Category: World Championships (page 1 of 11)

Finns repeat in Slovakia

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

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 – IIHF.com

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

By Xinhua.net

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 – IIHF.com

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! 😍🏒🏆 pic.twitter.com/o8lMth2Ojf

— 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 – IIHF.com

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.

Bulgaria storms to another gold

The Bulgarian players celebrate after earning their fourth win in the fourth game and secure Division III gold

By Ivan Tchechankov – IIHF.com

In a period of one month, Bulgarian ice hockey struck gold twice on the world stage. Four weeks ago the U18 team won a promotion to the Division II Group B. This time around it was the men’s team that secured the first place in 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division III on home ice in Sofia.

In the round-robin tournament Bulgaria went undefeated in the first four games and secured the top position and promotion to the higher division one day before end of play. The host country started with a 12-2 rout against South Africa, continued with a narrow 3-1 win over Turkey and followed with more victories: 6-2 against Turkmenistan and 11-2 against Chinese Taipei. The Bulgarian men’s team has won an IIHF tournament only twice in the history – in 1998 (then Group D) and in 2014 (Division III).

“It was not as easy as the results suggest. I came here for one purpose only – to earn a place in the upper level. Last year we couldn’t do that, so now I am very happy that we did it”, said head coach Robert Kalaber. The 49-year-old Slovak is in this position for a second season. Last year he led the Bulgarian team to second place in the tournament in South Africa with the only loss coming against Georgia.

“Compared to last year the most improved part is the discipline of the team. There are some young boys on the roster who play abroad like Miroslav Vasilev. Now they are one year older and continue to progress. I can see improvement in most of these players, including the goaltender Dimitar Dimitrov. What is important is that we have convinced all players to subordinate everything in the name of the team. It does not matter who is the best, who is the youngest or the oldest, they all played for the team and the results were seen,” continued Kalaber.

The onslaught against South Africa began from the puck drop. The first goal was scored in the 34th second by 34-year-old Stanislav Muhachev. It was quite symbolic as he was on the coaching staff of the gold winning U18 national team. Another veteran, 40-years old Alexei Yotov, made it 2-0 less than a minute later. Miroslav Vasilev had a natural hat trick within just 3:03 minutes, but if that wasn’t enough, Yotov and Vasilev scored again to give the hosts a 7-1 advantage before the first intermission! Vasilev finished the game with 6 points (5+1), Yotov and Ivan Hodulov had four a piece (2+2), Muhachev tallied two goals and Angel Dzhorov had one.

The next day Bulgaria played against Turkey and after a scoreless first period Miroslav Vasilev tried a pass during a counter attack, but the puck was redirected by the skate of a Turkish defenceman and went into the net. Three minutes later during a 4-on-4 situation Veselin Dikov lost the faceoff, but went ahead to take away the puck and scored on a rebound of his initial shot. In the end of the second period Yanaki Gatchev made it 3-0, finishing a combination with Yotov and Martin Boyadjiev. The only goal in the third period was scored by the Canadian-born Turkish forward Cengiz Ciplak.

Alexei Yotov, who is the Bulgarian all-time point leader in World Championships, could not play in the next two games for personal reasons, but that didn’t stop the team rolling. “I saw Alexei for the first time on the eve of the tournament, because he could not come to South Africa last year. He helped us a lot and had a huge contribution for the team to get in the right direction with first two games. The boys realized that if they did everything we said, the achievement of our goal is completely real,” said coach Kalaber.

In a game full of penalties (with a total of 90 penalty minutes) Bulgaria won against Turkmenistan on Thursday. Martin Nikolov shot the puck from the boards near the blue line and surprised the goalie Keremli Charyyev in the 7th minute. 16-year-old defenceman Konstantin Dikov scored during a two-man advantage later in the period. Pavel Barkovskiy tallied two goals for Turkmenistan in the second period to cut the deficit to 1-2 (on a power play) and 2-3, but both times the host reacted with power play goals on their own by Muhachev and Konstantin Dikov. In the third Hodulov and Boyadjiev also scored with a man advantage for a 6-2 victory.

On the next day Bulgaria had to win against Chinese Taipei in any way to secure the first place. Tzu-Chieh Lin opened the scoring with a rebound in the 13th minute, but Bulgaria tied five minutes later after a combination between Vasilev and Muhachev. Just 11 seconds after serving his penalty for hooking Miroslav Vasilev blasted the puck from zero angle towards the opponent’s goaltender and made it 2-1. This was just a start for the 6-goals period and another double digit win score for the “Lions”. Ivan Hodulov, who plays for Gothenborg HC in Sweden, was chosen for the best player in the game after finishing with 5 points (3+2).

