Category: World Championships (page 1 of 11)

Australia wins Tasman battle

Australia will return to Division II Group A next year

By Andy Potts –

The Trans-Tasman rivalry was relocated to the other side of the world as Australia and New Zealand battled it out for gold in the north of Iceland.

The decisive game of the Women’s World Championship Division II Group B tournament put the Southern Hemisphere in the spotlight – and ended with a convincing 7-1 Australian victory as the team secured promotion back to IIA after a single season.

The Aussies went in as favourite, undefeated in its first four games. New Zealand and fellow contender Iceland both had one loss on their records, but the Kiwis could still force a three-way tie with victory – and would take top spot if they could win it by four.

It might have been an outside chance, but New Zealand did everything to make it happen. An early goal from Caitlin Heale put the Ice Fernz 1-0 in front and an Australian penalty shortly after offered a fantastic opportunity to intensify the pressure. Instead, though, a shorthanded goal from Sharna Godfrey tied it up in the fifth minute and the scores stayed level until the intermission.

In the middle frame, though, Australia began to dominate. Outshooting the Kiwis 21-10, it jumped to a 3-1 lead on goals from Rylie Padjen and Ashlie Aparicio. The third proved one-sided, with Godfrey scoring twice more to complete her hat-trick and assisting on a goal for Kate Thiema, who was nominated as Australia’s player of the game. Natasha Farrier added a goal to her earlier pair of helpers as the game finished 7-1 to the Aussies.

Australia turned this tournament into a longer trip north. Swapping a southern hemisphere summer for the snows of Scandinavia, Stuart Philps and his team flew to Sweden for a week-long training camp in Tranas. The Aussies took on a couple of local women’s teams in exhibition games and worked on their pre-tournament preparations. All of that helped to set up a flying start in Akureyri, where a 6-1 victory over the host in the opening game set the tone for an impressive display.

Over the course of the tournament, Australia allowed just four goals and scored 39. The team that came closest to matching the eventual champion was Turkey, for whom goalie Sera Dogramaci produced a stellar display, making 39 saves to keep the score to 2-1. Dogramaci had some local knowledge to help her; she plays her club hockey in Australia with the Sydney Sirens.

New Zealand, defeated in the de facto gold medal game, went home with bronze. But there was also optimism after a relatively youthful roster proved that it could compete on the international stage. Jana Kivell, a 19-year-old rookie, led the team in scoring with eight points. Better known in the inline hockey world, she adapted well to the ice. Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park told the Puck Yeah podcast: “I’m really excited for her. She’s definitely come into her own and the stats speak for themselves. It can be very nervewracking for a player in her position but we’re seeing her shoot the puck more. She’s got a killer touch and she can put the puck in the net.”

Park also spoke of the backing her team enjoyed in New Zealand and the importance of that support in helping to fund the long trip to Iceland. “We had lots of conversations about the future of women’s ice hockey and the girls we are inspiring along the way. We’re really appreciative of all that support and these girls are trying to do it for everyone back home.”

Host nation Iceland took silver and wrapped up proceedings with a 7-0 victory over Ukraine in the last game. Silvia Bjorgvinsdottir scored 2+1 in that game to finish with a tournament-leading 13 (8+5) points. The 20-year-old Akureyri native was chosen as the event’s top forward on her return to her hometown; at the end of last season she left the local Skautafelag club to join Sodertalje in Sweden’s Division 1. Team-mate and namesake Sunna Bjorgvinsdottir (no relation) made a similar journey. With 85 points between them in Swedish hockey this season, those two are the most successful of Iceland’s ‘exports’, a small group of players developing their careers in Sweden and Norway.

Another export, Australia’s Olivia Last, won the top goalie prize. She allowed three goals in three games, stopping 95.5% of the shots she faced. Like Bjorgvinsdottir, she’s also moved to the Baltic and is playing this season with RoKi in Finland. Australia’s captain, Rylie Padjen, twice an Australian national champion with Melbourne Ice, took the top defenseman honours.

