Author: NationalTeamsOfIceHockey (page 2 of 61)

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.

Alisauskas moving up

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By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Following in the footsteps of his hometown hero, the KHL becomes the next step in the ascending career of Lithuanian blueliner Nerijus Alisauskas.

When Latvian KHL club Dinamo Riga got the new 2017/18 KHL season underway, it also coincided with the league’s sole Lithuanian representative making his debut at the big stage.

Following a successful off-season try-out, 26-year-old Alisauskas became a surprise late addition to the Dinamo Riga roster. A move which saw him become only the second Lithuanian to grace the KHL after Darius Kasparaitis, who played 26 regular season games for SKA St. Petersburg in 2008/09.

”I am happy to get the chance to play in the KHL and for me it doesn’t matter whether I am first or second. Kasparaitis was also my hero when growing up and I always wanted to achieve the same goals as him,” said Alisauskas, who got his first KHL point on board in his third game of the season with an assist in a 5-3 road win at Barys Astana, Dinamo Riga’s first victory of the season.

When Alisauskas picked up the game at the age of eight back home in the Central Lithuanian small town of Elektrenai, another one of its natives, Kasparaitis had long since left the nest and was at the peak of his powers across the Atlantic suiting up for Pittsburgh Penguins. Dainius Zubrus, the other Lithuanian with an NHL career, also hails from the town.

But while Kasparaitis and Zubrus had honed their skills during the Soviet Union times, Alisauskas was born in another era in the summer of 1991. Brought up in a once again independent Lithuania he was to have a more meandering road towards to the top.

After getting his baptism of fire at senior level in the Belarusian league with Latvian team Liepajas Metalurgs, Alisauskas found himself patrolling the blueline in Germany’s third tier for EV Fussen in 2013/14. Three years of solid displays in Kazakhstan’s top league ensued, before ahead of this season, Dinamo Riga’s head coach Sandis Ozolins came calling to offer Alisauskas an opportunity to shine at the next level.

A fine skater and equipped with a lethal one-timer, Alisauskas possesses qualities he hopes can be fully utilized in his new surroundings as Dinamo Riga aims to avenge for last year’s lacklustre overall display which saw them finish bottom of the pile in the Western Conference.

“I hope we will make the play-offs this season and on a personal level I hope I can grow as a player with as much ice time as possible,” said Alisauskas on a hectic season ahead where a lot will be at stake for both club and country.

In average he got 18:30 of ice time during seven KHL games. Only Canadian Karl Stollery and Latvian Guntis Galvins were on the ice more often among Dinamo Riga defencemen.

With Lithuania hosting the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Kaunas at the end of April next year, big things are in the pipeline for the southern-most Baltic country. Following four consecutive bronze medals at Division IB level under the guidance of head coach Bernd Haake, home advantage is hoped to give the team an extra edge as they aim to propel upwards.

“People are getting more interested in hockey so I am happy about it. As for our team, I believe Lithuania is already ready for the Division IA and this season will be the perfect time to get there,” said Alisauskas.

Alisauskas, who made his senior debut as an 18-year-old at the 2010 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I level, was among many key omissions from last season’s bronze-winning team at the Division IB in Belfast. While the Lithuanian federation hopes to entice big hitters such as Alisauskas, NHL veteran Dainius Zubrus, netminder Mantas Armalis and the Kumeliauskas brothers, Donatas and Tadas, to commit themselves for a gold medal push in Kaunas, perhaps the biggest name of them all is ready to once again step out in the limelight at the age of 45.

Kasparaitis aims at making his national team debut for Lithuania during the Baltic Challenge Cup played on home ice in Klaipeda this November while also offering a chance for Alisauskas to finally line up next to his role model.

“I’ve only practised together with him in the past, so now I can’t wait to play together with him,” said Alisauskas.

Winter Games clash between Ice Blacks and Australia a Queenstown first

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By Olivia Caldwell – Stuff

Queenstown will host its first ice hockey international when the Ice Blacks go head-to-head with arch rivals Australia on Thursday.

You could say the Winter Games brings the Ice Blacks a source of luck, as their only ever win against Australia was in Dunedin during the 2009 games.

Ice hockey had since been taken off the Winter Games schedule as it made little sense to play matches so far form the hub of Queenstown, but the sport has been reintroduced now that the resort town has a facility up to international standards.

Ice Blacks head coach Maru Rout, who played nine years for the Kiwis, expects the first match in the three-test series to be one of high intensity and close scoring.

“We have a home crowd so we are pretty pumped to be playing here. We are suiting up to win without a doubt.”

With the match being at home, Rout says the majority of the Ice Blacks’ roster is available to play, which means he will have 25 players at his disposal for the three matches

He believes having a large squad for the quick-fire series, which will be demanding on the players’ fitness, is crucial.

