Month: January 2020

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.

Hockey of the future?

By Jamie Lew – The Media HQ

Hockey has always been a game of innovation. From the first indoor skating rinks to the origins of the goalie mask, including the first carbon fiber sticks, hockey has always improved thanks to advancement. Even now, hockey is looking for innovations by multiplying the possible sites for the Winter Classic and by working on advanced monitoring data in partnership with sports betting agencies.

But some innovations go beyond improving the existing sport. Today we’re going to paint a picture of what could be the next big step in the world of hockey. In fact, it’s a whole new approach to the sport itself, known simply as TriHockey.

What is TriHockey?

Imagine that the air hockey table you played with as a child came to life. Imagine that the puck on a hockey rink has no friction and that there were three teams and three nets instead of two. Now imagine a game played on inline skates, with players wearing futuristic Tron uniforms. If you can imagine it all, you have imagined TriHockey.

How it works? It all starts with the creation of a life-size air hockey surface. Technological advances have enabled Mark Sendo, the founder and CEO of TriHockey, and his team to create an entire playing surface designed like an air hockey table. For this reason, the puck does not feel any traction when it slides on the ice.

Three teams of four (a goalkeeper, a defender and two forwards) will compete on this rink in a one-on-one hockey game. They will play on a 120-foot diameter ice rink lined with 12-foot-tall inverted half-pipes, giving TriHockey a unique speed and intensity. Do you think it’s a vision for the future? Sendo explained to hockey writers that it had been one of his dreams for a very long time.

TriHockey is actually an evolution of my initial idea that I envisioned about 22 years ago, of a human-sized field hockey rink. In early 2019, my team and I proposed a circular ice rink concept, with 3 teams, 3 goalkeeper nets and 1 puck played on an air rink. We then worked with brilliant engineers to design and test the entire rink.

Mark Sendo, founder and CEO of TriHockey

The Sendo team is impressive, growing from an army of an army in January 2019 to more than 20 volunteers, mostly unpaid, attached to their common vision. Most recently, TriHockey brought in Ken Hershman, the former president of HBO Sports, to join him as president of the future TriHockey Pro League.

Advantages of TriHockey

Although TriHockey may seem like a distant reality, the team hopes to debut at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex later this year. Hoping for an initial league of six professional teams (reminiscent of the NHL Six), TriHockey may be more accessible than it seems at first glance – especially for local communities.

The prohibitive costs of local ice hockey are no longer a secret. In fact, they have become a major concern for many members of the hockey community. But Sendo believes TriHockey is addressing these issues directly and will allow more children to learn to love the sport.

“To refrigerate an ice rink (standard ice hockey), it’s about $ 40,000 a month,” Sendo told us. “For our skating rinks, it costs $ 20 an hour, and when you don’t play, you turn off the switch. The playing time will cost much less.”

In addition to the lower cost of TriHockey, the pace and accessibility will also be increased.

“Air hockey is such a fast sport,” said Sendo. “There will be little change, if any, in the speed of play. In fact, we think TriHockey could be slightly faster. The advantage is that children can play with sneakers and our pros will use inline skates. “

The future is now

TriHockey may be the hockey of the future. But his future is much closer than we think. They hope to get an opportunity with Disney, although that date has not yet been set. Hockey writers contacted a Disney representative for comment, but were told that company policy prohibits commenting on potential partnerships until contracts are finalized.

Whether the debut arrives in August or takes a little longer, Sendo and his team are ready. While franchise costs are expensive, set at $ 5 million, they already have 7-10 potential franchise owners interested in investing if the sport is successful at Disney. They intend to build with a top-down approach, focusing on building interest in particular communities like any other professional league. More than 2,200 subscribers on their Facebook page are already monitoring the sport and trying to help it develop.

Fast and exciting ice-free hockey may seem impossible. But, again, there was a time when the idea of ​​building a Las Vegas hockey franchise would have been laughable. Hockey has always thrived on transformation. And in TriHockey, he could envision his future.