IIHF president Fasel: “It will not come to a World Championship with ghost games”


The 2020 World Championship in Switzerland is scheduled to start in about 69 days – or will it also be in jeopardy due to the circulating Coronavirus?

“We are in close contact with the organizers and try to analyze the situation,” IIHF president René Fasel tells the Blick in an interview. “We will wait until 15 March to see how this pandemic develops. After that we might be able to say more.”

According to Fasel, the IIHF’s medical commission is currently meeting in Budapest, where it will probably be decided that in a first step all international tournaments in March and all U18-events are going to be cancelled.

When asked about if there is a deadline for a cancellation of the Worlds in Switzerland, Fasel does not reveal a date but explains that for a cancellation it would require a political decision due to medical concerns, not least because of financial and insurance issues.

In case politics should allow the 2020 World Championship to be held but require the games to be played behind closed doors, the IIHF president gives a unequivocal answer: “It will not come to a World Championship with ghost games, that makes no sense at all from my point of view.”

Moreover, Fasel reveals that the IIHF is insured against a cancellation due to force majeure already since 2012 and that they recommend every organizer to do the same. The Swiss organizers, for their part, have taken out this insurance. Financial damage would therefore be excluded.

First triumph for South African women

The South African team celebrates first place in the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division III and returns to Division II play first time since 2013

By Ivan Tchechankov –

South Africa won the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division III in a dramatic fashion. Before the last day of play in the Winter Palace in Sofia there was a possibility for a four-way tie for first place, but the first game on Tuesday destroyed that intriguing option.

South Africa defeated Lithuania 4-2 and finished the tournament with 12 points. In the first period 16-year-old Lithuanian star Klara Miuller scored her event-leading ninth goal and tied the game at 1-1. Tarryn Keuler and Inge Marais tallied a pair in seven minutes during the second for South Africa’s 3-1 lead, but just 28 seconds before the intermission Nomeda Burneikaite stroke on a power play for the Baltic country.

Dalene Rhode had her second goal of the game in the start of the third and her team was all over the Lithuanians with four consecutive power plays and 15-2 shots advantage in the period (43-9 in the game), but the score remained 4-2.

And then the long and tense waiting began. In the last game of the tournament Romania (at that moment with 9 points) needed a regulation-time victory against Belgium (6 points) to take first place and get back to Division II Group B. The host team Bulgaria already won convincingly its last outing 5-0 over the team from the Chinese island of Hong Kong and relied on the same development to get the bronze medals with 8 points. But Belgium was playing for silver and had a great support from the South African team on the stands.

Romania had two power plays in a row and five seconds after the second one expired, Ana Voicu opened the scoring in the 14th minute. In the end of the period Femke Bosmans had the equalizer. The second period was decisive with three more goals for Belgium – two in a row by Lotte de Guchtenaere and one by Valentine Maka. Romania’s goaltender Andrea Kurko was replaced by Nadina Niciu after allowing four goals on 10 shots, but it was too late for a comeback. In the third Romania had a 14-5 shot-on-goal advantage, but there was just one goal – 49 second before the end, again scored by Voicu – 2-4. So South Africa won the division ahead of Belgium and Romania.

“We always knew that it would be a tough game for Romania because Belgium looked better as the days were going on. We are grateful for what was happening,” said Andre Marais, the smiling head coach of South Africa. His team started the tournament on the wrong side – an 11-4 loss to Romania, but then was able to turn the things around with four consecutive wins: Belgium 4-3, Hong Kong 2-1, Bulgaria 2-1, Lithuania 4-2.

