Year: 2017 (page 1 of 30)

Kings defeat Canucks in opener of NHL China Games

By Lisa Dillman – NHL.com

SHANGHAI — The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 Thursday on a historic night at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging.

Kings left wing Tanner Pearson scored twice in front of 10,088 fans in the first NHL game to be played in China. It’s the first of a two-game preseason series between the Pacific Division rivals. The Kings and Canucks will play Saturday at Wukesong Arena in Beijing (3:30 a.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

“There’s definitely some significance to playing the game here,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “The guys were talking about it being one of the first teams to play a game here. To be quite honest we didn’t know what it would be like: the crowd, the noise and the atmosphere.”

Canucks defenseman Eric Gudbranson hoped the fans enjoyed their first look at the NHL.

“It was really fun,” Gudbanson said. “To begin with, this is a beautiful rink and they took to the game really well. I’m hoping they had fun and appreciated what we had to offer.”

The Kings scored twice in the first period, once in the second and twice in the third to back goaltender Jonathan Quick, who made 31 saves. Forwards Adrian Kempe and Jeff Carter and defenseman Alec Martinez had goals for Los Angeles, and defenseman Jake Muzzin had three assists.

Forwards Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund scored for Vancouver.

Kempe earned the distinction of scoring the first NHL goal in China when his power-play slap shot from the top of the left circle beat Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom at 7:06 of the first period.

“I was happy I was the first guy to score, obviously,” said Kempe, a 21-year-old who had six points (two goals, four assists) in 25 games for the Kings last season. “We got a good start, it was a nice shot, so I was glad.”

Pearson made it 2-0 with an unassisted shorthanded goal at 15:18, scoring on a breakaway after intercepting an errant pass by Canucks forward Thomas Vanek.

“I didn’t like our first period,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “I thought our play with the puck wasn’t good enough. I thought [the Kings were] good with the puck in the first compared to us. I like how we played the last two periods.”

Martinez made it 3-0 at 1:04 of the second period, but Baertschi cut the Kings’ lead to 3-1 with his power-play goal at 2:15 of second period and Granlund made it 3-2 at 12:37 of the third period.

Pearson gave the Kings a 4-2 lead with 3:03 left when he scored on another breakaway, and Carter scored into an empty net with 50.7 seconds remaining.

From centuries-old traditional roots to the modern game, hockey in China ‘ready to blow up

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Misha Song of the USHL’s Madison Capitals is the first Chinese-born
player drafted in the NHL.

By Ed Willes – The Province

Misha Song, a true hockey pioneer in China, can look back over his career and understand he’s had a front-row seat for the game’s remarkable growth in his country.

Now, there are hockey-specific facilities sprouting up all over China. Then, the only ice available to Song was the straightaway of a short-track rink in his native Beijing. 

Now, with the Beijing Winter Olympics set for 2022, the Chinese government, the NHL and the IIHF are all pouring money into the sport. Then, the game was little known outside the city of Harbin in China’s remote northeast corner.

Now, Chinese nationals are playing in elite developmental streams in Canada and the U.S, and it only seems a matter of time before one of them cracks an NHL lineup. Then, Song was the first Chinese-born player to be drafted by an NHL team when he was selected by the New York Islanders in the sixth round, 172nd overall, in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Yes, with a perspective that can only be gained through experience, Song has witnessed something special between hockey and his country, something which will reshape the sport and elevate it to a new place in China. Where it all goes from here is the next question, but the defenceman with the USHL’s Madison Capitals is excited about what will come next.

http://wpmedia.theprovince.com/2017/09/name3.jpg?quality=60&strip=all Misha Song, then eight years old, played with the Sinoca Beijing
Dragons in a tournament in Ottawa in 2005.

And he should be. Misha Song is 20 and just 12 months away from entering his freshman year at Cornell University.

When I started almost 15 years ago, hockey was an unknown sport in many parts of China,” Song writes in an email.

“Now there are more rinks being built, more people playing, and more resources dedicated toward hockey. 

“The changes have a profound effect on me. When I started, barely any of these resources were available. It is amazing to see more people welcome hockey into their lives.”

But is there a permanent place for the game in the Chinese heart? The larger hockey world is about to find out.

This week, the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings meet for a pair of exhibition games in Shanghai and Beijing in what’s being advertised as a watershed moment for the sport. These games, the first live action for an NHL team in the Asian giant, represent a significant development for the NHL and a chance to plant its flag in a country of 1.4 billion.

