Month: May 2019 (Page 1 of 2)

Conquering new heights

National women’s ice hockey goalie Wasunun Angkulpattanasuk

By Yvonne Bohwongprasert – Bangkok Post

Thailand’s national women’s ice hockey team recently won the Challenge Cup of Asia tournament while the men’s team continues to gain in popularity.

Wasunun Angkulpattanasuk’s life as Thailand’s top national women’s ice hockey goalie has been marked with two pivotal accomplishments that have built her into one of the most competent athletes in the squad.

She played a crucial role in helping Thailand clinch a gold medal at the 2019 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia tournament held last month in Abu Dhabi, which gave her a huge confidence boost.

“I believe the gold medal is significant in that it will draw the attention of Thai youth towards the minority sport. This is so important to the future of this sport because we are in dire need of fresh local talent,” said Wasunun, 25.

A tropical country like Thailand doesn’t sound like a good place for ice hockey. So winning last month’s tournament is indeed a significant milestone for the sport. Wasunun says she looks forward to promoting ice hockey in the country.

“The Challenge Cup Of Asia is the only meet we get to compete in each year, so despite it being a relatively small tournament, it holds great importance when it comes to becoming a team that has a world Championships,” added Wasunun, who has a degree in nutrition.

One of the biggest barriers to developing ice hockey in Thailand, according to her, is the team not having an ice rink of its own. For the most part, the association rents a rink, and if players decide to train on their own, they have to pay from their pockets.

And ice hockey equipment tends to be pricey.

“Having our own rink will surely develop the sport faster. Despite being national players, we could easily end up paying a minimum of 500 baht to train on a weekday. To keep in shape year round, players have to train three times a week,” said Wasunun, who hopes sponsors will eventually help fund the national squad.

The Bangkok-born athlete said it would be great if ice hockey was highlighted in sport programmes in order receive the exposure it needs to attract raw talent.

Wasunun also is a part-time coach and works for an event company that focuses on ice hockey.

“We have a large group of students from international school that have shown a keen interest in ice hockey. However, while we are happy to have them, I would really like to go and introduce the sport to Thai schools. What we need right now is to build interest,” she said.

“When it comes to shouldering the expense of playing ice hockey, I feel that if we have our rink, the rest of the costs don’t necessarily have to be high. I come from a middle-class background, and have managed to come so far. So I believe there is hope for the rest. What one needs is dedication and a fighting spirit to reach one’s goals.”

Spearheading Thai national ice hockey team’s success

The men’s national ice hockey team captain Hideki Nagayama lead by example to clinch a historic third place for the country at 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Qualification, in Abu Dhabi, UAE last month.

That’s a huge feat for the minority sport that rents an ice-skating rink to train.

Making history is even sweeter when it is accomplished with an emerging team, still wet behind the ears with a lack of match experience.

“What this victory proved is that we have what it takes to become successful in the future,” said the 22-year-old Thai-Japanese athlete who turned semi-professional two years ago. “However, each player has to step up their game even more to reach greater heights.”

National men’s ice hockey team captain Hideki Nagayama’s perseverance and dedication towards the sport has been a beacon of light for his teammates

By playing against countries like Kyrgyzstan, a team where half of its players have experience playing in both Russian junior and pro leagues, Nagayama said the Thai team was able to test its skills.

“It is in matches such as these that one gets to brush up on skills, because that is when you can tangibly see areas you need to work on to beat the best in the business.”

While ice hockey is still considered a minority sport, Nagayama hopes to make it more mainstream through the help of social media.

“I think the easiest way is to use social media to get as much attention. I also just started my own hockey clinic called HN Hockey Clinic. This is one way for me to introduce ice hockey to the youth. If this turns out to be a success, my plan is to create a non-profit ‘Learn To Play’ foundation for all Thai kids that otherwise would never have an opportunity to experience this sport up close as it’s not a cheap sport to play.

“Once we are able to develop this foundation, I’m sure that businesses and even individuals would see the benefits of supporting it with their sponsorship. This would help develop the sport that we love.”

Despite being in his early 20s, Nagayama is an old soul. Besides his decade-long years of experience playing ice hockey, both as a national player and semi-professional in Europe and Canada, he comes across as a young man with a good head on his shoulders.

For as long as he can recall, Nagayama saw a future for himself in ice hockey after being introduced to it as a young boy. It was at age 17 that he decided to leave home in the hopes of playing junior hockey in Canada. The entire experience was a learning curve for him. The constant pressure to show results, and the uncertainty of being traded at any time complicated the experience.

“I once got a call from my team in the middle of the night, asking I pack my stuff and leave to be with my new team the very next morning. This gave me no chance to say goodbye to my teammates. This experience made me realise just what it meant to play professionally. Mentally it made me a stronger person, because for one, I knew that if I desired to play seriously I would need to work harder on my performance.”

Nagayama’s goal was to get a full scholarship, and be able to play in NCAA Division I hockey, but it wasn’t as easy as he expected. After just a year of playing in Canada’s Junior A Hockey, he decided to give the US a shot.

“I went for tryouts to a couple of US teams, and also spoke with a handful of schools. I was even invited back to the main camp of one of the NAHL (Tier II) Junior A team. Unfortunately, I broke my wrist during spring training camp in Canada and that very much closed any opportunity I had to play in the US.”