Iceland triumphs in U20 Division III

The Icelandic players celebrate with the trophy after beating Australia for gold at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III

By Ivan TchechankovIIHF.com

For the second time in the history of the IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship program Iceland won a tournament in the Division III. The Arctic island country defeated Australia 4-1 on Sunday in the gold medal game at the Winter Palace in Sofia.

Eight countries, divided in two round-robin groups, participated in the event. The semi-finals and the placement games were held during the weekend in the Bulgarian capital.

“It’s a quite good bunch of players. We were growing game by game. Every time we were playing better. These guys stayed together, they were fighting for each other. We had a good goaltender and also we had some luck, but you need this in any sport,” said Iceland’s head coach Vladimir Kolek in front of the team’s dressing room. In the meantime the players inside were singing “We are the champions”.

The most difficult game for Iceland was in the first day of the tournament against the hosts. Miroslav Vasilev scored the first goal in the 9th minute, but Hakon Magnusson tied in the end of the period. Then Solvi Atlason and Kari Arnarsson tallied two goals in the second and Iceland had a 3-1 lead. In the start of the third period Vasilev netted on a man advantage for Bulgaria. 3:50 minutes before the end of regulation time there was another penalty against Iceland and the opposing team took a time-out, but couldn’t score on the power play. Then with 79 seconds left the goalie Ivan Stoynov went to the bench for an extra attacker and the efforts for the equalizer were realized for the delight of the home crowd. Kaloyan Vachkov, who plays for Nassjo in Sweden’s U20 Division 1, scored with just 18 seconds left on the clock. On high adrenalin the Bulgarians were quite opportunistic and went for the win in regulation, but lost the puck and Iceland scored on a counter-attack just one second before the buzzer after an individual surge by Unnar Runarsson.

“This game was entertainment for the spectators. We were lucky but the guys were working very hard and were ready to use their luck. It goes that way, sometimes the team has luck, other times – not at all. Because, if we had lost this first game, maybe the tournament could have evolved differently,” explained Kolek.

His team continued with wins against Mexico (5-2) and New Zealand (10-1) to finish first in Group A. Mexico defeated Bulgaria 5-2 for the second place and secured a spot in the semi-finals.

In the other group Australia went through undefeated: 6-1 over South Africa, 5-0 versus Chinese Taipei and 3-2 against Turkey. In the last game Turkey was leading 1-0, but the team from Down Under scored three times in the second period (5-on-5, shorthanded and on power play) and Seb Woodland, who was selected by the directorate as the best goalkeeper in the tournament, had 27 saves.

In the first semi-final Mexico had a 2-0 lead in the 7th minute, but Australia answered with three goals within 4:40 minutes in the first period, another three in 7:03 in the second and two more in 1:39 in the third. Just two of these eight straight goals were scored on power play. The captain Kenshin Hayashi had four in a row – from 2:2 to 6:2. In the end, the other captain, Gonzalo Hagerman, the best defenceman in the tournament, had his second goal of the game for the end result of 8-3.

Iceland and Turkey exchanged goals in 38 seconds in the first period in the other semi-final, but then the team from the north took control of the game with four goals in the second period – two apiece by Solvi Atlason and Axel Orongan, the best forward and top scorer in the tournament, and won 5-2 in the end.

Chinese Taipei won the game for 7th place 5-4 in overtime against South Africa after a goal by Huan-Yu Mi, who plays in North Toronto. After winning both IIHF tournaments (U18 and Men) that were staged in Sofia last season, the Bulgarian team had ambitions to strike gold again, but finished in fifth place after a convincing 6-1 defeat of New Zealand in the last placement game.

For second straight year Turkey won the bronze medals in this division after beating Mexico 4-2, which was relegated from Division II Group B in 2019. Two times Hagerman gave the lead to Mexico, 1-0 and 2-1, but Murat Kizilkaya and Sarp Demirezen tied the score and then Timur Turut scored two times in the third period.

In the big final Heidar Johannsson scored for Iceland at 18:08, but in the beginning of the second period there was a call for too many players against the team and Australia had a chance to tie the game. Instead Orongan scored a shorthanded goal to make it 2-0.

“We were feeling awful and yeah, it was a relief to score that goal, but we still had to play shorthanded and they had a chance to score. Our penalty killing was very strong today,” said Kolek, who is also in his third season as the head coach of the Icelandic men’s national team.