But it’s also just one frame in a story that’s moving a million miles an hour. The intent of this piece is to provide some background on the game’s history and development in The Red Dragon, which is tricky because hockey’s history in China is what happened yesterday.

Yes, the game has a tradition in China, and there is a backstory to tell. But that history has been overtaken by the powerful forces which now promise to take hockey to some exhilarating new places.

If I’m being reasonable about it, we’re not there yet,” said David Proper, the NHL’s executive vice-president of media and international strategies and the league’s point man on the China games.

“We’re not going to grow hockey in two games. What we’re trying to do is get people into the doors to watch live hockey.

“It’s definitely at the embryonic stages. But the fact is things can move very quickly in China if you have the support of government and business.”

http://wpmedia.theprovince.com/2017/09/64677618.jpg?quality=60&strip=all     Charles Wang is the owner of the New York Islanders.

And hockey is moving quickly now, even if it’s unclear where it’s going.

For its first 100 years, hockey in China was almost the exclusive domain of the northeast and its two biggest cities: Harbin and Qiqhar. Going back 1,500 years or so, the Daur people of that region had played a game called beikou, which resembled field hockey. But puck came to Harbin and the surrounding area via Russia — Siberia is located just to the north — around 1915 and set down some deep roots.

It was charming to find a northern place that had a kinship with the game, and they do love the game,” says Dave Bidini, a writer/musician/journalist who first traveled to Harbin to play hockey in 1999.

“But it’s detached from the rest of the country, and travel in China wasn’t easy 20, 30 years ago. The game never spread. Consequently, it didn’t grow.”

Still, it found a home. Harbin first hosted a tournament for teams from the north in the 1930s, which led to the formation of a Chinese league in the mid-50s. In ’57 China joined the IIHF. By then, the Chinese national team had toured in the Eastern bloc and teams from Czechoslovakia and Japan had toured in China.

Anatoli Tarasov, considered the father of modern Russian hockey, visited the region frequently to set up camps and training programs. He was still traveling to Harbin in the early ‘80s.

Hockey, in fact, was enjoying steady growth and caught the attention of the Communist Party in the late 1950s, which loved the spirit of the game. Alas, the Cultural Revolution wiped out the infrastructure of most sports in the ‘60s and the game was largely abandoned until the early ‘70s.

It started to come back in 1972 when China went to the C pool of the world championships and finished fifth. By then, the first indoor rink was being built in Beijing. China would go on to win four straight gold medals at the Asian Games in the 1980s, but while there was isolated growth, the sport remained largely in the northeast.

As it happens, the 1980s was also the period China began opening its borders to the larger world under Deng Xiaoping who, among other things, opined: “Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious.” It took hockey a while to catch the new spirit which was transformed the country, but in the 2004-05 season, both Harbin and Qiqhar joined the nascent Asian League and the game caught a spark. 

For the next 10 years, China would be represented in the Asian League which drew former NHLers like Esa Tikkanen, Tyson Nash, Jamie McLennan and Claude Lemieux. In 2007-08, Harbin and Qiqhar consolidated into the China Sharks, which were owned and operated by the NHL’s San Jose Sharks for two years before the Chinese Hockey Association took over the franchise.

“It was a positive experience, but it was probably a couple of years ahead of its time,” says Sharks GM Doug Wilson. 

Still, the Sharks wouldn’t be the last North American entity to invest in Chinese hockey. Last season, the Asian league operated without a Chinese franchise for the first time in 13 years as Kunlun Red Star, based in Beijing, joined the KHL. Kunlun is now coached by Mike Keenan and forms the basis of the national team program preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

A similar model is being used for the women’s program, which operates two Chinese-based teams in the Canadian Women’s League out of Shenzhen. Digit Murphy, the 18-year coach at Brown who coached the CWHL’s Boston Blades, oversees the women’s national team.

It’s further expected a second China-based KHL team will be added next season and there are plans for a Chinese domestic league. New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, a champion of the game in China, has helped fund 28 rinks in China and the Islanders have partnered with the Beijing Hockey Association to sponsor a junior team which plays out of the Islanders practice facility. The Boston Bruins have also partnered with O.R.G., the packaging giant which is the presenting sponsor of the Canucks-Kings series.

The old rink at Harbin, meanwhile, has been replaced by a new facility, and the sports institute there offers a hockey-specific program designed to grow the sports’ administrative and coaching base.

http://wpmedia.theprovince.com/2017/02/china1223_hockey_china_part_2_232004894.jpg?quality=60&strip=allChinese men play a game of pick-up ice hockey on a frozen canal on
December 14, 2016 in Beijing, China.