Only 5 of the 18 players on the Bulgarian roster had not scored a goal so far in the tournament. Vasilev leads with 16 points (10+6), Hodulov has 10 (6+4), Boyadjiev is next with 8 (2+6) and Muhachev has 7 (4+3). The team was ranked number 1 in all statistical categories – goals for (32), goals against (7), power play (8/24, 33.3%), penalty killing (26/27, 96.3%), penalty minutes (92). Goaltender Dimitar Dimitrov is #1 with 93.75 saves % and 1.75 goals against average. For four players on the roster this is a double gold as they were part of the U18 champions’ team – Konstantin Dikov, Angel Dzhorov, Kaloyan Vachkov and the backup goalie Ivan Stoynov.

“I don’t know how the coaches are working with the juniors in Bulgaria, but for the men’s national team to have more success and to be able to stay in the Division II Group B or even to go to Group A, there has to be more ice practices during the season. There is no way for the local players to progress if they meet for practices just two times a week in their clubs during the season. I know that they are working regular jobs, but for this team to continue its way up in the ranks, there have to be more organized practices and better professional work,” replied Robert Kalaber on a question about the potential of this team to stay in the Division II Group B.

Kalber played with Juraj Dusicka in MHK Prievidza in 1998-2000 and 2002-05. Dusicka is based in Bulgaria since 2010 and is already a nine-time national champion with three different teams. He was the one who asked Kalaber whether he is interested in the head-coaching position of the Bulgarian men’s team. Kalaber’s coaching career started with Dukla Senica (2006-08) and continued with Dukla Trencin (2011-14). Since 2014 he is the head coach of the JHK GKS Jastrzebie and won the silver medal in the Polish championships in 2015. “I have a three-week vacation that I use to work with the Bulgarian national team. I want to thank the management of the Jastrzebie for allowing me to do that for a second year in a row,” explained Kalaber, who has two more years on his contract with the Polish club.

Before the last day of play Bulgaria has the maximum of 12 points. Turkmenistan (7), Luxembourg (6), Turkey (6) and Chinese Taipei (5) are in contention for the bronze and silver medals. South Africa will be relegated to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division III Qualification after losing all of its first four games (0 points). The schedule on Sunday in the Winter Palace is: Turkey – Turkmenistan, Chinese Taipei – RSA, Luxembourg – Bulgaria. All games are shown in the live stream in the game centre.

Serbia’s gold spree

The Serbian players celebrate with the trophy on home ice in Belgrade after winning the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group B and earning their first Division I appearance in ten years.

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

In a roller-coaster ride of the tournament, with a seemingly never-ending supply of twists and turns, Serbia won gold at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division II Group A in Belgrade.

Down but never out, Marko Brkusanin became Serbia’s hero when he coolly slotted home the game-winning penalty shot against Spain and lifted the hosts into the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division I Group B.

A desperate Serbian team had only been in fourth place, when they were offered a lifeline in their final game against Spain. Blueliner Stefan Boskovic drew them level with 28 seconds left of the third period before Serbia´s netminder Arsenije Rankovic then saved three out of four Spanish penalty shots as 1,276 cheering home fans lifted the roof inside Belgrade´s Ice Rink Pionir.

Serbia’s 3-2 win over Spain marks the end of a historical season and possibly the start of a new exciting chapter for Serbian hockey.

This means a lot to us. Never before has our national teams won three gold medals in one season. It’s a great thing for the promotion of hockey in Serbia.
Marko Milovanovic
President Serbian Ice Hockey Association

Serbia´s U20 and U18 national teams had already won gold at their respective World Championships at Division IIB level. Now they were joined by the senior team who won Serbia´s third consecutive gold medal this season and their first one at senior level since 2009. 17-year-old prospect Marko Dragovic played an integral part in Serbia´s success this season winning gold in all three categories.

En route to their gold, Serbia first saw off Croatia (3-1) before losing to Australia (2-3). They bounced back with straight wins against China (6-5) and Belgium (6-3) before finally toppling Spain following a nerve-racking final round of games.

Serbia´s final day celebrations was made possible thanks to neighbours Croatia, who earlier that day edged Australia, the leader of the standings after four days, 2-1. Both teams then watched on as Serbia collected their gold medals while dwelling on what could have been.

Croatia, who came within an earshot of gold, had to settle for silver, while Australia who entered the final day in pole position, finished up with the bronze medals. At the other end of the table, Belgium got relegated to Division IIB after losing the deciding game for fifth place to China.