Orongan had another goal on a power play later in the period and 17 seconds into the third Heidar Kristveigarson made it 4-0. Jack Ransome had the only goal for Australia in the game three minutes later and the team with the kangaroo on the jersey finished second for second year in a row.

Iceland will be back to the U20’s Division II Group B for the first time since 2015. The last time this small country won a tournament in the U20 age group was in 2012.

Japan storms to gold

Japanese captain Yuto Gondaira and his teammates celebrate with the golden trophy after winning the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A in Lithuania

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Japan’s dazzling skills and lightning speed brightened up a grey and rainy week in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, as they raced through the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A with an unblemished record.

In front of a full house of 2,387 at the Pramogu Arena, Japan defeated hosts Lithuania 5-2 during the final game of the tournament to secure the gold medals and promotion to the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B.

Japan’s first line led the way against Lithuania, with centreman Teruto Nakajima flanked by forwards Yu Sato and Chikara Hanzawa notching three points each. Nakajima was also the tournament’s top scorer with 5+8 in five games while Hanzawa – voted Best Forward of the tournament – followed closely on 7+5.

Earlier in the U20 Division IIA, Japan had opened their promotion campaign by beating Great Britain 6-3 before blanking both Romania and Spain 8-0 and then scoring double digits against Serbia in a 10-2 win. Being in a class of their own in Vilnius, Japan found the back of the net on 37 occasions while conceding only seven in five games.

Netminder Eiki Sato was selected as the Best Goaltender of the tournament, aided by solid defending that saw Japan go through a spell of 134:23 minutes without conceding a goal.

Heading into their Sunday night showdown against hosts Lithuania, Japan needed a single point to finish top. Lithuania, on the other hand, required a regular-time win to leapfrog Great Britain and Japan and get their hands on the gold medals.

The new President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, had barely taken his seat next to Dainius Zubrus, Lithuania’s hockey president and legend, up on the tribune before Japan had opened the scoring. 17-year-old Yu Sato saw his effort find a way past an unlucky Nikita Kuzminov and into Lithuania’s net after just 13 seconds.

Buoyed by their dream start, Japan soon after staved off a two-minute minor penalty as Lithuania battled energetically with high forechecking in an attempt to put pressure on Japan’s build up play. Heading into the halfway stage of the first frame, Japan doubled their lead as Rioto Takeya snapped a shot from the right boards through traffic fooling Kuzminov after 9:28.

Backed by a sea and yellow and black up the stands supporting their home favourites, Lithuania’s uphill struggle became steeper with 4:11 left to play of the first frame. Yu Sato charged in towards the net from the left side with Hanzawa stabbing home the puck to stretch their lead of 3-0. Lithuania’s head coach Doug Boulanger reacted as Kuzminov in Lithuania’s net was replaced with the more experienced Laurynas Lubys entering the fold.

“This was the hardest game for us in this tournament,” said Japan’s head coach Teruhiko Okita. “Lithuania is an offensive team with good players and there were also a lot of people coming to watch the game which many of our players are not used to,” he continued.

With Lithuania now having to chase the game, they matched Japan evenly for long spells of the second period. Shots were tied 9-9 but once again it was the Japanese who capitalized. Thanks to a brilliant piece of combination of skill and quick transition, Hanzawa picked out Yu Sato, who flew down the left wing and ripped a wrister high past Lubys for his second of the evening to silence the home crowd.

But this crop of Lithuanian youngsters was to show great resilience as they refused to wilt down. Heading into the third frame, they got a lifeline when Timonas Mazulis was picked out by Martynas Grinius in front of Japan’s net to pull one back for Lithuania at 48:08. The roles were reversed with 6:58 left to play of the frame. Japan’s Yuto Taneichi serving a tripping minor and Grinius scored on a rebound by Eiki Sato to send the home crowd back to their feet with “Lietuva! Lietuva!” ringing out from the stands.

Japan’s head coach Okita took a time-out to cool heads and despite Lithuania frantically trying to claw themselves back into the game, any faint hopes of a comeback were crushed with 2:09 left of the game when Nakajima hit the final nail in the coffin with his 5-2 goal.