Yes, you can get a degree in hockey in China.

Aaron Wilbur, the former coach of the Richmond Sockeyes, was coaching at UBC seven years ago when he was approached about an opportunity in China. By his own estimation, he’s since been back 30 times and now represents ProSmart, a digital education platform for sports which provides a coaching blueprint for hockey and soccer.

When Wilbur first started working in China, coaches wouldn’t allow players to drink water during practices for fear of stomach aches. Wilbur recalls one session where a coach lit up a cigarette on the ice.

Seven years later, he sees a completely different picture.

It’s pretty cool,” he says. “I started with some kids when they were five. Now I’m writing letters to get them into prep schools (in the States).”

Wilbur has also done some work in arena management with the Chinese. A year ago, he was at Huaxi Live, the rink where the Canucks and Kings will meet in Beijing this week. Huaxi Live was formerly known as LeSports Centre, the Wukesong Arena before that, the MasterCard Centre before that and the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena before that.

Did we mention things move quickly in China?

At any rate, Wilbur was informed plans were in place for a three-rink training centre to be built near the larger arena and it would be completed in September 2018. 

It can’t possibly be ready by then, Wilbur opined.

Don’t worry, it will be ready, his Chinese hosts said.

“And I believe them,’ Wilbur says, adding, “There’s so much going on over there. The game is ready to blow up.”

Q & A With Aleix Manosos

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Andorra is a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known for its ski resorts and a tax-haven status that encourages duty-free shopping, but Andorra has a little secret that not to many people know about and that is it plays Ice Hockey.
We got a change to speak to Aleix Manosas Vice President of Andorra HG the only club in the country.

How did you become the Vice President of Andorran Ice Sports Federation?

I’ve been named President of the only ice hockey club in Andorra on May 2016. This same year I started to be a part of the Andorra Ice Sport Federation Board. In 2017 there was a Board change and I became the Vice President.

What changes do you think you can make for ice hockey that others have not made in the passed?

First of all I prepared a Development Plan for Andorra Ice Hockey involving referees, coaching and goalie training on one hand, and female and children hockey  development program on the other.

Can you provide our viewers a brief history of ice hockey in Andorra?

Ice hockey in Andorra has a short history. As usual in all Europe, soccer is the most played sport. In our country, skiing is the national sport and very well practiced, too. Andorra Hoquei Gel is the only ice hockey club, established in 1989. Since then, all the people who have been involved in the club has worked hard to develop this sport in our little country. We have played a regional league in France and we use to organize and participate in different friendly tournaments. Last year we started with a ladies team and a children teams Under 9. We have a lot of work to do but I’m sure that we are on the good path.

Andorra has been an IIHF member since 1995, why has the game taking so long to developed?

Ice hockey is a kind of sport that needs a lot of money to be developed. We are lucky to have the government and town hall help in that matter. Anyway, the easiest way to develop the sport is having senior league where child can mirror. Actually we are not there, but I hope that this will not take a lot of years to be done. As I said before, soccer is the most played sport in Andorra. The second one maybe is Basketball because Andorra has a team in the professional Spanish basketball league for the last two years.

There is only one Ice Hockey club in Andorra (Andorra Hoquei gel). What ice hockey programs does it provide for children and Adults?

Yes, there is only a club. Our coach and sportive director is using the Learn to Play program for the children. This helps a lot because all the kids are enjoying a the game a lot and that has been the main subject to achieve our goal of having an under 9 team.
In Adults we are playing and organizing several friendly tournaments in the club.

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The Andorra Hoquei Gel takes part in a senior tournament against clubs from France how has this tournament help the development of hockey in the country?

When you are taking part in tournaments like this, it’s is easier to bring new players, adults and children. Every player needs a goal to achieve, no matter your age. This kind of competitions will help us to grow hockey in Andorra.

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A new tournament will be played In Andorra at the end of the month 2017 Development Cup, why did Andorra get involved?

On may 2016 was my first time in the IIHF Congress. There I met people from a lot of different countries and how to learn to develop hockey in Andorra. during a coffee break, I was talking to the Ireland and Morocco delegates. They were talking about creating a new tournament where the little countries who are not available to play in IIHF competitions can play  against each other. That conversation was the seed for the Development Cup. During this year we were talking a lot about how to organize a Cup of that kind. For different reasons it was on standby for a while. At the beginning of 2017 we started to talk again. I proposed Andorra as host country for the first Development Cup. I thought that an international tournament would help Andorra to develop this sport. Since then, we are working a lot on the Cup, which is being played on the last weekend of September.