“The first game was tough for us because as a team we really didn’t know what to expect. We had many games against men’s teams, but not so much against women’s teams. We haven’t had a lot of preparation for games against organized opposition. So after this bad start we had few things to address. The ladies and our team really dedicated themselves to defence. South Africa won the rugby World Cup this year and we used that as an analogy, because our defence was so good there, and I said to the girls that this has to be the model to use. And that has been our secret – stepping hard and taking the team deep into the third period, where we can snatch it,” explained 38-year-old Marais, whо played in 18 men’s World Championship tournaments (12 in a row; 2008-2019) and has been head coach of different South African teams on the world stage since 2009.

“We stayed the same all the way through and our commitment to the team was to play three lines. I don’t believe in playing 10 players, I believe in using the whole bench and I’m trying to use that to get momentum later in the game. Our goalkeeper Shaylene Swanepoel played really well, especially in the moments when we needed her. I don’t think her saves percentage shows how well she played in the minutes where we really, really needed her,” continued Marais.

Dalene Rhode scored two goals in South Africa’s deciding game against Lithuania

South Africa didn’t score a power play goal at all despite 19 chances to do so. The team was next to last in the tournament in penalty killing (72.7%) and save percentage (81.6%), on 4th place for scoring efficiency (13.5%). But they were on the top of the most important final ranking for points and earned the promotion to the Division II Group B for the 2020/2021 season.

“It’s the moments for me. The ladies believed and stuck to the game plan – to be the hardest team that they can be to play against and the chances will come to us. We don’t need always 30 shots in a game, but if we can keep the team tight and if we can tire the opposition, we can play hard hockey and then often things go your way, “said Marais, who has been the head coach of the women’s national team for a sixth season.

Four years ago it was almost the other way around. The tournament was also in Sofia and South Africa won its first game against Romania 3-2 in OT, then they defeated Bulgaria 7-3 and were closing to their first promotion, but lost 2-3 to Hong Kong in the final day. Then the Asian team had to wait the last game, hoping that Bulgaria will beat Romania. It didn’t happen – the host lost 3-8 and Romania finished in first place, Hong Kong was second, South Africa – third, Bulgaria – fourth. In the last five years Bulgaria had only one win in 18 games played on the world stage. This time the team won three of five games, but finished on fourth place once again. The star player was Veronika Metanova (7 goals), who was at Concordia University from 2013 to 2017, but the veteran players Tina Lisichkova (3+4) and Stefani Stoyanova (5 assists) had a huge impact as well.

“Bulgaria played better hockey than the last years and the team showed discipline, which was lacking before. Everyone is realizing how important is to raise your level, just to play in these championships, because teams are always coming up from bottom. Last year was Ukraine, couple a years ago was Croatia, in 2015 – Romania,” Marais described the level of the Division III.

“For us it was more that we have to improve our skills, we adopted a specific training program and we have a Swedish company that is involved with us, helping us using the off ice time and the good weather condition that we have to train outside. The ladies have never been as fit and in condition as they are now, which was shown. We dedicated ourselves to skills development, little bit less tactics, so to say lets get skill and that should help us through. We had training camps once a month from August to November and we came earlier in Sofia to get used to the ice surface, to get them in environment earlier and spend more time as a team and that’s also a big thing about this group – they are real team, they love each other, they do a lot together and having fun. It’s that commitment to each other that helps them in the times when the games are getting tough.”

This was South Africa’s 13th showing at Women’s World Championships. In the first seven years (2003-13) there were a total of 3 wins. Andre Marais took over the head coaching job in 2014 and since then the team had five third-place finishes in a row and had two wins every year except the first under him. This time South Africa was triumphant in Sofia and now the country has a top finish in each IIHF category in which it has participated.

Newcomer Lithuania, with Klara Miuller as scoring leader and best forward of the tournament and Emilie Simonsen winning the top goaltender award, moved down to fifth place on the last day with two wins from five games. South Africa’s Donne van Doesburgh was named best defender. Hong Kong, China remained winless and finished last.

