Category: World Championships (page 1 of 9)

Debut win for Ukraine’s women

The Ukrainian players come together after winning the deciding game against Belgium to claim first place and promotion at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification.

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

For Ukraine’s women national team, victory in Cape Town was a long time in coming. The team swept through the Division II Group B Qualification tournament, defeating Hong Kong, Bulgaria, the host nation South Africa and the top-seeded Belgians to enjoy a memorable start to life in IIHF World Championship play.

The competition marked a return to the ice for a Ukrainian women’s team. In the early 90s, shortly after the break-up of the USSR, the country twice played in European Championships with little success. While the men’s team drew on a long hockey tradition to play at 2002 Olympics and spend nine seasons with the World Championship elite, the women slipped away. Girls continued to take up the game, but as they grew up they had nowhere to play.

Captain Diana Kovtun was one of them. “I started playing hockey on a boys’ team when I was about 12,” she said. “After a couple of years, I couldn’t keep playing because there’s no mixed hockey for older players. I had to switch to football.

“In football, I was good enough to play for Ukraine’s U17 team, but I always dreamed of coming back to hockey, the game I’d loved since childhood.”

The birth of a Ukrainian Women’s Hockey Championship two seasons ago made that dream a reality. It all stemmed from the efforts of Olexandra Slatvytska, Nadia Boboshko and Yulia Artemyeva. The three had come to hockey via different routes: Boboshko’s brother is a pro in the Slovak league, Artemyeva’s son turned her into a hockey mom and Slatvytska was an experienced sports lawyer. Their combined expertise in finance, marketing and law made the dream credible; backing from the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine (FHU) saw the creation of a five-team league involving 127 players across four regions of the country.

That competition is now in its third season, its leading teams – Kovtun’s Kharkhiv Panthers and Ukrainochka Kyiv – provide the bulk of the national team. But first the girls needed to persuade the FHU that it was time to approach the international stage. When Kyiv staged a men’s U18 World Championship last season, Slatvytska and her colleagues made their pitch.

“People weren’t sure at first whether we could do it, but FHU Vice President Georgi Zubko spoke up for us and said he could guarantee that we would do our best,” she recalled. “That support was really important when we spoke with the executive committee.”

Under the guidance of head coach Vadym Radchenko, whose Kharkhiv team had just won the women’s championship, preparations began for the trip to South Africa. Although the team is almost entirely amateur – Kovtun and forward Yelyzaveta Ryabkina, once captain of Harvard’s NCAA team, are rare exceptions who have played sport at a higher level – the backroom preparations were highly professional. A team of six support staff, led by Radchenko and team manager Yuri Kyrychenko, worked hard on a holistic approach to all aspects of the players’ lives, including diet, exercise regimes and even sleeping patterns. The attention to detail was so great that the team flew its own massage table to Cape Town for the championship, while video coach Nikita Artemyev was supplying insights in the locker room during each intermission.

The efforts paid off. Despite the sudden switch from the cold Ukrainian winter to a southern hemisphere summer – “it was so warm on the ice we found it difficult to breathe at our first practice,” admitted Kovtun – the team produced some high-quality hockey to win all four games with an aggregate score of 17-5. “It was really important for us,” Kovtun added. “We were nervous before the tournament. We felt that we were representing our country here and we didn’t know what to expect. So we prepared very hard and we knew that we had a strong roster.

“Before we came, we got together and made a promise to each other that we would do everything we could to leave with the gold.”

Success in South Africa has raised the team’s profile back home. During the tournament, the women’s Facebook page saw an influx of visitors – over 50,000 in four days – and there was even backing in Cape Town’s Ice Station arena. “We got great support from the Ukrainian diaspora in South Africa,” Slatvytska said. “There must have been about 50 people who came to the games with our country’s flag, shouting and screaming for our girls. In the first game the South Africans were amazed. It felt like we were the home team!”

Now the plan is to build on that. Slatvytska estimates that there are around 120 under-15 girls playing hockey in Ukraine and hopes that this week’s success will inspire them and bring more youngsters to the game. The league is working to bring in some international officials to help raise standards; already, clubs benefit from large amounts of data designed to help coaches monitor and improve player performance.

On the international stage, the women’s team is actively seeking more opponents: more than 35 national federations have been invited to send teams to joint training camps in Ukraine, taking advantage of some impressive facilities in an immersive hockey environment without the costs associated with similar events elsewhere in Europe.

Slatvytska believes that the women’s team can help to generate more opportunities for kids in Ukraine to take up sport. “We’re putting our hearts into this because we believe it can help our country,” she said. “Giving kids a chance to play sports improves our whole society. It steers people away from bad habits and, for some of our players, it’s been a chance to travel and see the world for the first time. It helps people to understand that, if they really want something, they can achieve it.”

WJC Day 11 roundup

Kaapo Kakko gives Finns gold

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

Finland 3, United States 2

Kaapo Kakko scored the winner with 1:26 left as Finland edged the U.S. 3-2 in the 2019 World Junior gold medal game on Saturday night.

Anton Lundell won the draw in the U.S. zone and defenceman Henri Jokirharju got the puck at the blue line. Lundell couldn’t bang in the rebound from Jokiharju’s shot, but Kakko backhanded it past the outstretched right pad of U.S. goalie Cayden Primeau.

Jesse Ylonen and Otto Latvala had Finland’s other goals.

Alexander Chmelevski had a goal and an assist and Josh Norris also scored for the Americans, who came back from a 2-0 third-period deficit. Noah Cates added two assists, and Jack Hughes, the top-rated 2019 NHL Draft prospect, had one assist, matching his output in his previous three games.

However, this night will be remembered for the big goal by Kakko, who is projected to be drafted after Hughes. It was his second goal of these World Juniors.

It’s the third gold medal in six years and fifth in tournament history for Finland, one more than the Americans. The Finns previously triumphed in 1987, 1998, 2014, and 2016. Winning is becoming a habit now.

At Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, the Finns killed off five man advantages against the U.S., which entered the final clicking at a tournament-high 31.8 percent. Shots favoured Finland 31-28, and Primeau and Finnish starter Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen were both heroic.

Despite the loss, the silver-medal Americans extended their World Junior medal streak to four straight years. They won bronze in 2016 and 2018 and gold in 2017.

With five U.S. returnees and seven Finnish returnees from last year, there was no shortage of motivation. The gold medal game was played at a high tempo befitting two of the tournament’s best skating teams.

In a scoreless first period, the Finns outshot their opponents 13-9, but the story was the high-quality chances around Luukkonen’s net.

The U.S. got the first power play when a forechecking Rasmus Kupari caught Josh Norris with an elbow in the corner midway through the opening frame. The Americans thought they’d opened the scoring at 9:45. Luukkonen deflected Ryan Poehling’s shot off the glass and it bounced out in front, enabling Oliver Wahlstrom to fire the loose puck in during a scrum. However, the goal was waved off since Chmelevski was in the crease. Video review validated the on-ice call.

On the second U.S. man advantage, the Finnish goalie made a fabulous stick save on Chmelevski at the side of the net. Late in the period, Luukkonen dazzled again after Cockerill raced in, deked around Jokiharju to the outside and centred it from behind the goal line to Chmelevski for a Grade-A chance.

Flirting with danger, the Finns killed off two more second-period U.S. power plays before Evan Barratt was dinged for interfering with Luukkonen. Ylonen opened the scoring for Finland with an absolute howitzer at 11:31, one-timing Laaksonen’s feed from just inside the blue line over Primeau’s glove. Ylonen got the lone Finnish goal in the 4-1 New Year’s Eve loss to the Americans in Victoria.

With Teemu Engberg off for tripping up Chmelevski, Sami Moilanen nearly tipped in a glorious shorthanded chance on the rush. Before the penalty expired, Kakko and Lundell failed to finish off a 2-on-1 break.

In the third period, the Finns stayed patient and supported the puck well as the Americans pushed for the equalizer.

At the six-minute mark of the third period, Latvala gave Finland a 2-0 lead when his wrister from near the centre point sailed through traffic and beat Primeau on the stick side.

The Americans stayed resilient. They struck back just 1:01 later on a broken play. Jack Hughes attempted a shot that was blocked by Laaksonen, and the puck squirted to Chmelevski, who scored from a bad angle to Luukkonen’s right.

The U.S knotted the score at 8:47. Chmelevski grabbed a loose puck in the left faceoff circle and backhanded it to Josh Norris, whose one-timer flew past a sliding Luukkonen.

With 10 minutes left in the third, Luukkonen smartly denied Jack Hughes on a breakaway. With the Americans coming on strong, he foiled Wahlstrom from the slot four minutes later.

Captain Aarne Talvitie’s efforts to play in the third period were hampered by an injured ankle. The Finns tried to gut it out as the Vancouver crowd of 17,206 chanted: “Let’s go, Finland!” And Kakko delivered.

Every previous gold medal game in the 2010’s has been decided by no more than two goals, and this tense thriller completed the pattern. Finland is proud to return to the medal podium after a disastrous ninth-place finish in 2017 and an underwhelming sixth-place run in 2018.

The result shows how much Finnish hockey has grown since the last time they played for a World Junior medal in Vancouver. In 2006, goalie Tuukka Rask stole the show for the Finns with his quarter-final heroics versus Sweden and bronze medal-winning performance against the Americans. Thirteen years later, Suomi is on top of the world.

This was the first IIHF gold medal game played at Rogers Arena since Sidney Crosby scored the 3-2 overtime winner against the Americans in the 2010 Olympic final. The arena also hosted the 2006 World Junior final, where Canada blanked Russia 5-0.

An added bonus for Vancouver fans was watching three future Canucks prospects in the final. Defenceman Quinn Hughes was a minutes monster and forward Tyler Madden also played a big role for the U.S. during the tournament. Finnish defenceman Toni Utunen, who broke Canadian hearts with his 2-1 quarter-final overtime winner against the host team, also showed good upside.

These young men are the future in Vancouver, and with hard work and good fortune, they could become as beloved as Henrik Sedin or Jyrki Lumme, who attended the final and got rousing cheers when they were shown on the big screen.

With this exhilarating tournament in the books, the eyes of U20 hockey fans now turn toward the Czech Republic, where the Finns will aim to defend their title at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava and Trinec.

The Russian players pose for a team photo with their bronze medals.

Russia 5, Russia 2

Russia beat Switzerland 5-2 in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game on Saturday, as world-class skill and opportunism won out over a never-say-die attitude.

In the early game in Vancouver, the underdog Swiss hung tough with the Russians till the end, but just couldn’t come up with enough offence.

“Not a bad finish for a big tournament,” said Russian captain Klim Kostin, who was the target of booing at Rogers Arena, but scored the eventual winner midway through the second period.

Kirill Slepets led the way with a hat trick, and Nikita Shashkov also scored for Russia.

“I don’t think I was so good in the whole tournament, but in this game I was able to score three goals and help the team,” said Slepets.

Valentin Nussbaumer and Yannick Bruschweiler replied for Switzerland, which outshot Russia 36-24.

“It was pretty surprising for us, but at the end, we’re not going home with a medal and that’s pretty disappointing,” said Swiss defenceman Davyd Barandun.

Goalie Pyotr Kochetkov, who plays for the VHL’s HK Ryazan and remains undrafted by an NHL club, made some fantastic saves to keep Russia ahead, honoring the number 20 on his jersey. It was made world-famous by IIHF Centennial All-Star Team member and Ice Hockey Federation of Russia president Vladislav Tretiak.