Aleksa Lukovic´s goal after 4:10 had put Serbia ahead against Spain. Gaston Gonzalez hit back with an equaliser at 26:03. An Oriol Rubio power-play goal at 46:34 got Spain ahead and temporarily silenced the home crowd before Serbia´s last gasp leveller got their promotion campaign back on track and take the game into overtime, which finished goalless.

The influential Rubio scored Spain´s sole penalty marker in the shootout, while Serbia’s 20-year-old Mirko Djumic, voted the best forward of the tournament, also coolly slotted home his penalty in the shootout.

“After the shootouts and all the excitement I was shaking, but our players were used to this as they were three goals behind against China earlier in the tournament,” said Milovanovic.

During game day three against China, Serbia appeared to have dug themselves into a hole. With just over 11 minutes left of the game, China was cruising with a 5-2 lead. A frantic fightback saw Serbia score three unanswered goals to draw level with 1:36 to go. Then newly appointed head coach Alexandre Dandenault went for bust in what in hindsight turned out to be a masterstroke.

With 14 seconds left of the third frame and with netminder Rankovic pulled from the net, 19-year-old debutant Viktor Kastel sealed all three points for Serbia as team morale got a monumental boost.

In my opinion, it was the China game that changed everything for us in this tournament. We showed great character to never give up until the end.
Marko Sretovic
Serbia Captain

With his 5 points (3+2) Sretovic was Serbia´s joint top-scorer and together with Stefan Ilic, the two sole survivors on the roster who last won gold for Serbia at senior level. At the 2009 IIHF World Championship Division II Group B Sretovic tasted success and promotion in Novi Sad in what was different times for Serbian hockey.

“At that time hockey was at the highest level in Serbia. That team was more experienced. This year we have many young players with a lot of speed who helped us to win many of our games,” said Sretovic, who after winning his second gold at senior level has come full circle in a long and distinguished national team career.

“This was my absolute last season for the national team. I wanted to finish where everything once started,” said Belgrade-born Sretovic as he expects next season to be a stern test for his compatriots playing at a much higher level.

“It will be very tough, much harder than this. We need more preparation and a training camp as the guys should be ready to work hard with a lot of defending to be expected. I hope the head coach (Dandenault) and the staff will continue for next year,” said Sretovic.

It’s a five-peat for U.S.!

Team USA celebrates after winning Women’s World Championship gold for the fifth consecutive time

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

Annie Pankowski scored twice, including the shootout winner, as the U.S. claimed a wild 2-1 victory over Finland in the 2019 Women’s Worlds gold medal game. It’s the fifth straight American world title.

The host Finns, who won their first silver medal ever, were heartbroken after they thought they’d won it all in overtime. Goalie Noora Raty put on a goaltending clinic on her hometown ice in Espoo, as the U.S. outshot Finland 52-27.

“Obviously that was such an exciting game for them to take us to a shootout,” said U.S. goalie Alex Rigsby, who conceded just one goal to Minttu Tuominen on four Finnish shootout attempts. “Props to Noora. She played an unbelievable game. I think it’s really great for the sport as well, for us to be able to play against Finland and for them to come out and get a silver medal here in their home country.

In regulation time, Susanna Tapani scored for Finland.

“Sport is tough and hard sometimes, but after the game you need to accept what is in the scoreboard,” said Finnish captain and tournament MVP Jenni Hiirikoski. “Life goes on, and we will be super proud of what we have done here.”

It’s the eighth time in nine years that the Americans have prevailed, their string only broken by Canada in 2012.

“We have a really special group,” said Hilary Knight, who led the tournament with seven goals and 11 points and was named to the all-star team. “I can’t say it enough. It’s really magical to be in our room and something we try to cultivate every single time we get together.”

This is the second straight year an IIHF women’s final has been decided in a shootout. But this thriller was even more over-the-top and unimaginable than PyeongChang, where the U.S.’s Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s goal and Maddie Rooney’s final save on Canada’s Meghan Agosta were the difference.

The 4-on-4 sudden-death overtime was full of wild incidents.

Petra Nieminen thought she had scored the deciding goal at 11:33 of overtime. Hiirikoski made an end-to-end rush and her initial shot was stopped by Rigsby. As Rigsby slid out of the net and Hiirikoski made contact, with the U.S.’s Kacey Bellamy right on top of her, Nieminen banged the rebound into the gaping cage.

A lengthy video review ensued, reminiscent of when Canada’s Anson Carter scored in overtime on Sweden’s Mikael Tellqvist in the 2003 IIHF World Championship gold medal game. When the officials waved the goal off for apparent goalie interference, the fans howled in derision.

“It almost would have been easier if we’d lost 5-0,” said Raty. “I’d probably be happier right now. But we were so close. We could taste it — “Holy cow, we’re world champs” — and they take it away.”