This will be the first time that the Andorran National Team plays in a tournament, How will the team be selected and prepare for this event?

Yes, for the first time Andorra has an Ice Hockey National Team. Our players have been selected by our National Coach, Oriol Boronat, an Spanish player of the Club Gel Puigcerdà and international player for Spain. We know him and we are sure that his experience is going to be a big helping point for us.

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When your tenure is over with Andorran Ice Sports Federation what things would like to have accomplished?

Once my tenure ends I hope to have accomplished the Children’s National program and have more participation on the following of the Development Cup tournaments and the most important thing: to help more people know that ice hockey is played in Andorra and to make this sport grow in our country.

What is the one thing that is unique about playing ice hockey in Andorra?

Maybe the landscape surrounding the ice rink is different from other places. Andorra is nestled between mountains and hat makes it peculiar. In addition, we have good facilities and connections to carry out parallel activities.

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Costa Rica to host first international ice hockey tournament

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Costa Rica will play in it’s first international ice hockey tournament.
The venue will be the Castillo Country Club in San Rafael de Heredia, on 18th and 19th of November.
It will consist of 4 teams, three of them from Canada, Los Angeles and the Falkland Islands.

The event will be in the Senior category, ie teams will come with experienced players and in many cases with ex professionals on their rosters, which will give a the event a more professional feel to it, and will be the first ice hockey tournament in Central America.

“We are celebrating 20 years of ice hockey in Costa Rica, I am the founder and one of the coaches of the program.
I started the program in 1997 in the Castillo Country Club, we also played in other places with a synthetic ice, but at Castillo Country Club we are already celebrating two decades. In 2014, the ice surface doubled and we are growing at the moment, “said Bruce Callow, one of the organizers.


“We have about 40 people in the hockey program, from ages 6 to 40 and 50 years old men and women.

We have many activities every year, exchanges with other programs and from time to time we invite children from rehabilitation centers and orphan hospices to play with us. “

Callow said that the tournament is a symbol of the growth of ice hockey in the country, to the point that more people are interested in learning this sport and practicing it. He also said that countries such as Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina have asked if they could participate in this tournament when they realized it they signed up for next year’s edition.

“Hopefully it will continue as an annual event, but we have to concentrate on the this tournament and we have much hope that it will be a success and a historical sporting event in Costa Rica.”

He maintained that thanks to the help of the NHL and some professional teams they were able to get themselves of equipment to develop the the sport in the country, which is not traditional in Costa Rica, where there is no snow.

The Castillo Country Club  expanded the ice skating rink to promote such projects.
“We have the support of different organizations to help us with the protective equipment, for example the National Hockey League of the United States has supported us for 15 years with different donations and also from different places with different equipment such as sticks and helmets that are necessary and you can’t get it here in Costa Rica, “said Bruce Callow.

S. Korea women’s hockey team to play friendlies with NCAA teams

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By Yonhap News

South Korea’s women’s national ice hockey team will play friendly games with top college teams in the United States starting next week, the sport’s national governing body said Friday.

The Korea Ice Hockey Association said the women’s team will depart for the U.S. on Sunday for a three-week training period. Led by Canadian head coach Sarah Murray, the national team will face NCAA Division I teams to tune up their skills for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

South Korea will first meet Murray’s alma mater Shattuck-St. Mary’s under-18 team on Thursday, and then play against teams from the University of Wisconsin, Bemidji State University, St. Cloud State University, the University of Minnesota and Ohio State University before returning home Sept. 29.

Of the American teams, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers are considered powerhouses in U.S. women’s collegiate ice hockey.

The Badgers won three straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) championships. The WCHA is regarded as the best women’s ice hockey conference, as teams there won every NCAA Women’s National Championship from 2001-13 until Clarkson University from the ECAC Hockey conference claimed the title in 2014.

The Golden Gophers are six-time NCAA tournament winners and they have only missed the final once — in 2014 — in the last five years. The Badgers, meanwhile, are four-time NCAA champions.

South Korea’s women’s ice hockey team is in Group B at the PyeongChang Olympics, along with Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. After completing their schedule in the U.S., the team will take a two-week break then return to training at the National Training Center in Seoul in mid-October.

Schedule Here

Australia clinch ice hockey’s Trans-Tasman Challenge with shootout win over the Ice Blacks

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By News Hub

Australia have won the ice hockey Trans-Tasman Challenge by beating New Zealand in a shootout in the deciding game three in Queenstown.