While coach Valeri Bragin’s team is disappointed about failing to win Russia’s first gold since 2011, returning to the podium is a creditable achievement in itself. Russia medaled for seven straight years before finishing fifth in Buffalo last year.

“We had a meeting only with the guys,” said assistant captain Dmitri Samorukov. “We talked about it. We tried to say something about what we should do today. And it worked, because we won.”

With an assist, forward Grigori Denisenko took over the tournament points lead (4-5-9). Alexander Romanov’s assist padded his lead as the top-scoring defenceman (1-7-8).

It was a good run in Vancouver and Victoria for the Swiss. They won their one and only bronze medal in 1998 in Helsinki, thanks principally to David Aebischer’s great goaltending. This was the third time they’ve finished fourth after 2002 and 2010.

“It was our goal for the tournament that we wanted to reach the semi-finals,” said Switzerland’s Nico Gross. “But not just the semi-finals. We wanted to go further. We wanted to play for a medal. We’re really disappointed we didn’t get a medal.”

With a solid but unremarkable-looking roster, Swiss coach Christian Wohlwend got his team to compete hard in every preliminary round game and upset Sweden 2-0 in the quarter-final. The Swiss can go home with their heads held high.

“I think we’re getting better and better,” Barandun added. “Our coaches are getting better. Every year, Switzerland’s going to play on top.”

At the end of the day, this bronze-medal score is about what most observers would have predicted after Russia lost 2-1 to the U.S. and Switzerland 6-1 to Finland in the semi-finals.

Slepets opened the scoring for Russia at 4:25. The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl forward got all kinds of time and space as he stickhandled off the right side boards and popped a forehand deke through Swiss starter Luca Hollenstein’s pads.

“He’s pretty quick!” Samorukov said of Slepets with a smile. “I didn’t know that. We talked about how he was going to score one-on-one with the goalie.”

Two seconds after a Swiss man advantage ended, Shashkov scored high to the stick side on a 2-on-1 to make it 2-0 at 13:44.

The biggest Russian defensive breakdown of the first period saw Philipp Kurashev, Switzerland’s leading scorer with six goals, left alone in front of the net with under a minute left. However, Kochetkov denied him with a poke check that would have made Toronto Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower proud.

“First period, terrible,” said Wohlwend of the Swiss. “Terrible. I couldn’t understand it, the whole coaching staff couldn’t understand it. Such a great chance and we were sleeping. We played scared, we played slow with no courage and then, yeah, I had to get loud a little bit in the dressing room. Then it worked.”

In the second period, Switzerland jacked up its urgency and got on the board at 4:54. The Russians unwisely left another Swiss forward, Nussbaumer, unguarded at the crease. He accepted defenceman Simon le Coultre’s pass from the blue line, pivoted to the forehand and tucked it past Kochetkov.

The red-and-white, predominantly Canadian fans urged the underdogs on with chants of “Let’s go Switzerland!”, plus “Defence!” during a mid-game Russian power play.

Kostin, who issued an apology on social media for behaving disrespectfully after the semi-final loss to the U.S., tallied his third goal of the tournament from the slot to put his team up 3-1 at 12:53. The 19-year-old celebrated by plugging his ears.

“The crowd was booing the Russian team and me personally,” Kostin said. “When I scored, it was automatic. I did it automatically, but I didn’t want to offend anyone.”

Commenting on his spectacular play, Kochetkov said: “After the CHL Canada-Russia series, the annual series in November, I received a boost of confidence that I could also be good at the international level.” He had a superb 0.67 GAA and 97.8 save percentage versus the best of the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL.

Early in the third period, the Swiss kept coming, but Kochetkov barred the door. And Slepets, in a classic display of Russian opportunism, split the Swiss defence in the neutral zone for a breakaway and slid a backhander through Hollenstein’s legs at 6:33.

Pavel Shen was a hero on New Year’s Eve when he scored the winning goal against host Canada, but he had goat potential when he took a high-sticking double minor with under 10 minutes to play. Still, Kochetkov remained as impregnable as the Kremlin walls.

“We tried our best,” said Gross. “It just didn’t work out for us.”

With Russia shorthanded, Slepets completed his hat trick into an empty net for his fifth goal of the tournament with 2:01 left.

“It feels pretty good,” said Samorukov. “You win your last game, right? So it feels like gold. We can’t find the words for it. You’re family when you meet for two weeks, three weeks. It’s unbelievable just to see guys and all this stuff. It’s pretty special.”

Including the Soviet period, this is the eleventh Russian World Junior bronze medal of all time.

KHL Players Shine at the CIBC Canada Russia Series

By Romon Solovyov – KHL.ru

For the first time after 2014, the Russians won the Russia Canada Series. This time around, the team led by Valeri Bragin won four matches of six, and the momentum is good in sight of the upcoming World Juniors in Vancouver, BC. KHL players had a crucial role in most of the games and throughout the whole series.

It has been a few years that Bragin’s team wouldn’t play so successfully at the Russia Canada Series, even more so considering that many projected leaders weren’t invited to the event. Players like Vitaly Kravtsov, Grigory Denisenko, and Nikolai Kovalenko instead competed at the U20 Four Nations tournament in the Czech Republic, where they finished second in the standings behind Team Finland.

As it was in most of the recent editions, KHL representatives had a significant role in the team. The team’s top scorer was HC Sochi’s Stepan Starkov. He had two goals and six points in as many games, including a key third-period goal in the last game in the series against the QMJHL Stars to send the game to the overtime, where Dmitri Zavgorodny won the match for Team Russia. It’s not surprising that Starkov was the most productive player in the team, considering that he is the player with the most KHL games in the roster. Starkov played on a line with Ufa’s Pavel Shen and Omsk’s Alexander Yaremchuk. Both players had their impact on the series, although Shen probably looked better thanks to his more significant experience: he already has 12 KHL and 5 VHL games under his belt, while Yaremchuk only has seven with Avangard with limited ice time.