Finns repeat in Slovakia

By Andrew Podnieks –

If you didn’t know the players on an inexperienced Finnish national team before this World Championship, you most certainly do now. This collection of apparent unknowns and never-played-befores defeated Canada 3-1 to win their second gold in as many hostings by Slovakia, the previous win coming in 2011.

Captain Marko Anttila scored the first two goals and Harri Pesonen added a late insurance marker. Goalie Kevin Lankinen, meanwhile, was one shot short of perfect. Although Canada outshot the Finns by double, 44-22, Lankinen was steady and played his position expertly.

But perhaps the greatest credit should go to coach Jukka Jalonen, who selected this group of players, many of whom had no international or World Championship experience, and got them to play as a team, play a combination of stifling defence and timely offence. To him go the highest kudos.

The first period was a rough-and-tumble affair as the Finns, in particular, wanted to introduce a physical element to the game. Pushing and shoving was all too common after whistles, and it was Canada that got the first power play as the result of an over-aggressive check in the offensive end by Anttila.

Yet on the ensuing power play, Canada surrendered a penalty shot after Troy Stecher gave up the puck at the Finland blue line. Jere Sallinen broke up ice on a clear break, but he was hauled down. Oliwer Kaski took the shot, but it went off Murray’s left pad and hit the end boards harmlessly.

Soon after, Juho Lammikko almost created another breakaway with his speed, thus giving Canada a sense of what Finland is capable of on the counter attack. Nevertheless, the only goal of the opening 20 minutes came from Canada.

Anthony Mantha made a great play just inside the Finland line, stick checking Toni Rajala and allowing defenceman Shea Theodore to claim the loose puck. Theodore curled in on goal and drilled a shot over Lankinen’s glove at 10:02.

Near the end of the period, Philippe Myers wired a long shot off the crossbar behind Lankinen, but the puck stayed out. Finland didn’t have much in the way of clear chances besides the penalty shot.

The second period could be neatly divided into two not quite equal parts, the first dominated by Finland and the second by Canada. In Finland’s half, Suomi managed to tie the score, thanks to an early power play. Anttila’s quick shot from the right faceoff dot snuck between Murray’s pads at 3:35, sending the pro-Finland crowd into a frenzy.

The goal refreshed the Finns, who did away with the heavy hitting and started using their legs to create several more great chances. Anttila hit the post soon after; Niko Ojamaki had a great chance that Murray stopped; Kaapo Kakko used his speed to generate a great chance that Murray denied with his left pad; Harri Pesnoen also had a clear shot.

Canada weathered the storm, and was lucky to be in a tie game, but slowly and surely the Canadians started to get the puck into the Finland end and maintain possession for periods of time. Kyle Turris hit the post, but the period ended in a fair, 1-1 game.

Crazily enough, Anttila got the go-ahead goal in the third at the exact same time as his goal in the second–3:35. It came off a bit of good fortune as Canadian defender Damon Severson lost his stick behind the goal. Veli-Matti Savinainen was right there and got the puck out front to Anttila, who lifted a shot over Murray’s shoulder.

With that goal Finland played a dangerous game of sitting on the lead. Canada was relentless on the offence, and Mark Stone, the tournament’s leading goalscorer, had a great chance from the slot but snapped a shot right into Lankinen’s chest. Most of the rest of the game was played in the Finnish end, but the entire team blocked more shots than Lankinen perhaps.

And then, on a harmless-looking play, Pesonen flicked a shot on goal that Murray didn’t see. It beat him on the short side, and that 3-1 lead was all Finland needed.

Individual Awards selected by the Tournament Directorate:

Best Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevski (RUS)
Best Defenceman: Filip Hronek (CZE)
Best Forward: Nikita Kucherov (RUS)

Most Valuable Player selected by the media:

Mark Stone (CAN)

All-Star Team selected by the media:

GK: Andrei Vasilevski (RUS)
DE: Filip Hronek (CZE)
DE: Mikko Lehtonen (FIN)
FW: Mark Stone (CAN)
FW: William Nylander (SWE)
FW: Jakub Voracek (CZE)

Russia shoots down Czechs for bronze

By Lucas Aykroyd –

Ilya Kovalchuk and Nikita Gusev scored in the shootout to give Russia the bronze medal in a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic on Sunday.