“We played well during the first and second period. Then in the third they came back, but we took a time-out and once again talked about what we needed to do,” said Japan’s Hanzawa as he singled out the key-component in Japan’s recipe for success in Vilnius. “All our guys play for the team. We are not selfish, but always playing for each other as a hard working team.”

Half of the current crop of players skating to gold in Lithuania will be eligible for Japan at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B. Meanwhile nine out of 22 will be available play for them during the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group A playing in Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia between 13-19 April this year as Japanese hockey aims for a place at the Olympic Winter Games in 2026 and 2030.

Behind the runaway winners, Great Britain improved on last year’s third spot by finishing with the silver medals, despite the omission of Arizona Coyotes draft pick Liam Kirk.

Following their two defeats against Great Britain and Japan, hosts Lithuania had to settle for bronze, while newly promoted Serbia, who could have gotten something out of four out of their five games in Vilnius, finished winless to return straight back to Division IIB.

Ukraine to Debut in Women’s World Championship

For the first time ever, the Ukrainian Women’s National Team will compete in an IIHF Women’s World Championship in February 2020

By Nathaniel Oliver – Hockey Writers

The Ukrainian Women’s National Hockey Team will be playing in an actual IIHF World Championship for the first time ever. Nearly a year ago, the Ukrainians competed in the 2019 Division II B qualification tournament. Going up against South Africa, Belgium, Hong Kong and Bulgaria, the Ukrainians allowed a mere five goals through four games and went undefeated.

This was a victory that we had to make,” said Ukrainian defender Maryna Kobchuk. “We cried, we rejoiced, and we congratulated each other.”

Completing that successful qualification run, the team will now head to Akureyri, Iceland at the end of February. From Feb. 23 through 29, they will partake in the
2020 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division II B.
This is something that Kobchuk – who will turn 21 years old on Jan. 15 – has been working to achieve since the age of 15 when she first began organized hockey.

“It will be difficult – but our team is ready,” Kobchuk said. “Listening to our coaches’ assignments is critical. This group of teams that we will be going up against includes Turkey, Iceland, Croatia, Australia and New Zealand.”

Building Skill and Chemistry With HK Ukrainochka

Kobchuk, along with many of her national teammates, plays for HK Ukrainochka in her homeland. The Ukrainian Women’s Hockey League is quite small and consists of just three teams – Ukrainochka, Pantery Kharkov, and Avtomobilist Kiev. The league itself came to fruition in 2016, and has been the primary training bed for women’s hockey in this country.

“This past season our team HK Ukrainochka became champions of Ukraine,” Kobchuk smiled. “All of us were very happy to see how far we have come along as a team and as a league.”

Going 6-12-18 in scoring through 12 games this past 2018-19 season, Kobchuk was the second highest scoring defender in the league. She would also be named the league’s Best Defender. Across 36 career games for Ukrainochka, Kobchuk has scored 13 goals, 26 assists and 39 points.

Possessing a left-handed shot, she also has ideal size for a rearguard and skates well in and out of the zone. Kobchuk stands 5-foot-8 and is over 150 pounds. Her solid build is an advantage she is quite comfortable using, and she prefers playing an aggressive, physical game.

Marina Kobchuk earned Best Defender honors for the 2018-19 Ukraine Women’s Hockey League season

Looking Ahead to Iceland

The Ukrainians will bring more firepower to Akureyri than what people may realize. They possess a good amount of depth as well.

The oldest players on the country’s national team are 47-year-old twin sisters Inna Kozub and Elena Vansovich. The 5-foot-4 winger Kozub totaled two points (1G, 1A) in Ukraine’s 5-2 victory over Hong Kong on Jan. 17, 2019. Both women’s experience and motherly presence for this otherwise young squad adds a great deal of reassurance.

32-year-old Olena Tkachuk is one of the team’s top scorers. She went 3-3-6 through the four qualification games. Tkachuk is also a former member of the HK Pantera Minsk of Europe’s prestigious Elite Women’s Hockey League (EWHL). One of her teammates in Minsk was current Metropolitan Riveters forward Kelly Nash.