Other forwards were less productive, but this doesn’t mean that they were less useful for the team. Lokomotiv’s Kirill Slepets was very active in most of the games and led Team Russia with 16 shots on goal. He found the net only twice, thus he will need to work on his finalization in sight of the WJC. However, he had an outstanding tournament and made a strong case for himself when it will be the moment to decide for the final roster in December.

With Denisenko – Kravtsov – Kovalenko, and Starkov – Shen – Yaremchuk, Bragin may have two ready troikas for Vancouver. However, other players made a good impression, while some of the Russian players in the CHL may complete the roster.

KHL Forwards on Team Russia: Stepan Starkov (HC Sochi), 6 games, 6 (2+4) points, +2; Pavel Shen (Salavat Yulaev), 6 games, 4 (3+1) points, +1; Ivan Muranov (HC Dynamo), 6 games, 3 (2+1) points, +3; Alexander Yaremchuk (Avangard), 6 games, 3 (1+2) points, +2; Kirill Slepets (Lokomotiv), 6 games, 2 (2+0) points, +1; Nikita Shashkov (Sibir), 5 games, 2 (1+1) points, +3; Bulat Shafigullin (Neftekhimik), 5 games, 1 (1+0) point, -1.

On defense, the team did a great job in containing the Canadian forwards and not giving them much space and dangerous powerplay opportunities. The biggest surprise and one of the best players overall were Metallurg’s Savely Olshansky, who scored the game-winning, overtime goal in the sixth game and finished the tournament as the team’s top scoring defenseman with five points and the second scorer overall. If Olshansky will go on with such a solid game expect Metallurg to call him up more often.

If Olshansky led all Team Russia with a plus-6 rating, the second-best defenseman was Evgeny Kalabushkin, with plus-5. The defenseman is part of the SKA’s system but is yet to debut in the KHL. CSKA’s Alexander Romanov was solid on the blueline, scored one goal and finished the tournament being plus-1.

KHL Defensemen on Team Russia: Savely Olshansky (Metallurg), 6 games, 5 (1+4) points, +6; Alexander Romanov (CSKA), 6 games, 1 (1+0) point, +1; Alexander Lyakhov (Salavat Yulaev), 3 games, 0 points, 0.

In goal, there has been another surprise. Pyotr Kochetkov, who already lined up for HC Sochi in the KHL, won all his three games and somewhat appeared more confident than his colleague Daniil Tarasov. The Ufa goalie won just one game. However, his performances can hardly be considered bad. At this point, it looks like Kochetkov is the prime candidate for being the number one goalie for Team Russia, but in a tournament like the WJC, anything can happen – especially if a goalie like Kirill Ustimenko will be added to the mix.

KHL Goalies on Team Russia: Pyotr Kochetkov (HC Sochi), 3 games, 3 wins, 97,8% saves percentage.

Russia forces overtime to capture series in Drummondville

By chlcanadarussia.ca

The QMJHL was just 14 seconds away from heading to a series-deciding shootout for the second straight year but a perfectly executed offensive zone faceoff allowed Russia’s Dmitry Zavgorodniy (Rimouski Oceanic) to tie the score at two, securing Russia’s fourth-ever CIBC Canada Russia Series victory.

Blueliner Saveliy Olshansky became the first defenceman to ever record five points in the annual event, hammering home a one-timer for the overtime winner 1:35 into the extra frame to put an exclamation mark on a 3-2 victory while giving Russia an 11-7 series win in points.

Russia’s goaltending was up to the challenge once again as Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Daniil Tarasov took over in the crease to provide 34 saves as Team QMJHL fell short despite outshooting Russia 36-25.

Anaheim Ducks prospect Antoine Morand (Halifax Mooseheads) opened the scoring to bring the 2,719 at Centre Marcel Dionne to their feet, blazing down the left wing to lift a quick shot over the shoulder of Tarasov with assists from Rafael Harvey-Pinard (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) and Justin Barron (Halifax Mooseheads) at 8:42.

Tarasov would deny 2019 NHL Draft prospect Raphael Lavoie (Halifax Mooseheads) on a one-timer from the slot late in the first to keep his squad within one and resumed his fine play into the second as Team QMJHL outshot Russia 14-6 in the middle frame.

Both Alexis Lafreniere (Rimouski Oceanic) and Joseph Veleno (Drummondville Voltigeurs) had grade-A chances in the second, breaking in alone to be stopped by Tarasov as the game spilled into the third period with the ‘Q’ still holding a 1-0 lead.

Russia went to work shortly after the flood as Stepan Starkov notched his series-leading sixth point, finding the back of the net for the second time with help from Pavel Shen just 19 seconds into play.

Team QMJHL would respond at 8:40 though, with Drummondville teammates Veleno and Nicolas Beaudin working together to set up New York Islanders prospect Noah Dobson who gave the ‘Q’ a 2-1 lead.

Zavgorodniy’s tying goal came on a clean faceoff win by Artyom Galimov. The Calgary Flames prospect snapped a wrister over the shoulder of a screened Olivier Rodrigue (Drummondville Voltigeurs). Zavgorodniy would join fellow QMJHL Russian teammate Alexander Khovanov with an assist on Olshansky’s overtime winner as Russia claimed its first series since 2014.

Russia went 1-for-6 on the power play while Team QMJHL was held to 0-for-3, marking the first time in event history that the CHL has gone an entire series without scoring on the man advantage. The three leagues went a collective 0-for-19 on the power play while scoring the lowest output by the CHL in event history, managing just nine goals over the six games.

The aforementioned Starkov led the series in scoring, registering points in five of his six games played for a total of two goals, four assists and six points. Boston Bruins prospect Pavel Shen led the event with three goals while Olshansky led blueliners with five points (1-4–5).

Russian netminders Tarasov (1-2, 2.33 GAA, .915 SV%) and Pyotr Kochetkov (3-0, 0.67 GAA, .978 SV%, 1 SO) were also instrumental in their team’s success.