Kovalchuk roofed a short-side backhander past Czech goalie Simon Hrubec and the elusive Gusev scored five-hole. Russian netminder Andrei Vasilevski was perfect in the shootout, denying Czech defenceman Filip Hronek on the final attempt. The Vezina Trophy nominee from the Tampa Bay Lightning shone as shots favoured the Czechs 50-36, including an 18-6 gap in the third period.

Russia’s last medal was also bronze, from Cologne in 2017. It’s their first medal under second-year head coach Ilya Vorobyov. The Russians are still looking for their first gold medal since Minsk 2014.

The long Czech drought at this tournament continues. The Czechs haven’t won the gold medal since shocking Russia 2-1 in the 2010 final in Cologne, and their last medal of any shade was 2012’s bronze.

In front of 9,085 spectators at Ondrej Nepela Arena, Mikhail Grigorenko and Artyom Animisov scored for Russia in regulation time. Michal Repik and Dominik Kubalik replied for the Czech Republic.

Czech coach Milos Riha observed the time-honoured tradition of playing his back-up goalie in the bronze medal game. Hrubec’s only previous 2019 game was the 7-2 win over Norway. Russian coach Ilya Vorobyov had other ideas, as Vasilevski appeared for the eighth time in 10 opportunities.

The result offered some consolation for Russia which won eight straight games before suffering a 1-0 semi-final loss to underdog Finland.

The Russians got off to a good start. At 13:00, Grigorenko tipped Sergachyov’s left point shot through Hrubec’s pads to make it 1-0 with his fourth goal of these Worlds.

Just 41 seconds later, the Czechs struck back. David Sklenicka’s stretch pass found Repik at the Russian blue line for a breakaway and he fired it through Vasilevski’s five-hole.

Now the tide turned in favour of the Czechs, who had been outshot to this point. Kubalik made it 2-1 for the Czechs. Jan Kovar set him up in the left faceoff circle up from behind the net, and the 2019 Swiss NLA scoring leader snapped it home, high to the glove side, for his sixth of the tournament at 18:34.

It took just 37 seconds for Russia to make it 2-2 in the second period. Gusev picked off Jan Kovar’s failed clearing attempt and got the puck to Artem Anisimov, who fired a shot that tipped off the stick of defenceman Radko Gudas and past a surprised Hrubec.

Still, the undaunted Czechs looked more inspired for much of the middle frame, although Gusev came close, ringing one off the iron. The Russians mounted a late charge, but even when Ovechkin nicely set up his Washington teammate Yevgeni Kuznetsov, the 2018 Stanley Cup playoff scoring leader, on the rush, there was no go-ahead goal.

Early in the scoreless third period, Vasilevski slid over to rob Radek Faksa, set up on an odd-man break by Michal Repik. With under three minutes left in regulation, Gusev hustled past multiple Czech defenders before feeding his partner in crime Nikita Kucherov by Hrubec’s right post, but the 2019 Art Ross Trophy winner put the puck off the side of the net. Vasilevski also stoned Faksa with his glove before the buzzer sounded.

Gusev missed the best chance of overtime with under two minutes left when Kucherov found him all alone by the side of the net. The SKA St. Petersburg forward who had four points in last year’s 5-4 Olympic gold medal win over Germany couldn’t convert.

The Czechs have historically had good fortune against the Russians in bronze medal games. They won at both the 1997 Worlds and 2011 Worlds. They also beat Russia in the 2006 Olympic bronze medal game in Turin. But history didn’t count for much here. In the preliminary round this year, Russia beat the Czechs 3-0, thanks to Vasilevski’s 23-save shutout.