“There will be a certain level of physicality, but we like to see good hockey and good goals because that is what’s going to win us games. There will be argy-bargy for sure, but we aren’t going to see fights out there on the ice,” Rout said.

“New Zealand versus Australia is always high intensity, it is somehow built in us to play harder when we are playing them.”

“There will be no excuses about performance, we have 25 players and three goalies coming in to this.”

The Ice Blacks will feature long time captain and local Southern Stampede hero Bert Haines, Ice Blacks goal-scoring ace Andrew Cox, Dunedin Thunder’s Paris Heyd, Stampede’s Mitchell Frear, Canterbury’s Chris Eaden, and newly minted squad member Matthew Schneider, a standout defender for the Stampede the past season.

Rout said while Australia are ranked higher and have a stronger national ice hockey league, the Ice Blacks have improved over the past ten years and can compete with their trans-Tasman rivals.

“Australia have a noticeable calibre difference in strength, they have a more mature league than us due to funding and the amount of teams. But we have closed in a lot on them.”

The Ice Blacks copped a 52-0 spanking from the Aussies 30 years ago, while last year’s four-goal defeat at the world championships was an indication the gulf between the sides had significantly been bridged.

Games two and three are on Friday night and Saturday night respectively, with the puck dropping at 7pm for all three.

Rout is expecting sellout crowds for all three matches.

NWHL/Team Russia Summit Series set for October

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By NWHL.zone Staff

Russian Women’s National Team to Play Two Games Each Against the Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters

In a collaboration between the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and Russian Ice Hockey Federation, the Russian National Team (RNT) will come to the United States this October for two weeks of training and competition.

The “NWHL/Team Russia Summit Series” will feature the RNT playing two preseason games each against the Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters. Team Russia will also participate in training sessions during the trip.

“Our players and staff are very excited to come to the USA again to play hard and wonderful hockey against the high-level players of the NWHL,” said Olga Votolovskaya, general manager of the Russian Women’s National Team. “I want to say special thanks to NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan for supporting our initiative, and to the Russian Ice Hockey Federation for financing such a long and far away trip. For a team to improve, you have to go up against some of the best – and that’s what the NWHL represents.”

The two-week visit from Oct. 11-23 will serve as training for Team Russia as it prepares for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and as preparation for the three NWHL clubs before the league’s regular season begins in late October. The RNT faced NWHL clubs in five preseason games in 2016.

“We welcome the Russian National Team and thank them for an ongoing partnership that is beneficial for everyone involved,” said Rylan. “These games may be between friendly rivals, but they are intense – perfect preparation for our teams before the start of the NWHL season.”

Dates, times and venues for the games will be announced this summer.

Additional comments from Olga Votolovskaya:

  • “We enjoy the warm hospitality and kind attention from American people that meet us at the hotels, in the hockey arenas and on the streets during our trip. We will definitely bring some ‘Red Machine’ hockey souvenirs for our American friends. I am looking forward to seeing their smiling faces again.”
  • “Last time we managed to win two games out of five (4-1 vs. Riveters and 3- 2 over Whale). The games were very interesting and tough and it was noticeable that my girls were improving from game to game. We have no other North American trips planned at this time. We will concentrate all our efforts on this series vs. the NWHL. Our plan for October is to bring some young and talented players to the battles with a hope of winning three games out of six.”

The 2017-18 NWHL regular season is set to begin in October, featuring founding four franchises Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters playing a full slate of home games as well as neutral site games.

Turkey & Iran form a Partnership

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Arsalan Alijani Monfared, representing the Islamic Republic of Iran Skating Federation was in Turkey earlier last month for a meeting  held in Ankara with the Turkey ice hockey Federation,
they drafted an agreement to hold a joint camp aimed at development of inline & Ice Hockey  in Turkey and Iran, as well as sending coaches and referees for the exchange program of knowledge and experience with the head of the Turkish Federation to Iran.

This venture is to help the game of Inline an Ice hockey gain a foot hold in both countries.

Team Luxembourg Meeting with the Prime Minister

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By Ice Hockey Luxembourg

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel very kindly invited Luxembourg’s proud Gold Medalists to his office to congratulate them on their win in the 3rd Division Championship in Sofia. He said that he was very proud of the teams achievements and what it meant to Luxembourg and that it deserved to be highlighted.

After that the team presented him with a personalized jersey carrying his name and the number 17 in honor of Luxembourg’s win in 2017. He was visibly moved. The Team followed then the PM outside for a group picture where the Mr. Bettel proudly displayed his jersey.