For the CHL, four players led the way with two points each including Team QMJHL’s Harvey-Pinard (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies), Team OHL’s Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and Team WHL’s Connor Dewar (Everett Silvertips).

The CHL wraps up the 16th edition of the CIBC Canada Russia Series with an overall record of 63-26-1-6 while Russia has played to an all-time mark of 33-60-0-3.

Russia to host 2023 ice hockey world championship:

By  Tass Russian News Agency

Russia will host the IIHF World Championship in 2023, the first vice-president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, Roman Rotenberg, has told TASS.

“Everything has been decided. The three federations have come to an agreement. Russia’s St. Petersburg will host the World Championship in 2023, the Czech Republic, in 2024 and Sweden, in 2025,” Rotenberg said.

The decision was made at the IIHF’s semiannual congress in Malta. The official announcement St. Petersburg will host the World Championship will be made at the annual IIHF Congress in Bratislava during next year’s world tournament.

Earlier, the president of St. Petersburg’s club of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) SKA, Gennady Timchenko, said that the world’s largest ice hockey stadium would be built in St. Petersburg by 2023. He estimated the project’s costs at no less than 20 billion.

Also in 2023 Russia will host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championship (WJC, or World Juniors) for national under-20 teams. It will be held in Novosibirsk. In 2000 St. Petersburg hosted the world championship for the first time and in 2016 it shared that honor with Moscow. It will be an eighth world championship to be held in Russia. The previous ones were in Moscow in 1957, 1973, 1979, 1886 and 2007.

Tre Kronor golden again!

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Filip Forsberg’s shootout goal lifted Sweden to a 3-2 win over Switzerland and a second straight IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship gold medal in Copenhagen on Sunday.

Forsberg coolly shot low to the glove side to beat Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni. Oliver Ekman-Larsson also scored earlier in the shootout, as did Switzerland’s Sven Andrighetto. When Swedish netminder Anders Nilsson foiled Nino Niederreiter with his blocker, the celebration was on at Copenhagen’s Royal Arena.

Winning gold via the shootout under head coach Rikard Gronborg has become a habit for the boys in blue and yellow. Tre Kronor last won back-to-back titles in 1991 (Turku) and 1992 (Prague).

In regulation time, Gustav Nyqvist and Mika Zibanejad scored for Sweden. Nino Niederreiter and Timo Meier scored for Switzerland, while Roman Josi added two assists.

The underdog Swiss tragically missed their chance to win their first World Championship ever. While this was a huge achievement after only making the quarter-finals twice in the preceding four years, the loss will still sting for a long time. You just couldn’t come any closer to success.

The defending champions outshot Switzerland 38-27, giving Genoni another busy night after the 3-2 semi-final upset over Canada.

Nilsson, who made the tournament all-star team, entered with a tournament-leading 1.00 GAA and 95.9 save percentage. The towering 28-year-old Lulea native was well-protected in Denmark with an NHL-loaded defence corps, including fellow all-stars Ekman-Larsson and Adam Larsson, but he also rebounded after a lackluster season with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Swedes went wire-to-wire without losing a game. And although the Canadians finished fourth with a disappointing 4-1 bronze medal loss to the United States earlier, the motherland of hockey provided a subtext to this game.

Last year, Nicklas Backstrom got the shootout winner as Sweden edged Canada 2-1 for gold in Cologne. Canada was also the last nation to win back-to-back titles (2015, 2016).

It was a big bounceback for both Sweden and Switzerland after February’s PyeongChang Olympics. There, Germany shocked Switzerland 2-1 in the qualification playoffs and Sweden 4-3 in the quarterfinals, both in overtime.

This was a rematch of the 2013 World Championship final in Stockholm. There, Josi was named tournament MVP with another Cinderella squad, but Tre Kronor triumphed 5-1 with the help of late arrivals Henrik and Daniel Sedin. The victory broke the 27-year-old Worlds “home ice curse,” which dated back to the 1986 Soviet gold medal in Moscow.

This final attracted an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 12,490, dominated by yellow Tre Kronor jerseys, but also featuring lots of Swiss red and cowbells. It was a fitting climax to a tournament that exceeded expectations by selling more than 500,000 tickets.

The Swedes quickly settled into their puck possession groove, but the first good chance went to Niederreiter, who nearly finished off a three-way passing play on the rush by Nilsson’s right post. Seconds later, Viktor Arvidsson, who scored twice in the 6-0 semi-final win over the Americans, got in behind the Swiss defence. He had Genoni beaten with his deke, but backhanded the puck wide through the crease.

At 11:25, Niederreiter took the first penalty when he high-sticked Arvidsson deep in the Swiss zone. The Swedes peppered Genoni with shots, but couldn’t break through.

Atoning for his error, Niederreiter opened the scoring at 16:38. Off a faceoff at the Swedish blue line, Josi carried the puck into the Swiss zone and lost it in a thicket of Swedish defenders, but the Minnesota Wild veteran followed up and pushed it past a surprised Nilsson

Tre Kronor struck back just 1:16 later. With Hornqvist providing the screen in front, Nyqvist knocked down a Mattias Ekhom pass in the high slot and flung the puck over Genoni’s glove. The teams went to the dressing rooms tied 1-1 despite Sweden’s 13-7 edge in shots.

Early in the second period, Nyqvist played the goat when he high-sticked Ramon Untersander, Switzerland’s top-scoring defenceman. The power play looked like it would pass uneventfully – until Enzo found a wide-open Meier streaking down right wing. The San Jose Sharks youngster unleashed a wrister from the faceoff circle that beat Nilsson under his stick arm to make it 2-1 at 3:13. It was the first Swiss shot of the period with 10 seconds left in the man advantage.