The Ukrainians’ main sniper is 18-year-old Darya Tsymirenko. She was the Ukrainian Women’s League’s top scorer in 2018-19 with a whopping 39 goals, 17 assists and 56 points in a mere 12 games.

“The women’s team – and this is a fact – has seen each player grow in her own way,” said Kobchuk. “At this time, we have added new, young players – just 16 or 17 years old – who did not play with us last year. Each of these girls has trained with men’s teams.”

The team’s top goaltender is 5-foot-9, 150-pound Viktoria Tkachenko. Through the four qualification games, Tkachenko came out of Cape Town, South Africa possessing the best goals against (1.29) and save percentage (.917). Not surprisingly, she was also named Best Goaltender for the tournament as well.

How Will the Ukrainians Fare?

How the Ukrainians will perform in Iceland remains to be seen. While they are a talented bunch, they are going up against well-established countries, namely the Icelanders and the Australians.

Kobchuk and her teammates know that they are in for a challenge.

Hayton, Thomas star as Canada storms back to beat Russia, win World Juniors

By Frank Seravalli –TSN

Go ahead and etch the name ‘Barrett Hayton’ into Team Canada lore.

Because Hayton authored one of the most incredible chapters in Canada’s rich history at the World Junior Championship on Sunday.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Hayton writhed in pain on the ice with an audible ‘yelp’ so loud that you could hear it across Ostravar Arena. His injury was as unfortunate as it was unnecessary late in a semifinal rout over Finland.

The initial diagnosis from team doctors on Saturday was not positive. He appeared to have a separated shoulder, or some kind of significant shoulder ailment – an injury that almost surely would’ve kept him out of a regular season game on Sunday if he was back playing for the Arizona Coyotes.

Team Canada went to bed thinking Hayton would be a “longshot” to play.

But this was Canada-Russia for all the marbles. This was Hayton’s chance to bring home the medal he couldn’t help deliver last year in Vancouver.

After untold hours of manipulation, therapy, and who-knows-what kind of cocktail to provide relief, Hayton didn’t just suit up for Team Canada.

He scored to bring them back from the brink.

After barely being able to muster a shot in warmup, Hayton blasted a snapshot off the post and in to erase a 3-1 deficit and make Canada whole again.

Believe it.

Fourth-liner Akil Thomas finished the job minutes later, scoring his only goal of the tournament – the golden goal – to crown Canada the 2020 World Junior Champion with a 4-3 win that won’t soon be forgotten.

For the 18th time, Canada reigned supreme at the World Juniors.

Sunday marked the fifth time Canada (5-4) topped Mother Russia in the final since the gold medal game was first introduced in 1996.

And man did this one feel sweet, especially after the Big Red Machine dealt Canada the country’s most lopsided loss in its sterling, 43-year run at the World Juniors. Russia has not won gold since 2011.

Maybe in some ways, Sunday played out exactly as it had to for this Team Canada. Because there were no easy roads in Ostrava.

Any one of the five or six incidents that Canada went through – physically or mentally – at this 12-day grind of a tournament might have broken a lesser team. 

They were embarrassed in a 6-0 blowout to Russia, 18-year-old star Alexis Lafreniere left with what appeared to be a serious injury, their captain Hayton nearly caused an international incident at centre ice when he failed to remove his helmet, and Joe Veleno earned a one-game suspension for headbutting … and that was just Day 3.

Coach Dale Hunter switched netminders from Nico Daws to Joel Hofer. He shuffled the lines when sniper Nolan Foote was ejected 53 seconds into the quarterfinal against Slovakia. Then Canada leaned on 17-year-old defenceman Jamie Drysdale in the quarterfinal when top pair blueliner Bowen Byram fell ill.

Through it all, Canada kept climbing. All the way to the top.

Their heart was on full display, embodied by the captain when Hayton stepped onto the ice for warmups in the gold medal game.

“It means a lot,” Dylan Cozens said. “We saw how he went down in that last game, but he’s putting that behind him and just working for the boys. He’s putting it all out on the line and that’s leadership right there. He’s playing through pain. We’re really proud of him.”