Surprisingly, the Russians have yet to win gold when Kovalchuk serves as captain. The 36-year-old sniper, who was named MVP at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, also wore the “C” with the silver-medal teams of 2010 and 2015.

Italy upset Austria 4-3 to stay among ice hockey elites


In a battle between the two bottom teams from Group B at the ice hockey worlds, Italy upset Austria 4-3 in a shootout on Monday and relegated their opponents from the elite category.

Italy’s first and only win in the group means they will stay in the top pool for next season. Austria is leaving for Division 1 after three years.

Italy was the first to strike after Anthony Bardaro’s highlight move around a defender and the shot that went past David Kickert’s glove. Austria tied the scores with Manuel Ganahl scoring on a rebound 90 seconds later and Michael Raffl added another goal in the first period to lift Austria to 2-1 lead.

Italy responded with the same tactic in the second period. Simon Kostner tied things up from the slot and Marco Rosa put Italy in the 3-2 lead.

Raffl’s second of the night tied the game up again, and after the goalless overtime, a shootout drama had to determine the winner and the team to get relegated.

Italy’s Sean McMonagle became the hero in the seventh round of the shootout with a nice backhand deke to put the game away at 4-3.

It was the last game at the 2019 worlds for both teams.

Ben Davies hits sudden-death winner as Great Britain pull off remarkable comeback against France in overtime

Great Britain made domestic ice hockey history in Slovakia on Monday as they beat France

By Paul Newman – MailOnline

Great Britain made domestic ice hockey history in Slovakia on Monday when they dramatically fought back from three down against France to win 4-3 in overtime and stay at the top level of the World Championships.

Ben Davies, the Welshman who plays for Guildford Flames, hit the sudden death winner in the extra period as GB defied all the odds and expectations to defeat a vastly more experienced French side in what amounted to a relegation play-off.

GB, playing at the elite level of the game for the first time in 25 years, had earned successive promotions to be in Kosice but it looked as though they were heading straight back down after losing their first six games against some of the best teams in the world.

And their last chance to pull off one of the greatest achievements in the history of the British game looked over when they crashed to a three-goal deficit against a France team who have specialised in survival during their long stay at the highest level.

But Britain showed immense character to claw it back to parity, with Sheffield defenceman Ben O’Connor brilliant in assisting on all three goals, and netminder Ben Bowns again in superlative form, before Davies broke clear to hit the winner.

‘It’s pretty surreal right now,’ said Davies. ‘We were three down and everything seemed against us but it’s not our character to give up and we stuck with it.

‘Things started going our way and the goals started to go in while Bowns was incredible. I’ve never scored a bigger goal than that and I’ll remember it forever.’

Britain made a strong start and had their chances to take the lead in a goalless first period, with Davies, Mike Hammond and the impressive Liam Kirk, making his biggest impression yet in the tournament, all missing good chances.

And they were made to pay for their profligacy when the strong French side powered to a three-goal advantage midway through the second period.

Kirk, the first English born and bred player to be drafted by an NHL club, and Davies had both had further efforts saved by France netminder Florian Hardy before Anthony Rech finally found a way through the defences of Bowns.

Britain then had their worst spell of the match and it was while O’Connor was serving a minor penalty that Florian Chakiachvili added a second on the power-play. Six seconds later the game looked over when Rech added a third straight from the face-off.

But GB coach Pete Russell, who will leave his club position at Glasgow for a head coach role in Germany after this tournament, immediately called a time-out which served to re-energise his side and they came storming back.

O’Connor is Britain’s outstanding offensive defenceman and it was his intervention and pass that set up Sheffield’s Robert Dowd for a neatly taken first goal and GB were right back in it when O’Connor again assisted Manchester’s Mike Hammond for his fourth goal of the tournament.

GB were in dreamland when Robert Farmer, the Nottingham forward who scored the dramatic late goal that earned Britain their surprise promotion in Budapest last year, tied the game with another assist by O’Connor.