Even though the recently retired Sedins aren’t here, the Swedes hemmed Switzerland in with great Sedin-style cycling for long stretches after the midway point. It paid off with Zibanejad’s 2-2 power play goal at 14:53 after Corvi went off for holding. Ekman-Larsson sent the puck cross-ice to the New York Rangers star, and he fired a wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle that sailed home.

Nilsson redeemed himself for the iffy Meier goal when he made huge, back-to-back blocker saves on Sven Andrighetto and Simon Moser in the last two minutes of the middle frame. At the other end, Genoni came out to stop Arvidsson’s slap shot on a 2-on-1 rush just before the buzzer.

The third period was cautiously played until Swedish captain Mikael Backlund stole the puck from Meier at centre and burst in for a backhand attempt. Josi hauled him down as Genoni made a left pad save, and the Swedish power play went to work again at the seven-minute mark. Solid positional play denied the Swedes. 

However, in a weird sequence, Josi went straight back into the penalty box because he had failed to exit it completely. He got an interference play for touching the puck while still standing inside the penalty box gate. Outraged by the call, the Swiss fans whistled deafeningly.

On the ensuing man advantage, Ekman-Larsson exploded down the middle on a solo rush and got shaken up when he crashed into the goal post and the end boards. However, the Arizona Coyotes workhorse would carry on. The Swedes got one more mind-blowing chance in the final minute of the third when Ekholm streaked in unopposed, but couldn’t beat Genoni.

Ekman-Larsson also had a superb chance near the eight-minute mark of overtime when Rakell found him with a back pass on the rush, but Genoni was there again as Ekman-Larsson went flying over a Swiss defender. A few minutes later, the Swiss goalie made a great glove grab on John Klingberg’s quick release from the high slot.

The Swiss came within a hair’s-breadth of victory when Kukan centered it from behind the goal line to Fiala in the slot, forcing Nilsson into a stunning glove save. At the other end, Larsson hammered one off the goal post with under three seconds left in sudden-death.

Prior to 2013’s silver, all the Swiss World Championship medals came prior to the modern era of international hockey that kicked off with the Soviet Union’s golden 1954 Worlds debut: silver in 1935, and bronze in 1930, 1937, 1939, 1950, 1951, and 1953.

With Sweden and Switzerland facing off for gold twice in six years, this could mark a new rivalry in international hockey. Where will it go next? Can the Swedes three-peat? Will the Swiss be back for more? Join us again for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia (Bratislava and Kosice).

Bronze for Team USA

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Team USA claimed World Championship bronze – and local bragging rights – after it downed Canada 4-1 in Sunday’s afternoon’s match-up in Copenhagen. Chris Kreider led the way with two goals, Nick Bonino claimed the game-winner and Anders Lee scored the first of two empty-netters to give the Americans a winning scoreline that was more comfortable than the game suggested. Marc-Edouard Vlasic delivered Canada’s reply late in the second period.
The decisive goal came with six minutes left to play. Patrick Kane’s slapshot took a deflection on its way to McIlhenney’s pads and bounced away kindly for Nick Bonino to spring into action and push the puck into an empty net. That put the Americans 2-1 up and on the way to securing hardware for the first time since 2015’s bronze-medal campaign in the Czech Republic.
 
It was also a significant landmark for Kane. His assist brought up 20 points for the tournament, the first time a player has reached that tally since Danny Heatley (12+8) for Canada in 2008. Kane is also poised to become the first American player to top the scoring race since 1949, when centre Bruce Mather led the way with 19 goals as the USA took bronze in Stockholm.
There were still some nervous moments for the U.S. Ryan O’Reilly, Canada’s quarter-final hero, almost delivered another crucial blow with two minutes left. The puck dropped kindly for the Buffalo forward, but he squirted his shot wide of the mark. That miss was punished by Lee, who fired into the empty net from his own zone to wrap up the win for the Americans. Kreider then made absolutely sure with a fourth goal for the USA.

Bronze-medal games can sometimes feel like a chore for two teams still coming to terms with the abrupt crash of their championship dreams. That emotion is often intensified when the play-off puts together rosters with genuine hopes of winning it all and the opening period here was an illustration of precisely that.

It wasn’t that it was a poor game, exactly, but the early exchanges stubbornly refused to ignite in the manner we’ve come to expect from USA-Canada clashes of yore. The Americans made the brighter start and bossed the game for the first 10 minutes. Then a penalty on Connor Murphy brought Canada to the table – albeit only after a Dylan Larkin intercept in centre ice created a short-handed rush that drew a good save from Curtis McElhinney. Ironically, Keith Kincaid’s most eye-catching moment of the first frame also came with his team on the power play. Bo Horvat was bearing down on the net but Kincaid rushed from his crease to hack the puck to safety.

The opening goal took time to arrive but the USA finally turned its supremacy into a goal in the 27th minute. But while Chris Kreider’s finish – calmly dragging the puck around McElhinney’s outstretched leg – was composed, there was a kindly bounce on the play as Dylan Larkin’s feed into the Canadian zone got tangled up in Connor McDavid’s skates present Kreider with the chance for his third of the tournament.

Nick Bonino then got a great pass from Johnny Gaudreau and wriggled in front of Josh Bailey as he bore down on McElhinney’s net. This time, though, there was no space to squeeze the puck past the Canadian goalie. Canada was still struggling to create clear openings, but Matt Barzal almost fashioned one when he moved along the goal line to shoot from the doorstep. Kinkaid made a fumbling save but recovered to deny Ryan O’Reilly a sniff of the rebound.

The game’s pivotal moment came late in the second period. The Americans carved out a glorious chance to go 2-0 up when Bonino slid the puck across the face of the net for Nick Jensen at the back door, but the defenceman’s shot found the side netting and bounced to safety. Canada came straight back up the ice and swiftly punished that miss.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the tying goal, collecting a Bo Horvat feed between the hash marks and shooting home through traffic. In the space of 15 seconds, Canada went from staring down the barrel of a two-goal deficit to being right back in the game. But the third period saw the USA take control in the closing stages and leave Denmark with the bronze medals.

