Olympics (2006, 2014).

IIHF Council Member Franz Reindl, the President of the German Ice Hockey Association, extended his congratulations: “Andrea Lanzl has achieved a milestone in ice hockey, but also in German sport, thanks to her attitude, great successes, and sporting and human qualities that are revealed through the record number of 322 international matches.”

Swedes perfect at home

Sweden’s Magnus Hellberg led all goaltenders in save percentage

By Derek O’Brien – IIHF.com

The third leg of the 2019/20 Euro Hockey Tour stopped in Stockholm, Sweden for the Beijer Hockey Games. The host Swedes took the maximum nine points from three games. They were followed by the Czech Republic with five points, Finland with three and Russia with one.

Entering the weekend’s final game on Sunday night, Finland had an opportunity to beat Sweden and win the tournament. However, before at crowd of 12,166 at the Ericsson Globe, the Swedes built up a 3-0 lead in the first period before cruising to a 5-1 win. Linus Johansson scored the game’s first and last goals, while five Swedes topped the tournament in points. Mathias Brome and Marcus Nilsson had four points each while Samuel Fagemo, Lukas Bengtsson, Fredrik Handemark and Finn Julius Junttila had three each. Handemark, captain of the SHL’s Malmo Redhawks, is the EHT’s overall scoring leader this season with six points in nine games. 

Fagemo’s goal against Finland was his second for the Swedish senior men’s national team in as many career games. After winning the Champions Hockey League final with Frolunda Gothenburg on Tuesday, the top scorer of this year’s World Junior Championship didn’t play in Sweden’s first game against the Czechs on Thursday but scored his first goal in his men’s national team debut on Saturday in a 5-2 win over Russia.

“Everything’s happened so quickly and I’ve just tried to enjoy it the best I can,” Fagemo told hockeysverige.se before Sunday’s game. “It’s fun to score goals and it was great to contribute, and I hope another good game can help us win on home ice.”

Fagemo isn’t the only former World Junior player to score his first two senior men’s international goals this weekend. Earlier on Sunday, the Czechs secured second place with a 4-3 shootout win over Russia. Defenceman Jan Kostalek of Sparta Prague scored twice in the third period, including the equalizer at 59:58 to force overtime.

“I took a shot, Keba (Jakub Jerabek) drove to the net and deflected it on goal, the puck bounced off someone, it came back to me at the top of the circle and all I did was take another whack at it and it went in,” the 24-year-old told hokej.cz after the game. “I was getting lots of shots, so it’s nice that they’re finally going in for me.” 

Swede Magnus Hellberg and Czech Dominik Furch were the only goalies to win two games over the weekend, and the pair dominated all goaltending categories, finishing 1-2 in goals-against average, save percentage and saves. 

Finland’s three points all came from their opening 3-0 win over Russia, which took place in Helsinki. In his home rink, IFK Helsinki goalie Frans Tuohimaa made 18 saves to record the tournament’s only shutout.

The single point gained in the shootout loss to the Czechs was Russia’s only in the tournament after two straight regulation losses, but denied them a chance to force a three-way tie for second. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk forward Pavel Poryadin, 23, scored two of the team’s five goals over the weekend.

With three of four legs complete, Sweden and the Czech Republic are now tied for first place in this season’s Euro Hockey Tour with 16 points each, followed by Finland with 14 and Russia with eight. The last stop will be in the Czech Republic on the first weekend in May, just before the start of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. For that event, the rosters of the four teams will look very similar to the ones they take to Switzerland.

Europe’s top four hockey nations use the Euro Hockey Tour to prepare their men’s national teams for the annual World Championships and the quadrennial Winter Olympics.

Austria, Slovakia and Switzerland win other events

Meanwhile, at the Kaufland Cup in Poprad, Slovakia, the hosts beat Belarus 4-3 and the Russian B team 2-1 to finish first. Russia B finished second with three points and Belarus lost both games.

“We played as a team. The players battled for each other,” Slovak head coach Craig Ramsay told hockeyslovakia.sk following the last game of the tournament on Saturday, in which his team scored twice in the first 13 minutes, then held on to beat the Russians. “I think it was our best game of the season.” 

The Osterreich Cup took place in Klagenfurt, Austria, with the host Austrians finishing first by beating Denmark 3-2 in the final on an overtime goal by Ali Wukovitz. Denmark never trailed in regulation time and held a 32-22 edge in shots but Bernhard Starkbaum was solid in the Austrian net. The game for third place was a defensive affair, with France beat Norway 2-1 in a shootout.