The two sides were locked at 3-3 at full-time before a scoreless overtime period at the NZ Winter Games on Saturday.

Mighty Roos goalkeeper Charlie Smart denied two New Zealand attempts as goals to veterans Brendan McDowell and Thomas Powell proved the difference in the shootout, won by Australia 2-0.

The result continues world No.33 Australia’s dominance over their hosts, winning 16 of 18 games over the past 30 years.

The Mighty Roos were humbled 4-1 in the opener on Thursday before a 2-0 victory in game two

AT A GLANCE:

Game 1: New Zealand 4-1 Australia
Game 2: New Zealand 0-2 Australia
Game 3: New Zealand 3-4 Australia Shootout

Roos get one back off Ice Blacks in Queenstown

By Stuff

A thrilling final and deciding game of ice hockey in the Trans-Tasman challenge has been set up with Australia’s Roos winning game two of the three game series over the Ice Blacks, 2-0.

The three test match series is leveled at one game apiece heading into the final, which will be played in Queenstown on Saturday night. 

The Ice Blacks surprised the Roos on Thursday night with their 4-1 win – only the second time in thirty years of games between the two countries that New Zealand had prevailed. The Australians have now won 15 times, New Zealand twice.

The Trans-Tasman Challenge three game series comes at the end of the Winter Games NZ which hasn’t seen ice hockey as part of the elite winter sport gathering since 2011.

The game began straight from where it was left in game one – intense and fast. There were seven minutes before the first penalty went to the Ice Blacks. Under intense pressure the Ice Black’s held the Roos out to see them back to five on five.

The Roos forced a hooking call and another penalty to them gave the Ice Black’s a 5-on-3 advantage. However, it was a strong first period for Roos goaltender who made some crucial saves. Eventually the Ice Blacks were called for tripping and the Roos capitalized with a power play goal by Per Daniel Goransson.

With seconds to go the Ice Blacks pulled their goalie to go in search of an equalizing goal, however the Roos defence held firm and captain Tommy Powell scored an open net goal to seal the 2-0 win.

Puck drops for the final game at 7pm on Saturday night.

Andorra National Team will debut at the 1st edition of 2017 Development Cup

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Andorra national ice hockey team will be playing for the first time at the end of the month.
It will be hosting the first edition of the 2017 Development Cup, which will be held at the Palau de Gel d’Andorra  in Canillo from September 29 to October 1st.

It is being organized by the Andorran Ice Sports Federation  and the participating countries are Portugal, Ireland and Morocco along with hosts Andorra.
The project emerged at the international congress of the international Ice Hockey Federation that was held in Moscow in May of last year. “40% of the countries do not play in IIHF Tournaments so in order to develop our sport we can play amongst ourselves,” says Aleix Mañosas, vice president of Andorran Ice Sports Federation.

Of the conversations that took place in the Russian capital came the idea of ​​the Development Cup, which “as a future project can go far if everyone implies”.
The international Ice Hockey Federation is not officially involve in it, but it supports some members of its structure to disseminate it through its means.

Argentina wanted to part in this first edition but could not make up a team.
  For the next editions there are interests from countries like Greece, Brazil and Armenia. “A competition like this helps to promote  ice hockey in each country where it is not practiced as much, and in addition to making it known it is a way to make new partnerships ,” says Mañosas.
The intention is that the Development Cup event is to be a rotating tournament every year in selected  country.

The 2017 Development Cup at the end of the month will be “a first stepping stone of this project that must have a progression, that every year the tournament grows.
We can always say that the beginning of everything was in Andorra. “
This will be the first time the Andorran national team will compete. The coach will be Oriol Boronat, player of the Spanish national  team and the C.G Puigcerdà.
With his resume and “his experience we believe it will help bring our players to excel at an international competition”. Each team will be composed of a maximum number of 18 players.
On September 29th and 30th  the Development Cup will begin with the teams facing off each other.
The first two teams will play the final on October 1, and the remaining two will play for third and fourth place. Instead of playing three periods of 20 minutes, each period will be 15 minutes.

Ice Blacks take down Australia in first of three-match series in Queenstown

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By Stuff

The New Zealand Ice Blacks have turned up the heat on Australia, after taking out game one of their three-test series at the Winter Games in Queenstown on Thursday night.

The 4-1 victory for the hosts was only their second in 16 match ups against their trans-Tasman rivals – the Mighty Roos – and sets up an intriguing final two games at the same Queenstown Ice Arena venue over the next two nights.