The puck stops here! Here comes the IIHF World Championships

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By CHP Post Online

Copenhagen and Herning bracing for fan influx as Denmark hosts tournament for first time.

On Friday, arguably the biggest sporting competition ever held in Denmark will commence when the puck drops on the 2018 IIHF World Championships in Copenhagen and Herning.

Over 300,000 tickets have already been sold and ice hockey fans from around the world are about to descend upon Denmark, which is hosting the massive annual event for the first time.

Day one sees several mouthwatering match-ups, including the US lacing up against their Canadian rivals at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, and the Danish hosts facing off against Olympic silver medalists Germany at Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning.

Usual suspects favoured
2017 winners Sweden must be considered among the strongest favorites, along with Canada and Russia. The Swedes, who will bring at least 10 NHL’ers to the tournament, will be boosted by a massive fan base coming across the bridge to Denmark.

Canada are always rock solid. Brimming with NHL talent, the Canadians have made the last three finals, losing only one – to the Swedes last year.

The reigning Olympic champions Russia are also a force to be reckoned with. They did make a surprising coaching change recently, but the KHL has taken significant strides in recent years in terms of quality and they have some of the most gifted players on the planet. Can they work as a team?

Just outside the top three are Finland, the US and the Czechs. The Finns won in 2011 and were finalists in 2014 and 2016, while the Czechs won in 2010. And despite being a perennial powerhouse, the US have generally disappointed at the IIHF World Championships, last winning in 1960, but you know they’ll bring plenty of NHL players to Denmark.

Danish delight?
And how about those Danes? Can the underdogs mount an upset campaign on home ice? They’re missing the vast majority of their NHL players (yes the Stanley Cup scheduling issue persists), but they have managed to get legend Frans Nielsen (Detroit Red Wings) and top net minder Frederik Andersen (Toronto Maple Leafs).

Furthermore, a squad that includes five KHL players can’t be considered a slouch by any stretch of the imagination. No doubt, Canada, Finland and the US are big favourites to progress to the knockout stage from Group B, but the Danes are well capable to squeezing into that fourth place slot – a challenge that makes the opener against Germany so important.

Germany will likely also fancy their chances in Group B, while Slovakia might have the best chance of the outsiders to finish fourth in Group A behind stalwarts Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic.

HE BETTING

The Big Six:
Canada 13/10
Russia 4/1
Sweden 4/1
Finland 10/1
USA 11/1
Czech Republic 14/1

Quarter-final contenders:
Switzerland 40/1
Germany 40/1
Slovakia 100/1
Denmark 125/1

Daring to dream:
Latvia 175/1
Norway 200/1
Belarus 250/1
France 300/1
Austria 750/1
South Korea 1,000/1

source: bwin.dk

Dutch Dominance

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By Joeri Loonen – IIHF.com

Similar to 2016, the Netherlands made sure their stay in Division IIA would be limited to just a single year. Carrying the pressure of being the gold medal favourite, the Netherlands thrived on home ice at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group A in Tilburg.

In front of a capacity crowd at the IJssportcentrum in Tilburg, the hosts did not leave anything to chance and defeated unbeaten Australia 9-2 on the final day to win promotion to Division IB. Serbia claimed bronze while Iceland was relegated to the Division IIB.

Although the colour of the medal is similar, the 2018 Dutch team is not to be compared with the one that won gold two years ago. The majority of the best Dutch players are representing the Tilburg Trappers team, which has successfully transitioned to the German Oberliga boasting three consecutive championship titles. Whereas the move to Germany offered the players to play at a more competitive level, the long playoff runs consequently resulted in the players to be unavailable to participate in the World Championships to represent the Netherlands.

No such issues this year as this year’s tournament schedule allowed for the Tilburg players to join the squad of head coach Doug Mason. No less than 15 players were selected by the veteran coach and it paid immediate dividends.

The Dutch dominated the scoring charts with the top six of the scoring leaders all donning the orange jersey. On top of that the Dutch defence was rock solid allowing just five goals in five games.

“The team was fantastic. From the very first minute until the last they have played super ice hockey,“ Mason lauded his players. “An unbeaten record makes a coach look good but with these players it made my job really easy.“

Playing in front of their home crowd, the Netherlands sent out a clear signal to the rest of the teams brushing aside China 7-0 in their opening game before settings aside Iceland 11-1.

Serbia was the first team that was able to somewhat neutralize the Dutch offence but eventually had to concede a 5-0 loss. The Netherlands recorded double digits once again in game 4 against neighbours Belgium, who were swept 10-2.

With four straight wins, the Netherlands were on course to complete their mission but they had to wait until the final game day before being able to lock the first spot. On Game Day 5, the hosts met an Australia side which had been a positive surprise all tournament long. The Ozzie team coached by Brad Vigon had impressed with a solid performance in Tilburg.

“I’m extremely proud of the guys to see how my team has achieved in Tilburg. Most players haven’t been playing competitively for seven months before we got here,“ Vigon refers to the Australian AIHL league only having started last week.

“The players have to make personal sacrifices in terms of funding and taking time off work to participate in this championship. We only had a single exhibition game in the Czech Republic, so I was anxious to see how the players responded during the tournament. I believe we took a step forward with Australian hockey capturing two consecutive silver medals.“

The Ozzies were off to a good start thanks to a pair of goals in the final two minutes to defeat Iceland 3-0 in game one which built the momentum.

Goaltender Anthony Kimlin recorded his second shutout against Belgium; 6-0 before his team scored three unanswered third period goals against China to claim a 3-1 victory.

Australia continued their run by dashing Serbia’s hopes of grinding out a gold medal after a penalty shot victory on day four. The Serbs started the game emphatically taking a 2-0 lead but saw Australia take over control of the game scoring four unanswered goals.