After having the picture taken Mr. Bettel took even more time out to discuss over a glass of Crement and a slice of Riesling Pasteit the game, the players’ personal histories and the championship. There were many laughter. To finish this special day he gave the Team a tour of his arty office giving a peek inside the job of Prime Minister. At the end Mr. Bettel even expressed interest in coming to a hockey game. It looks Team Luxembourg has won a new fan and Mr. Bettel 25 grateful ones in return.

 

The Latvian B team wins the Baltic Challenge Cup

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

The Latvian B team took first place in the Baltic Challenge Cup in Tallinn, Estonia with a 7-2 victory over Estonia in the last game of the the tournament.

Latvian Reinis Petkus, representing Zemgale / LLU, was recognized as the best goalkeeper of the tournament and Frenz Razgals, who scored seven points in two games was awarded the best forward.

Latvia also beat Lithuania (13: 1) and Swedish first league club Hammarby IF (5: 0).

The second stage of the Baltic Challenge Cup will be held in Klaipėda, Lithuania, from 10 to 12 November, while the final games will take place from 16 to 18 February in a still uncertain place in Latvia.

Date Games Host Results
Aug 25, 2017 Latvia B vs Lithuania Tallinn  13-1
Aug 25, 2017 Estonia vs Hammarby IF Tallinn  1-2
Aug 26, 2017 Estonia vs Lithuania Tallinn  3-2
Aug 26, 2017 Latvia B vs Hammarby IF Tallinn  5-0
Aug 27, 2017 Lithuania vs Hammarby IF Tallinn 1-7
Aug 27, 2017 Estonia vs Latvia B Tallinn  0-2

Young Russians make their case

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By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Going into the final day of the competition, Filip Pesan’s Czech Republic team had a perfect record after wins over Sweden and Finland; Russia was a point behind after requiring overtime to subdue the Swedes. With everything to play for, the teams served up a classic encounter: both teams held the lead, the Czechs clawed back a two-goal deficit on a 5-on-3 power play and then snatched a late tying goal when Filip Zadina (Halifax Mooseheads) made it 5-5 after goalie Adam Brizgala was pulled with 90 seconds remaining. But the Russians kept their heads and Mikhail Maltsev (SKA-1946 St. Petersburg) fired a backhand shot into the top corner to deliver an overtime winner for Valeri Bragin’s youngsters.

That victory was enough to match the Czechs’ seven-point tally, with the head-to-head victory on the final day in Vierumaki proving decisive.

For head coach Bragin, the key thing was the competitive spirit of the entire tournament, especially as he begins to finalize his World Championship roster.

“We played some really useful games,” he said. “We need to look closely at the candidates for the World Juniors because there’s only our November series in Canada to play before the championship. Therefore, the tougher the games, the better is it for the coaching staff: we can see what these players are made of.”

All of Russia’s games were tight. Against Sweden, despite a dream start with two goals in 33 seconds, Tre Kronor fought back to tie the scores with two power play goals. Then, against Finland, the pressure was on from the start as the hosts took a first-period lead through Roni Allen (JYP); Dynamo Moscow prospect Yegor Zaitsev snatched a late 2-1 victory with a power play goal on 57:14.

The need to assess potential players for Buffalo prompted Bragin to call up an experimental roster. Of the 22 youngsters who travelled to Finland, only Grigori Dronov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk) featured in last year’s U20 national team at the IIHF World Junior Championship and none were involved in the U18 bronze medal-winning roster from 2017. There were also no call-ups for any Russian players based in North America.

Russia’s leading scorer in the tournament was Artyom Manukyan, who plays his hockey within the Avangard organisation in Omsk. The 19-year-old is only just making an impact on the international scene, having never featured in Russia’s teams at the U18 Worlds. However, he’s been earmarked as a man with a bright future after a record-breaking season in the MHL, the KHL’s junior league, last season. Manukyan rattled up 105 points in 60 games, with 39 goals and 66 assists. And all that was on a team that failed to make the playoffs. In Finland, he scored three in three, including the overtime winner in the opening game against Sweden, and added an assist to join a three-way tie with Czech duo Martin Kaut (Dynamo Pardubice) and Ostap Safin (Sparta Prague) on top of the scoring charts.

Finland, beaten in its first two games, restored some pride on Saturday with a resounding 6-1 win over Sweden, despite trailing 0-1 at the first intermission. The Finns scored three in each of the remaining sessions, and finished the competition with eight different goal scorers. The Swedes finished bottom of the table, picking up a solitary point from that overtime loss against Russia on the opening day.