Hayton made an entire country proud, showing what it means to be Canadian.

He admitted his mistake and apologize for keeping his helmet on. He played through an immense amount of pain, leading Canada to gold on adrenaline.

As the red Maple Leaf raised to the rafters, it produced a feeling of ecstasy and a memory that will last longer than any pain felt.

 

Sweden edges Finland for bronze

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

Sweden trailed after the first period but bounced back to beat Finland 3-2 in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game on Sunday.

Samuel Fagemo stepped up with a goal and an assist, and Rasmus Sandin and Linus Oberg, with the second-period winner, also scored for Sweden.

Patrik Puistola and Matias Maccelli replied for Finland.

In net, Sweden’s Hugo Alnefelt and Finland’s Justus Annunen went head to head again. The two Nordic countries kicked off the tournament in Trinec on 26 December and Alexander Holtz’s overtime goal spoiled Annunen’s 45-save performance in a 3-2 Swedish win. Deja vu.

Sunday’s selection of starting goalies indicated that both Swedish coach Tomas Monten and Finnish coach Raimo Helminen took this third-place showdown seriously. Sweden was coming off a heartbreaking 5-4 overtime loss to Russia in the semi-finals, while Finland’s reign as champion ended after falling 5-0 to Canada.

This was Sweden’s first bronze medal since Saskatoon 2010 under coach Par Marts. The Swedes now have six bronzes all-time. Monten, with four tries, now has another medal to go with 2018’s silver in Buffalo.

Despite outshooting Sweden 34-26, the Finns failed to medal in consecutive years for the first time since they followed up 2001’s silver with three bronzes in a row.

ABBA once released a greatest hits collection called ABBA Gold, but never one called ABBA Bronze. But you can bet that if they had, it would still have been pretty good, similar to this game. It provided an entertaining, back-and-forth gold medal game warm-up for the heavily Canadian crowd of 7,954, despite brimming with penalties.

Puistola drew first blood at 8:22 when Kim Nousiainen pivoted to center the puck from the left faceoff circle, and it went in off Puistola’s right skate for his team-leading fifth goal of these World Juniors. The Swedes called for a video review, but it was quickly ruled good.

Nousiainen was off for holding when the Juniorkronorna drew even at 12:08. Sandin, who had four points in the 5-4 overtime loss to Russia in the semi-finals, added his third goal and 10th point overall on a rising wrister from the high slot that hit Annunen’s water bottle.

After the teams exchanged fruitless power plays, Maccelli picked off Nils Hoglander’s cross-ice pass at the Swedish blue line and beelined in to beat Alnefelt high to the blocker side with one minute left in the first.

In the second period, the Swedes seemed unfazed by Maccelli’s goal, but couldn’t buy a goal in the first half. Albin Eriksson rang one off the cross bar. Finally, Fagemo (who else?) busted to the net on an odd-man rush and converted the rebound at 10:34 after Annunen had denied Hoglander with his glove. It was the Los Angeles prospect’s tournament-leading eighth goal.

At 13:19, Oberg put Sweden up 3-2 with a goal Annunen would like to have had back. His bad-angle shot from the corner hit the surprised Finnish goalie’s left skate and went in.

Helminen’s team put itself behind the eight-ball with three consecutive minors in the third. The Finns tried to push back with under 10 minutes left in regulation and Philip Broberg off for holding the stick, but there was nothing doing.

With Annunen pulled for the extra attacker, Alnefelt made a game-saving glove stop on Finnish captain Lassi Thomson with seven seconds left.

While three of Finland’s five all-time World Junior gold medals came in the 2010’s, the Swedes still have only two titles (1981, 2012), and they’d enjoy adding another one instead of continuing to hear about their record-setting streak of 52 preliminary-round wins.

Both of these elite nations will be looking to take it to the top at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.

Stutzle leading next generation of German hockey talent

By Canadian Press

Like most kids in Germany, Tim Stutzle started out playing soccer.

He liked tennis, too, and fell in love with both. There was also another itch that needed scratching — hockey.

And like his Canadian, American, Russian, Swedish and Finnish counterparts, Stutzle eventually had to decide which one to pursue more seriously.