Finally, Switzerland won two games against Germany in a series called Prospects Games, in which each team tested young players with limited previous experience with their men’s national teams. With no players over 25 on their roster, the Swiss won 4-2 in Herisau and 2-1 in a shootout in Olten.

Q & A With Bhuban Pathak

Bhuban Pathak Chairman of Nepal Ice Hockey Association

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Nepal & Ice Hockey “Yeah” it does not sound right, but a enthusiastic group of people are introducing the game to the Nepalese people. We had the pleasure of talking to the Chairman of Nepal Ice Hockey Association Bhuban Pathak.

Where did this idea to bring Ice Hockey to Nepal start?

Idea to bring ice hockey started 5 years ago. We used to watch various Ice hockey tournaments on television for a long time. Since Ice hockey is a dynamic and frequent physical contact sports, and ice hockey being an adventurous sports its appeal in Nepal has grown over the years.

Does Nepal have any history with the game of Ice Hockey?

Hockey has been a popular sport in Nepal but Ice hockey has no history in Nepal.

How was the Nepal Ice Hockey Association created and why was it so important to join the IIHF at this time?

Nepal Ice hockey association was created by passionate sports personalities that want this sports to grow in our country. It is very important to join IIHF because we believe that it will help develop the sports in our country. IIHF technical support in issues regarding ice hockey and with participation from our side we strongly believe that ice hockey will see an immense growth in Nepal in coming years.

Nepal Logo

Have you spoken to the sports leadership of Nepal if so what was their response?

Yes, we have been in constant contact with different sports leadership in Nepal. Their response has been positive towards ice hockey development.

Ice Hockey is one of the most expensive sports to play, where will the Association find the financial funds to develop and build infrastructure to play the game?

We have been in touch with Nepal’s government and also with IIHF and other countries to develop and build infrastructure in Nepal.

Given that ice hockey is so new to the country how are you introducing the game to the public?

On the occasion of Visit Nepal Year 2020-Feb 14 there is a friendly ice hockey international match on Gokyo lakes of Mount Everest. This has helped the popularity of this sports among the general public. From our side we been in touch with different schools, associations and media to further popularizing Ice hockey towards the young generation.

When do you think an arena will be built in Nepal?

We are planning to build an ice hockey rink in Nepal and some business man are trying to build it in Kathmandu and Pokhara city, but Nepal Ice Hockey Association have don’t have enough funds for it.
We are trying to search donation to Build it.

Do you know of any players with Nepalese descent playing outside of the country?

So far we have no knowledge about this.

How soon will we see a game between India and Nepal, club or national team level?

We are planning to organize an international ice hockey tournament by next year 2021.

Where do you expect Nepal to be in the next 5 years from IIHF status and participating at Challenge Cup of Asia or World Championships?

We believe that in next five year Nepal will have a good Ice hockey team. Certainly, we plan to participate in international tournament in the near future.

Nepal invite you and yours friends to country of Mount Everest Nepal.

2022 Olympic Ice Hockey Qualification Round 3 Round-up

Poland earned a dramatic victory over hosts Kazakhstan to advance to the final round of Beijing 2022 ice hockey qualification

The final match of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Olympic pre-qualification round three Group H event was a head-to-head battle to decide which team progressed.

It followed both Kazakhstan and Poland having won their early matches against the Netherlands and Ukraine at the Barys Arena.

Kazakhstan were stunned in the seventh minute of the match when Bartosz Ciura gave Poland a 1-0 lead.

Martin Przygodzki doubled Poland’s advantage early in the second period, but two strikes from Dustin Boyd in a five-minute period saw Kazakhstan hit back to level the match.

Poland regained the lead early in the final period when Maciej Urbanowicz found the net.

Kazakhstan were unable to muster a response in the closing minutes, as Poland secured the 3-2 win to top the group and reach the final round of Beijing 2022 qualification.

Ukraine finished the group stage on a high by beating the Netherlands 3-0 to place third in the standings.

Britain and Hungary met in a decisive match in Group J in Nottingham with the winner also taking their place in the final round of Olympic qualifying.

Hungary took the lead early in the second period through Bence Stipsicz before Csanad Erdely doubled their lead later in the period.

Early in the third period, Britain gave themselves hope when Matthew Myers reduced the arrears to make it 2-1.

Five minutes later Janos Hari restored the Hungarians two goal lead before Istvan Sofron made it 4-1 and sealed Hungary’s place in the final qualifying round.

Estonia and Romania have already been eliminated, but completed their Group J campaign by playing each other in a dead rubber which the Romanians won 7-3.

Hosts Slovenia and Japan also met in a crunch Group G qualifier in Jesenice with Slovenia running out 6-2 winners in an entertaining affair.