Asked how confident she was that it was not a goal, Rigsby offered: “I was very confident. I was trying to rally the team up so they weren’t getting too down. Obviously it was a long break for them to try to figure it out. But for me to get interfered with like that, it shouldn’t be a goal.”

The Finns did get a power play, as Rigsby was also called for tripping on the play, but they couldn’t capitalize, and also couldn’t score when Megan Keller was called for slashing at the end of overtime. Earlier in overtime, the U.S. narrowly failed to capitalize with Finland’s Venla Hovi in the box.

Finland’s first silver medal ever is an incredible achievement, especially considering that most observers figured the host nation was bound for bronze for the 13th time at this tournament. No European nation has ever played in the final before. As great as the 18 previous all-North American derbies have been, this tilt proved definitively that Finnish female players can dazzle at the highest level too.

“I hope a lot of little girls were watching today and they can start dreaming of playing in the finals,” Raty said. “I’ve been in a bronze medal game too many times. Sometimes you just want more. We’ve always believed we can do this, but still a lot of people didn’t give us a chance. So proud of my teammates.”

Even though the Finnish women couldn’t complete their own answer to the U.S. men’s 1980 Olympic “Miracle on Ice” victory over the Soviets in Lake Placid, what happened in Espoo over the last 11 days should retain a certain fairy-tale quality for Finnish fans.

This final was always destined to hinge on Raty’s ability to deny America’s overwhelming firepower. The U.S. entered the final with 39 goals-for to Finland’s 20.

The energy was through the ceiling at Espoo’s Metro Areena, starting with the pre-game introductions. The first period raced by at an extraordinary tempo, and the entire game was pure flow and thrills.

“I think this is Finland’s best team we’ve ever seen,” Knight said.”You’ve got to tip the cap to them. They played a great game. They locked us down when they needed to and got bounces when they needed to. It’s great for women’s hockey to have different teams in the final.”

While the Americans outshot Finland 17-4 in the first, Raty showed some Patrick Roy-like swagger with the way she caught and deflected pucks.

The hosts did a good job of keeping shots mostly to the outside and competed hard in one-on-one battles. And while it was defence-first for coach Pasi Mustonen’s troops, gone are the days when Finland simply hangs back and clogs up the neutral zone. The Finnish flag-waving crowd of 6,053 mounted exuberant chants of “Suomi!” to counter the minority cries of “USA!”

The U.S finally opened the scoring at 15:46 of the second period. Pankowski got the puck from U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, crossed the blue line on the right side and used Hiirikoski as a decoy to beat Raty low to the glove side. It was her fourth goal of the tournament.

With 1:31 left in the second period, the building exploded when Tapani notched the equalizer for Finland. Inside the U.S. blueline at the right point, Nieminen grabbed the puck and sent a diagonal cross-ice pass into the left faceoff circle for Tapani, who zapped it high past Rigsby on the stick side. Tapani got hot in these playoffs, notching the quarter-final winner against the Czech Republic and the semi-final winner against Canada.

Raty, who stepped up again in overtime with 14 saves, said: “I thought I made a lot of great saves, but if you want to win something, your goalie needs to be good.”

In 1849, the definitive version of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic poem, was published. Now, 170 years later, the Finnish women’s national hockey team has begun to forge its own legend — even if it is written in silver letters rather than gold.

“It was a huge step for us, but we were here to win gold today,” said Michelle Karvinen. “It’ll take a little time to get over this, but I’m still proud of the team.”

In 18 previous Women’s Worlds meetings, Finland had just one win (1-0 in overtime in 2008) and one tie (1-1 in 1997) versus the Americans. The Finns have lost eight straight Olympic games to the U.S.

Of her own future, Raty said: “I have to take a summer off and see what I want to do with my career. A lot is going to depend on what is going to happen with the North American leagues. Obviously I’m under a China contract, and now that we don’t have a league in the CWHL, I have to see what China is going to decide, if I’m going to go back or not. I think there’s a lot of moving parts.”

Earlier, the Canadians settled for bronze after beating Russia 7-0. Canada holds the record for the most consecutive Women’s Worlds golds with eight straight between 1990 and 2004, and 10 in total. This was the ninth American gold.

Looking at the months to come, Knight said: “I think our sport’s in great hands. We have a lot of talented, young, powerful women that feel empowered to shape the future of this sport as they see fit. So you’re going to see some probably exciting times in women’s hockey to come.”

In 2020, will the Americans make it six in a row? Can Canada return to the top of the podium? Or will the Finns go all the way? Join us again next year at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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