Four Nations Tournament in Finland
24 Aug.   Vierumaki (FIN)   Sweden   Russia 2-3 OT
24 Aug.   Lahti (FIN)   Finland   Czech Rep. 1-3
25 Aug.   Vierumaki (FIN)   Czech Rep.   Sweden 4-2
25 Aug.   Lahti (FIN)   Finland   Russia 1-2
26 Aug.   Vierumaki (FIN)   Russia   Czech Rep. 6-5 OT
26 Aug.   Lahti (FIN)   Finland   Sweden 6-1
Standings: 1. Russia 7, 2. Czech Rep. 7, 3. Finland 3, 4. Sweden 1

Finland dominates 4 Nations

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By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Finland’s national women’s team picked up right where it left off, winning all three games at a 4 Nations event in Sweden this weekend.

Finland, Germany, Russia and Sweden and all played three games in three nights in an event intended to give their respective coaches a sense of where their rosters stand heading into this critical Olympic season.

The European nations aren’t centralizing the way Canada and the United States are, so every chance they have to play games and assess talent is all the more important before PyeongChang in February 2018.

All games but one followed a familiar pattern which saw the team that scored first go on to win the game. The lone exception was the final game of the weekend, a narrow 3-2 win for Sweden over Russia.

Russia jumped into a 2-0 lead early in the second on goals from veterans Olga Sosina and Yelena Dergachyova, but the home side fought back with two power-play goals. Annie Svedin got the first and Emmy Alasalmi got the equalizer midway though the third. Johanna Olofsson then scored the winner with less than two minutes to go.

Recall that the Finns beat Canada, put a scare into the U.S., and won an impressive bronze at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, USA this past April. The team in Eskilstuna was similar in make-up to the April roster, including goalie Noora Raty and captain Jenni Hiirikoski.

Sweden finished with two wins and a loss while Russia had one win. The tournament was an eye-opener for the Germans, who lost all three games. Under the enthusiasm of coach Benjamin Hinterstocker, the team finished an impressive fourth in Plymouth, winning three of its first four games and providing a welcome breath of fresh air all tournament.

But they are no longer a surprise, and it’s clear Hinterstocker has his work cut out for him if the team is going to perform equally well in Korea. Indeed, the team scored but one goal in three games in Eskilstuna, that by 16-year-old defender Franziska Brendel in a 3-1 loss to Russia.

More telling were shots on goal. The Germans were outshot 45-8 by Sweden, 39-16 by Russia, and 54-9 by Finland. To get 33 shots in three games will not be enough at the Olympics, but at least the Germans know where they stand and what work lies ahead.

The Germans were also the youngest team, with an average age of just 20.9. Again, this is both a strength and weakness, their future looking great but their inexperience a fault for the immediate future.

Three of the top-four scorers in the tournament were Finns. Michelle Karvinen had two goals and six points to lead all players and Riikka Valila and Hiirikoski had four points, as did Russian forward Olga Sosina. Sosina and Susanna Tapani of Finland were the only players to score three goals.

Sweden’s only loss was to Finland, 4-0, but it continues to feature a young roster that seems to be improving with every outing. Many of its senior players have two or more years of play at the U18 level on their resume and might well be ready to come into their own this season, namely Lisa Johansson, Sara Hjalmarsson, and the aforementioned Alasalmi.

Sweden’s Damkronorna some weeks earlier played two exhibition games at one of the Olympic venues in Gangneung and beat host Korea 3-0 and 4-1.

NHL team takes it to the ‘ice’ in Barbados

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By The Barbados Advocate

The Florida Panthers Ice Hockey team was right at home in Barbados when they paid a visit to Icetopia Skating Rink this past Wednesday evening.

Continuing their community outreach while on the island, the United States National Hockey League (NHL) teams carried a clinic for young players as there was a new interest in the sport.

With several youngsters coming out to the region’s first ice skating rink to take part in the workshop, they were taken through the paces by defencemen Ian McCoshen and Alex Petrovic as well as newly-retired player Shawn Thornton, who now wears the hat of Vice President of Business Operations for the team.

Speaking to The Barbados Advocate, Vice President of Alumni and and Broadcasting Randy Moller explained that the initiative came out of their desire to give something back, in the hopes that it would aid the development of the sport in Barbados.

“As part of our partnership with the island of Barbados and our outreach programmes and our community development for youth hockey for the Florida Panthers, we jumped on this opportunity to come down here to this beautiful Caribbean island of Barbados when we found out that they have an indoor synthetic ice arena that kids actually play hockey on. We were excited about coming down and putting on a clinic for these kids and hopefully give them some more pointers to improve their skills in the world’s fastest team game,” Moller said.

Noting that they brought some of their best and brightest, Moller stated that they were enjoying their time on the island.

“We brought Panthers defencemen Alex Petrovic, Ian McCoshen and former Florida Panther Shawn Thornton to strap on the blades and come down and see what this is all about. We have been very impressed. This is incredible and to have this on an island in the Southern Caribbean is amazing. Barbados is incredible and we are really happy to be here,” he said.

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