Shogo Nakajima gave Japan the lead in the first period before Jan Urbas levelled for Slovenia in the second period to make it 1-1.

The hosts got off to a flying start early in period three with two goals in two minutes from Ken Ograjensek and Robert Sabolic making it 3-1.

Goals flew in during the final five minutes as Slovenia initially made it 4-1 through Rok Ticar before Nakajima scored his second of the game a minute later to give Japan hope at 4-2.

Ticar scored his second of the game 30 seconds later to make it five before Miha Zajc rounded off a convincing final quarter for the hosts to make the final score 6-2.

Miklos Rajna was the star in net with a 47-plus save performance.  Hungary defeat Great Britain 4-1 to secure a place in the Final Olympic Qualification.

Poland, Hungary and Slovenia will now progress to the final qualifier.

Each of the top teams from the final three qualifying groups will go forward to the Beijing Olympics.

Hosts China are already assured of a place and will be joined by the top eight teams in the world rankings following last year’s World Championships.

They are, in order, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, United States, Germany and Switzerland.

Kyrgyzstan’s first female team shatters stereotypes

By Reuters

A group of girls from a remote village in Kyrgyzstan have come together to form the central Asian country’s first all-female ice hockey team — Shapak.

Based in the northern village of Otradnoe, 400km (249 miles) east of the capital Bishkek, the team of some 15 schoolgirls began training three years ago on a plot of farmland belonging to their coach with whatever equipment they could muster.

“In the winter, I create an ice rink. This is already the sixth year I’ve done it, I use my allotment all year round,” the team’s coach Salamat Abdyrakhmanov told Reuters TV.

News of the team reached as far as Switzerland and they soon had professional hockey pads thanks to donations from the Kyrgyz community living there.

With no other female teams to play against, Shapak honed their skills against male teams and the injuries suffered by some of the players left parents concerned.

“I was against it at the beginning, only recently I forbade her from playing,” Aynura Zhasyrkeeva, the mother of one of the players, said.

A puck hit her in the eye and she received a concussion, but she’s better now. Now she’s come to play again.”

Having shattered gender stereotypes in the country where the sport is dominated by men, the female team is now a firm fixture in local leagues.

“My classmate, the coach’s daughter, suggested I come and try to play,” goalkeeper Zarina Karabaeva said.

“I tried going in goal and because I was good at it and they made me goalkeeper … it never even occurred to me that I would ever play hockey.”

(Writing by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Korean juniors bounce back

The Korean players celebrate with the winners’ trophy after winning the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B on home ice in Gangneung

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Offense wins games, defence wins championships. Korea’s juniors showed that they have absorbed that lesson with a perfect record on home ice at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B. In a high-scoring tournament, the Koreans managed a solid 20 goals – but allowed just six to freeze out the opposition and win all five at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, host venue at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Not surprisingly, goalie Hyung Chan Kim was a key figure. He stopped 94.17% of the shots he faced for a GAA of 1.07. His shutout in the 1-0 win over China was pivotal: had that game gone the other way, the gold medals may well have gone with it. But Kim kept the Chinese at bay, and Minwan Kang’s goal midway through the second period was enough to secure the verdict.

Kim, 19, is one of the youngsters benefitting from opportunities to play outside of Korea. After beginning the season on the books at Anyang Halla, a leading Korean team in the Asia League, he has since taken up an opportunity to play in the Czech Republic with Hvezda Prague in the fourth tier.

Another player with experience in Central Europe is defenceman Maejin Lee. He had two seasons in Slovakia with MHK Dubnica and was named an alternate captain for this, his first tournament at U20 level. The 19-year-old has also made four appearances for the Korean men’s national team. In Gangneung he was the pick of the blue liners: 6 (2+4) points and a +10 rating – the best in the tournament – from his five appearances.

Not only did Lee impress in defence, he also produced a crucial goal in Monday’s victory over Croatia. Although Korea ultimately finished six points clear of the pack with a 100% record, it still had a job to do in Monday’s final game against Croatia. Defeat would have given the visitor top spot and denied the host nation an instant return to Division IIA after relegation a year ago.

The early stages went according to plan, with Jinhyuk Mun’s fourth-minute goal putting Korea in front. But Croatia would not be shaken off so easily. The score was still 1-0 at the second intermission, and Sven Paulovic tied the scores at the start of the third. The teams traded two more goals before Lee potted the game-winner on 52:13. It was a little bit special as well: the defenceman collected the puck from his own goalie and set off down the ice. Evading two opponents in the left-hand channel, he moved inside and fired off a wrister from between the hashmarks to spark huge celebrations from his team-mates. A late effort from Hyosuk Kim sealed a 4-2 victory as Korea claimed gold on home ice.