That took this thriller into the extra period of three on three ice hockey and Bowns, who has made more saves in this tournament than any other goalie in World Championships history, made two more breathtaking stops before Davies settled it.

Now GB, who were immediately relegated when they were last at this level in 1994, can look forward to a second campaign at the highest level in Switzerland next year and a number of their players, not least Bowns, are likely to receive club offers from bigger leagues than Britain after announcing themselves on the world stage.

Romania to Div. IA!

Romania celebrates winning a place in next year´s Division IA with Attila Goga (front right) trying to come to terms with their sensational performances in Tallinn.

By Henrik Manninen –

Dubbed as one of the main contenders for relegation at the start of the tournament, Romania had other plans as they roared to a sensational gold at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Tallinn, Estonia.

Romania beat the Netherlands 3-1 in their final game at Tondiraba Ice Hall to surge through the tournament undefeated and take a significant leap upstairs in the international world of hockey.

Power-play goals by Gergo Biro and Attila Goga put Romania two goals in front against the Netherlands. It was to be a lead they never relinquished. Outshooting the Netherlands 32-15, Balasz Peter lobbed Romania’s third in the empty net with 44 seconds to go.

The win sees Romania climb up to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A. Winning gold also means Romania will jump up on the IIHF Men’s World Ranking and reach heights they have not been at since 1995 when they were 20th overall in the World Championship program.

“This is incredible for us. We came here to try and stay in the group and here we are, winning all five games,” said Romania’s Daniel Tranca, voted Best Player of the Game against the Netherlands and played an integral part in the turnaround in fortunes in a team that last year survived in Division IB during the last day.

It’s euphoric, I cannot really describe it. I still don´t really believe that next year we will be in the Division IA.

Roberto Gliga
Romanian captain

“We had higher expectations going into this tournament than last year, but we honestly did not expect to promote,” said Gliga.

Having opened their sensational gold winning campaign in Tallinn by beating Estonia on penalty shots (4-3), they then downed Japan (3-2) which was followed up by an overtime win against Poland (3-2). Romania rolled on to topple Ukraine (5-1) before brushing aside the Dutch (3-1)

“We took it game by game. We have a really good group and knew if we kept on playing really good defensively and be efficient we had a chance. The key game was against Poland. They were the big favourites and after beating them, we knew we had to do whatever it takes to win our final games,” said Gliga.

Kazakhstan and Belarus seal promotion to 2020 IIHF World Championship

Kazakhstan and Belarus will play in next year’s International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship in Switzerland

The hosts and Belarus are guaranteed to finish in the top two prior to the conclusion of the event at Barys Arena today.

Their places in the top tier of the World Championship were confirmed when South Korea suffered a shock defeat to Lithuania.

South Korea had been chasing promotion but their hopes were ended after they lost 2-1.

Kazakhstan will secure top spot in Division IA if they better Belarus’s result tomorrow.

The home nation play Hungary, while Belarus take on South Korea, who made their IIHF World Championship debut last year before they were immediately relegated.

Kazakhstan beat Belarus 3-2 in overtime in their last group game yesterday.

Today is the last-day at the Division IA. Thank you Kazakhstan🇰🇿 for the great event and thanks to all supporters who came to the arena and travelled to Nur-Sultan to support their teams! 😍🏒🏆

— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 5, 2019

“We are very happy, congratulations to all Kazakhstan that the team is finally back to the top division,” said Kazakhstan head coach Andrei Skabelka.

“The game against Belarus was the best game we had in this tournament.

“We had many opportunities and a very good start but still the problem that we didn’t capitalise on our chances.

“We want to be better in this aspect.”

Kazakhstan last featured at the IIHF World Championship in 2016, where they finished bottom of Group A and were relegated to Division IA.

Belarus have made an immediate return after they dropped out of the top division at the 2018 tournament in Denmark.