Both teams had recently returned from their IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) divisional world championships, where world No 38 New Zealand claimed silver in Division II Group B, narrowly missing promotion to Group A – in which world No 33 Australia claimed silver.

While these three tests in Queenstown are sanctioned by the IIHF, they will not count towards world rankings, as it’s deemed a ‘friendly’ tournament. It’s the first time ice hockey has featured at the Winter Games since 2011, with it not being part of the last two events.

Australia have brought a squad of 17 players, with five making their debut, while New Zealand are blooding six new players and utilising the low travel costs by running with a squad of 31.

With a whopping minus-152 goal differential in 14 losses of 15 meetings heading into the series, the Ice Blacks were playing for some redemption, and they certainly came out meaning business in front of a capacity crowd.

Period one saw action right from puck drop. The first penalty of the game went against the Mighty Roos and the Ice Blacks went into a power play. Andrew Cox redirected a puck along the ice from Paris Heyd and the hosts went ahead 1-0.

With play at a particularly fast pace, the Mighty Roos camped out in the Ice Blacks’ zone and netminder Rick Parry was forced to make several saves. A quick breakout by the Ice Blacks saw Chris Eaden drive the puck into the Mighty Roos’ zone, followed by a quick drop pass to the high slot for Alexandr Polozov to finish and double the advantage going into the break.

Period two began with the same velocity and end-to-end hockey. The Ice Blacks found a third goal after a breakaway by Heyd saw him with just the goaltender to beat, but the Roos headed straight back to the opposite end and hit back to make it 3-1. Late in the period the Ice Blacks were penalized and played the better part of the last two minutes short-handed and under pressure, but they held on.

It was a tough battle for dominance early in the third and final period, but when Matt Schneider pressured the puck carrier and forced an error, Polozov was able to bag his second goal, and despite the Ice Blacks penalized and again down a player with a minute to go, they had done enough to secure victory.

Break Away: NHL’s Entrance into China

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By Geoff Ng – City Weekend

China is not traditionally a hockey-playing nation, but with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics fast approaching, the country’s eyes are turning quickly towards the sport. The national hockey program is now laying the groundwork for growth over the next decade, making this September’s exhibition match between the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings a pivotal moment for the development of the sport in this country.

The country is currently ranked just 35th in the world rankings, up two spots from two years ago. Typically only the world’s top 12 nations are eligible for the Olympics. So to jump start the program ahead of 2022, China’s national team recently hosted open tryouts for players of Chinese descent in Toronto and Vancouver. Off the back of these open sessions, Vancouver native Brayden Jaw has signed on to join fellow Chinese-Canadian Zach Yuen to play in China this year as a member of the Kunlun Red Star, the Shanghai-based team in Russia’s cross-continental league, the KHL.

Jaw and Yuen, both in their mid-20s, will serve as a buffer generation to help seed talent in the age groups below them. Even if there is a large potential talent pool in China’s 1.6 billion population, it will take some work to tap into it. “It is a big market,” says Henrik Sedin, captain of the Vancouver Canucks. “But as you’ve seen in markets around North America, it’s tough to build the game. You have to grow it from a young age.”

Not surprisingly then, the national program has a lot of work ahead of itself. “Youth hockey has been developing quickly, especially for ages 10-15,” says 17-year-old local player Eric Zeng. “But the sad thing is that there are fewer and fewer players for our U18 teams. Many Chinese players start very young but they quit hockey for education.” Zeng has enrolled in Shanghai’s men’s league and is hoping to leverage his play and his academics into a scholarship for a Division II American college next fall.

Following the KHL’s lead, the NHL has been nibbling at the edges of China for a few years now, most recently making headlines when the New York Islanders (and its Chinese-American owner Charles Wang) made Andong Song the league’s first Chinese-born draft pick in 2015. Song came up in the Beijing International Ice Hockey League but moved to Canada at age 10 and is now working his way up the Islanders’ developmental system.

The Canucks and the Kings have also contributed, having hosted youth camps in Shanghai and Beijing for the last few years.The Canucks even went one step further this summer, inviting 20-year-old Beijing-born Simon Chen to their prospect development camp in Vancouver.

As for the match itself, the Kings and Canucks will square up with different goals in mind for the season. The Canucks sank to second-last place in the league last year and are building a base of young talent to take them forward, while the Kings have been one of the league’s best teams over the last decade, despite missing the playoffs last year. Nevertheless, with pride and big league jobs on the line, it’s sure to be a competitive game.

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