Credit to Serbia for not giving up. Marko Sretovic scored shorthanded to cut the deficit to one and with time running out and the goalie pulled, Petar Novakovic scored 10 seconds left to play to tie the game 4-4. Beau Taylor scored the fifth and decisive penalty shot ensuring Australia to remain unbeaten ahead of the clash against the Netherlands on the final day.

The Dutch were off to a great start against Australia taking the lead after just one minute and never looked back. Raymond van der Schuit converted a beautiful tic-tac-toe combination with Reno de Hondt and Danny Stempher. Five minutes later Van der Schuit scored his second of the game and defensemen Jurry Smid and Jordy van Oorschot also tallied to put a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.

Australia was unable to keep up with the tempo of the Netherlands who outshot their opponents 66-19. Mickey Bastings and Jordy Verkiel had lifted the score to 6-0 before Kieren Webster put Australia on the scoreboard after 31 minutes.

Misery wasn’t done yet.

Defenceman Giovanni Vogelaar’s trademark booming slapshot has been terrorizing opposition netminders throughout the tournament and also against Australia he found the net twice. Vogelaar ended up as the tournament’s top goal scorer with eight goals.

“We kept our focus and stuck to our game plan for the full 60 minutes,” Vogelaar commented. “We always felt we were going to win this tournament. Most of the Tilburg Trappers players know by now what it takes to win and that mentality was brought over to the rest of the team.“

Eventually the scoring spree stopped at nine goals with Thomas Powell saving the honour for Australia with a late goal to make it 9-2.

“The moment that first goal came I knew it was going to be a long game. It was such a high-quality goal as well from high-quality players,“ admitted Vigon. “We felt like we had no pressure on us to play this game so we were loose. In the end of the day the Dutch were just plain better than us. They are at a different level than us.”

Newly promoted China finished a respectable fourth after victories over Iceland (3-1) and Belgium (5-2), which had to settle for fifth place. Avoiding relegation was the main goal for the team of head coach Jyrki Aho, who knows his team still has a long way to go if they want to be competitive for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games the country will host in Beijing.

Belgium coach Gil Paelinck was visibly upset after his team’s disappointing fifth place finish.

“We have been outworked by most teams here this week. Our guys let their heads down the moment we fell behind,” he expressed afterwards. “Some players entered the tournament with the wrong attitude coming off a good season with their club team. I had rather seen a hard working gritty team on the ice instead.”

Last year’s surprise team Iceland could not repeat miracles and was relegated to Division IIB. The team of head coach Vladimir Kolek lost the crucial match against China and bowed out the tournament pointless.

“It was unfortunate we could not select our best players for this tournament,” Kolek said. “We now had to play a number of young players who are not yet ready for this level. Each game we made a couple of costly mistakes we could not overcome. However, I’m confident they will use this experience to improve and compete for promotion next year.”

Great Britain & Italy up!

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By Martin Merk IIHF.com

“We are going up! We are going up!” the British fans chanted on the tribune. 15.8 seconds were missing in regulation time that changed everything. For a long time it looked like host Hungary would win the game in regulation time and get promoted together with Kazakhstan in a four-team tie at nine points. But the last-minute bounce made Great Britain tournament winner and Italy will be promoted too as second-placed team.

After the 2-2 tie the rest of the game wouldn’t change anything anymore but Great Britain continued its party on the ice by beating Hungary in shootout with Ben O’Connor scoring the winning goal in the fifth round. Great Britain tried to get into the game for most of the time and outshot Hungary 43-33.

It was the fitting ending of a tournament that was full of drama, surprises and a tight standing from the first to the last day, to the last game and the last minute. Five teams were still in run for promotion before the final day and four teams could still have made it before the last game’s result.

For Great Britain it will be a return to the top division after 24 years. And like in the ‘90s they made it from the third to the top tier with two consecutive promotions.

While Hungary and Italy will be promoted to the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia, Kazakhstan had to settle for bronze before Hungary, Slovenia and Poland, which will be relegated.

In front of a loud and passionate sell-out home crowd of 7,870 spectators Hungary had a perfect start also thanks to a tripping call against British goaltender Ben Bowns. At 3:31 the Hungarian players covered him with shots and had several rebounds until Christopher Bodo eventually succeeded and beat Bowns for the 1-0 goal. The British had their chances too but didn’t manage to create enough danger to tie the game.

In a scoreless second period Daniel Koger had the probably best chance for Hungary when Bowns deflected a shot with his hands. A bit later on the other side Adam Vay had to be sharp when Mark Richardson shot after a great pass from Mike Hammond.

A lucky bounce gave Hungary the 2-0 lead at 1:53 of the third period. Janos Hari brought the puck high to the crease where it hit Csanad Erdely’s shoulder and from there went in. The goal was confirmed after a video review.

The British still continued to work hard and when they were looking for a rebound Robert Down eventually broke the spell and beat Adam Vay for the 2-1 goal with nine minutes left for GB to tie.

The British were pushing but the best chance was Hungary’s when Hari missed out on a penalty shot with four minutes left.

The Hungarians seemed to win it and to go up with Kazakhstan. But then, with 15.8 seconds left a nightmare broke out for the hosts. The British occupied their zone, had their time-out and their goalie pulled for a sixth skater. Farmer brought the puck from a sharp angle to the goal and surprised Vay. The puck slid down from his glove and slid across the goal line. It was 2-2. Now suddenly Great Britain would be tournament winner and take Italy as second-place team to the top division.

It was not over yet. Now Hungary took its time-out. With eight seconds left and after a glove block from Bowns the fans started to cheer after a rebound but the puck just came onto the net from outside. Great Britain won and the players and the “Barmy Army”, their loud fans on the ice, celebrated loudly.

It was the start of the British party while the Hungarian fans chanted farewell to their visibly broken players with the traditional singing of the national anthem as they do even in defeat.

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