Switzerland is due to host the 2020 IIHF World Championship, with matches set to be held in Zurich and Lausanne.

Israel moves on up

The Israeli players celebrate after receiving the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group B trophy and gold medals

By Andy Potts –

Israel secured promotion to the Division II Group A of the IIHF World Championship after topping its group in Mexico City. In a tournament full of goals – 138 markers were shared between the six nations – Israel had the most prolific offence, claiming 32 of them on its way to victory.

The Israelis, with a roster that included former KHLer Eliezer Sherbatov, confirmed top spot with a comfortable 7-3 victory over Georgia on the final day. But the team might have secured gold with a game to spare. The team’s fourth game saw it drop its only point, tying Mexico 4-4 before prevailing in overtime, to give New Zealand a fighting chance going into the final day’s play.

However, Israel made no mistake against the Georgians. After allowing a power-play goal midway through the first period, two goals from Sergei Frenkel – both assisted by Sherbatov – turned the game around. Four unanswered goals in the middle frame, two of them to Sherbatov, put the game and the tournament to bed. Georgia staged a mini rally early in the third but Israel had the final say when Artem Vernyy scored into an empty with that man Sherbatov collecting an assist for his sixth point of the game.

New Zealand, for its part, lost out to Iceland as North Atlantic edged South Pacific for the silver medals. Iceland jumped to a 4-0 lead after two periods and the Ice Blacks could not find a way back despite scoring twice in the final frame.

Sherbatov, once of Slovan Bratislava but now playing for Kurbads Riga in the Latvian championship, ended the tournament as leading scorer with 15 (7+8) points. Along the way he picked up a new nickname from the Mexican broadcast commentators, who dubbed him ‘Mr. Danger’. Defenceman Evgeni Kozhevnikov was next on the list with 14 (5+9) and his Bat Yam team mate Sergei Frenkel was third with 11 (6+5). Frenkel’s tally also included that overtime winner against Mexico. Bat Yam, three-time winners of Israel’s hockey championship, supplied six of Robert Holik’s roster, including the experienced Kozhevnikov’s twin brother Michael, a fellow blue liner. The club, Israel’s champion last season, is current top of the pile once again in the six-team national league.

Mexico’s battling overtime loss against Israel did more than slow the champion’s march to gold. That topsy-turvy game saw the host nation lead 3-1 at the first intermission before trailing 3-4 at the start of the third. Carlos Gomez got the tying goal in the 48th minute, handing Mexico a vital lifeline in its battle against relegation. Collecting a point from that game gave the Mexicans a lift – and they continued that upswing in a final-day showdown against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. A powerful 8-2 victory, sparked by two first-period goals from Hector Majul, ensured that Mexico finished the tournament on a high note and preserved its Division IIB status at the expense of the Koreans, who are relegated to Division III for the first time since 2015. In a high-scoring competition, DPR Korea twice found itself involved in a 13-goal game. It began with a 9-4 win over Georgia and later suffered a 5-8 loss to New Zealand.

Behind Israel, Iceland took the silver medals with New Zealand collecting bronze. Georgia, newly promoted to this level, consolidated its position with a fourth-place finish thanks to victories over Mexico and Iceland.

Among the individual awards, Sherbatov was unsurprisingly chosen as top forward. Iceland’s Dennis Hedstrom was voted best goalie, his save percentage of 88.66 highlighted the impressive scoring on view throughout the tournament. Iceland allowed 15 goals in its five games, the least porous defence at the event. New Zealand’s Stefan Amston was picked as best defenceman. He had 5 (2+3) points in the competition.

Israel’s promotion moves it up to Division IIA where it will replace Belgium. Next season’s opponents will include Croatia, Australia, Spain and China, plus the nation relegated from this week’s Division IB event in Estonia. DPR Korea will be replaced in IIB by Bulgaria, triumphant in the Division III on home ice.

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