It looks like he made the right choice.

Stutzle heads the sport’s next wave of high-end German talent on display at the world junior hockey championship, one that hopes to follow in the footsteps of Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl.

Set to turn 18 in the middle of January, Stutzle is already excelling in his country’s domestic league against men, causing him to rocket up mock NHL draft boards.

And with scouts and general managers having made their yearly pilgrimage to the under-20 tournament, Stutzle hasn’t disappointed. The forward has five assists in five games, runs his team’s power play and is an assassin-like threat every time he touches the puck.

There’s constant chatter that comes with draft hype — a top-10 selection seems likely at this point — but at least for now, those around Stutzle have been impressed with how his feet have stayed firmly on the ground.

“It’s unbelievable the way he’s dealing with that,” German head coach Tobias Abstreiter said. “He’s a very good character guy. He knows what’s important. It doesn’t affect him.

“At this age, it’s very impressive.”

Polite and soft-spoken, Stutzle doesn’t like discussing himself. He’s allowed his play on the ice at an event where many teammates and opponents are two years his senior tell the story.

“It’s a big honour there are so many people talking about me, but we need to settle down maybe a little bit,” said Stutzle, who has five goals and 23 points in 25 games with the Mannheim Eagles in 2019-20. “There’s a long season to go. Then the (draft) decision is made by the teams, not by me.”

“He’s a humble kid,” said German captain Moritz Seider, who went No. 6 to Detroit in 2019. “He’s performing every single night. He has to learn a couple things, but he will adjust quick and has a bright future.”

While the likes Canada’s star and projected No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere have grabbed a lot of attention at the world juniors — and rightly so — whichever team winds up taking Stutzle, who has some on-ice traits similar to shifty New York Islanders centre Mathew Barzal, won’t be disappointed.

“Really good young player,” said Canadian assistant Andre Tourigny, also coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s. “He’s fast, he’s tough, he has some creativity. I really like his game.”

But the six-foot, 187-pound Stutzle, who plays on a line in Mannheim with former NHLer Ben Smith, is just one of Germany’s young talents turning heads. He’s been skating with fellow draft-eligible 17 year olds John-Jason Peterka and Lukas Reichel — the nephew of former NHL player Robert Reichel — combining for six goals and 14 points in Ostrava.

Abstreiter said that while sometimes the stars align for a generation of players, credit also needs to go to the country’s hockey federation, which won a surprise silver at the 2018 non-NHL Olympics, and pro clubs for nurturing the talent.

“When extraordinary players get trust and confidence from their teams at home, they can evolve and they can improve and perform at a higher level, and learn a lot,” said Abstreiter, who suited up for Germany at the 2002 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup. “When young players in the German hockey league get a lot of important ice time, you see the results.

“They pay it back.”

Tourigny, who has a player of his own projected to go high at June’s draft in the form of 67’s centre Marco Rossi, said Stutzle’s path reminds him of another meteoric rise from a smaller hockey nation.

“I remember a few years ago when (Switzerland’s) Nico Hischier had a really good world juniors,” the coach said of the No. 1 selection in 2017. “From there it built up and people talked more and more about him. He’s a good player. It’s a good draft year. If you look at the draft this year, there are some pretty good players.”

The Germans were unlucky to be dropped into a powerhouse Group B here — dubbed “The Group of Death” — with Canada, Russia, the United States and host Czech Republic.

They led the Americans midway through the second period and upset the Czechs for the country’s first victory at the world juniors since the 2014 event, but wound up fifth and have to play a relegation series against Kazakhstan.

Germany, which previously hadn’t qualified for the tournament since 2015, won the opener of the three-game set 4-0 and will look to close things out Saturday to secure a spot next year in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta.

That’s of course Draisaitl’s backyard, but while Stutzle has tons of respect for the NHL’s second-leading scorer and has been buoyed watching the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 excel, he wants to chart his own path.

“Leon is his own guy,” he said. “I want to be myself.”

The way things are going, there could be a lot more Draisaitls, and eventually Stutzles, on the way.

“German hockey is getting better and better,” he said. “It’s not only soccer, soccer, soccer.

“It’s also hockey.”