While Korea was all about defence, the Netherlands and Croatia boasted some impressive firepower. Both countries scored more than 30 goals in their five games, and both were bolstered by big wins against an Israel team that found the competition tough in Gangneung. The Dutch won 16-1 and went on to take silver; Croatia had a 13-0 verdict and supplied the two leading scorers in the tournament. Dominic Canic was nominated top forward after posting 16 (4+12) points from five games; Leo Selitaj wasn’t far behind with 14 (6+8). China, too, overwhelmed the Israelis on its way to a bronze medal. All three countries were tied on nine points.

At the bottom, Israel finished dead last after allowing 50 goals in its five games. Belgium came fifth by virtue of its 4-1 victory over the Israelis on Monday morning.

Q & A With Douglas Boulanger

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

In a country where basketball dominates Douglas Boulanger and others are trying to change the culture of hockey. We had the great pleasure of speaking to Mr. Boulanger about his coaching career and Hockey in Lithuania.

You coach Lausanne U17 team for many years. How did you end up in Switzerland?

I’ve coached LHC U17 for 7 years and the U20 for one year. When I was fifteen years old, I was getting my first summer coaching job at the Quebec Remparts Hockey School (2003-04). At this camp, there was the father of a kid who was actually taking part at the camp…He really liked how I worked with the kids. Long story short, he offered me to come give private lessons to his son, in Switzerland. We developed a friendship and to this day we are still partner in several businesses.  It was the beginning 3 years later of Leysin Sport Academy and Open Ice Sports Services. One of the biggest hockey structures in Switzerland now, roughly 2000 kids per year coming through our door from every where around the world. 

What made you want to take the coaching job of Lithuania U18 & U20 national teams?

When I was 15, I left during the hockey season to play in the USA (Summer came back home to work for the camp). My host family was a Lithuanian family named Shalna’s. Home of the former Biathlon Olympic Gold Medalist Alguimantas Shalna. He was in Lausanne, last week, for the Youth Olympics. They stayed at my house in Lausanne. What goes around comes around ! Their son Tautvydas is still my best friend to this
day !
Back in the day, Alguimantas was the team USA Biathlon coach. Then, a couple years later I took part in a show case in Klaipeda Lithuania for recruiting players and I met the President of Ice Hockey Federation back then (Petras Nauseda), which is now our team manager with the national teams. Petras was a friend of the Shalna’s. A couple years later, Dainius Zubrus took over the Presidency of the Federation and they were looking for a coach for the U18 and Petras put us in touch. That’s how I got in touch with the Lithuanian Ice Hockey Federation. 

Douglas Boulanger his always teaching his players

How much of an impact for the younger players is it to have guys like Zubrus and Kasparaitis involved over the past few years?

These two gentlemen are icons for the players and they are doing so much to develop Ice Hockey in Lithuania. In the past two years, I already saw the difference and the impact they have on the game. The club’s are also working hard to improve their development structures. It takes time, but they really are going in the right direction. Progression has been noticed for sure !

Lithuania was host to the World Junior Championships Division II Group A, where your team finished in 3rd position. Did Lithuania meet expectations?

In my opinion, we finished where we deserved to be. We can always do better, but all I can tell you is that our players gave everything they had in the tank for their country and i am extremely thankful and proud of them. It is a work in progress and we’ve noticed improvements in the last couple of years. Lithuanian’s Hockey is getting more professional and better ! We also had good crowds and support at the game. The committee did a wonderful job to organize and put together this event. 

Douglas Boulanger looks on as his team competes at the World Junior Championships Division II Group A

What players impress you at the World Junior Championships Division II Group A?

We have a lot of young and promising players. Our future looks good. To build a house, we need a lot of workforce and different field, which we have. Our players are accepting the roles we give them within the team and they play with a lot of HEART. It is a team sport and I don’t want to put a particular player in the front line. It’s all about the team ! 

In a basketball country like Lithuania, do you see hockey ever competing at the top level?

We are in the right direction to surprise other countries. It is a work in progress, but I strongly believe that we will go up in the next couple of years and we will be able to stay up, which matters the most.

Standing up for the National Anthem of Lithuania

Do you see yourself one day coming home to Canada and coaching hockey.

If you read carefully these previous answers, I believe in destiny and I trust the process. I’m very fortunate and happy where I am. I’m taking a lot of pride in what I do and I’m surrounded by good hockey people to accomplish so…

Do you follow NHL or KHL if so what are your favorite Teams or Players?

Every morning, I watch the NHL highlights and some games. I like Pittsburgh this year and Mike Sullivan. They have been fighting with injuries and they still find a way to win hockey games. I still collaborate with several coaches in the summer. A good friend of mine is Newell Brown, which is the Assistant Coach for the Vancouver Canucks, so i also have to follow the Canucks too. We run a couple of summer camps together in the summer. He helps me to feed myself with new tendencies, so I can eventually feed my players in return. I’m extremely fortunate to share everything with him. It helps me grow as a coach.

From the Himalayas to the world

Dorjay Dolma took part in the 2019 IIHF Women’s Goaltending Development Camp in Slovakia

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

We are in the middle of a short ice hockey season for India where the sport is mostly played at the foot of the Himalayas in Leh in the Ladakh region.

India’s hockey heartland is located in one of the most northern territories of the country where mountain ranges separate India from Tibet, China, while New Delhi is located 500 kilometres to the south.

The story of the local hockey community has created many stories that even led Canadian Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser to travel there and bring equipment. Our first story on the Indian women dates back to 2012 with the header “Confidence through hockey”.

“There are many mountains in my region. It is very beautiful and mostly people depend on farming. In the city there are also government jobs,” said one of the Indian women’s national team players, Dorjay Dolma.

The parents of the 26-year-old work in farming too and even the sport of ice hockey is connected to it. The water reservoir that is used to irrigate the fields during warmer periods becomes a pond in the winter. With temperatures of currently between -22°C and -7°C (-7 to +19°F), it’s hockey time!

The hockey season runs from mid-December until mid-February, otherwise the players have no ice.

Dolma has been the second goaltender of the women’s national team and as such had a prolonged season because the team plays internationally each spring in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia, a program designed for Asian nations whose hockey programs are developing and not big enough yet to participate in the World Championship tournaments. Although several Asian countries have made the move to the World Championship program in recent years after getting their international ice time on the continent.

“We play in winters in Leh and afterwards we go to the tournaments. Sometimes we go to the host country one week earlier to practise there,” she said. There the players have to cope with a different environment.

Ice hockey started first with the army located in the region in the ‘70s. In the first attempts of the men’s team in IIHF play about a decade ago they had to learn playing with boards when they didn’t have any in India where they played for the national championship on natural ice but in front of thousands of spectators at tribunes.

Meanwhile the first boards have been installed at one rink in Leh. The hockey rink gets some upgrading each year. Still, for the Indian women it means going from frozen ponds to ice rinks in shopping mall in places with hot climate such as Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or this year in Manila in the Philippines.

It also means having to save many pucks for the Indian goaltenders against opposition that can play the sport all year.

“Sometimes it looks very difficult to save the pucks but I want to do it and make it easier to me,” Dolma explained.

Having Wickenheiser visiting her and her colleagues and going to Wickenheiser’s festival in Canada was a big moment for her.

“She came to Ladakh to see us through the Ladakh Women’s Ice Hockey Foundation where we give coaching to young girls. She saw our documentary on YouTube and came to Ladakh, brought us some equipment and hosted us in Canada for 20 days. It was the best place I have ever been to play hockey,” she said.

Dorjay Dolma during off-ice training at the 2019 IIHF Women’s Goaltending Development Camp

Dolma studied at SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) where ice skating and ice hockey are part of the program in the winter season.

“We learn lot of things. We learn English, about the world, farming, everything. In winter we make our own rink with the teachers. We flood it with water and after one week we play hockey at the rink. The school is a very supportive institute,” Dolma said.

Her main topics were economics, English, Indian history and political science. After graduating she started working at a hotel last year. She came to ice hockey without previous knowledge about the sport and one of her four younger sisters plays the sport as well. In her free time she likes hang around with her friends in the village and make jokes.

“My parents don’t know how to play hockey. I showed them pictures on the phone,” said Dolma, who was also part of the IIHF Women’s Goaltending Development Camp last year in Slovakia.

“It was my first time in Europe. It was a very nice and beautiful place. My grandfather, my parents and the Ice Hockey Association of India supported me to go there,” she said.

“It was a really good camp for me. I have never had the chance before. I learned more about body movement, how to slide, to track the puck. Their teaching technique was very unique for me,” she said. And although she says she was hesitant because she’s shy, she had the chance to be on the ice with former goaltenders from the Olympic Winter Games helping the young goaltenders.

“We are all dreaming that we will one day participate in the Winter Olympics,” she said.

It’s still a long way for India to get there but soon after the ice season in Leh is over, the Indian women’s national team will travel to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia in Manila where they are seeded in the Division I tournament with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

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