The Bangkok-born athlete had a year left of playing junior hockey in Canada, and so was looking for future options. On his return to Thailand, he received an offer to play for a high-ranking junior league in Sweden. After consulting with a friend that played for a Swedish junior league team, Nagayama felt his calling to play in Europe. “Playing European hockey, where more skills and skating is required due to a bigger ice surface, meant a lot more hard work. I struggled a little bit at the beginning but European hockey really suited me more than North American hockey,” he said.

“After the last year of playing junior hockey, I got an offer from a semi-pro team in Denmark. Here I was fortunate enough to be able to train in the Metal Ligaen, Denmark’s top ice hockey league, pretty much every day.

“Prior to returning home after the season, I got a tryout contract offer from the Denmark top league. Unfortunately, it did not work out, so I returned to play semi-pro.” After two years in Denmark, he pursued a career in a German semi-pro league but was met with disappointment.

Today Nagayama is focused on developing ice hockey in Thailand, and with the amount of perseverance he puts in, it will surely not be long before he sees the fruits of his hard work.

Overseas Chinese Hockey Players Could Save China from Flopping in the Upcoming Winter Olympics

By Chauncey Jung –

Many high-profile NHL players might disagree, but for the majority of athletes, making it to the Olympics is definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are approaching, some hockey players are doing their best to get into the tournament. As the host of the upcoming event, China will get its first opportunity to send a male hockey team to compete against some of the best sportsmen in the world. South Korean national team learnt a lot from their experience at the 2018 Olympics held in PyeongChang, and now China gets a similar opportunity, that it’d better not blow.

Despite having the biggest population in the world, China is far from the biggest hockey country. While local athletes have demonstrated their excellent abilities on ice winning Olympic gold medals in short track speed skating and figure skating, China has yet to show significant improvements in hockey. The two-time Asian Winter Games champion now merely ranks 33rd out of the 50 teams in International Ice Hockey Federation(IIHF). China currently plays in Division II, Group A league in the IIHF Championship, a tier-four tournament in the competition.

In the Chinese national team 2018 IIHF World Championship roster, the majority of players came from the China-based KHL hockey club Kunlun Red Star. However, these players were not even competitive enough to play actual KHL games. The lack of high-level competitions explains why China has been failing to progress in recent international tournaments.

With the Winter Olympics in just three years, uplifting the skills of Chinese hockey players seems like a mission impossible. The lack of high-level competitions and good training environment, and potentially the lack of financing are all contributing negatively to the competitiveness of the Chinese players. In addition, China still has extremely strict rules on foreigners’ naturalization, making it essentially impossible for foreign talent to represent China on the international level. With limited resources, a handful of good athletes and inflexible immigration policies, Chinese hockey professionals found their last resort in the overseas Chinese community.

Beijing Daily reported earlier that several overseas Chinese players joined the developmental training camp hosted by Kunlun Red Star in May. The athletes, such as Alex Riche and Sam Hu, talked about their eagerness to become part of the 2022 Winter Olympics team. According to the publication, overseas Chinese players are dominating in training matches, beating the current national team with a score of 10-0.

While the overseas Chinese players are nowhere close to being the best hockey players in the world, the results of the training matches indicate that the current national team is hardly ready for the Olympics. The need to recruit more competitive players is urgent and paramount.

Among the overseas Chinese players who participated in the developmental program, some might have Chinese citizenship, which would make the process of joining the team easier. As for foreign-born players with Chinese heritage, they will need to put in more effort into making their Olympics journey come true.

Alex Riche, also known by his Chinese name Shen Jialei, is a Canadian-born hockey player with a Canadian citizenship. Riche formerly played for three different teams in the Ontario Junior Hockey League and joined Princeton to play for the NCAA. During the 2018-2019 season, Riche concluded his collegiate hockey career by scoring 11 goals and 15 assists for Princeton University. Speaking to Beijing Daily reporters, Riche admitted that he hoped to make the transition from university hockey to professional hockey, and he is currently seeking opportunities to play in the Russian hockey league KHL. Riche also spoke highly of the potential opportunity to be part of the Chinese national hockey team. Alex Riche’s mother was Chinese, making it possible for him to naturalize and play for China in future competitions.

Similar to Riche, Canadian hockey player Garet Hunt is also interested in playing for the Chinese national team. The 31-year-old Maple Ridge native now plays for Jacksonville IceMen, in the East Coast Hockey League(ECHL) team. East Coast Hockey League is a mid-level professional hockey league. ECHL is one level below AHL and two levels below the prominent North American hockey league NHL. Speaking little Chinese and looking very far from Asian, Hunt claims that he is proud to have Chinese roots.

It is hard for foreign nationals to naturalize in China. However, for those who have Chinese ancestry, the process could be easier. According to Chinese nationality laws, those who are born with a Chinese parent that does not have a permanent residency in any other country will automatically be granted Chinese nationality. Furthermore, those who have Chinese heritage could presumably naturalize via their parents or relatives.

The existing policies opened doors for foreign-born athletes with Chinese heritage. In football, two players successfully finished their naturalization process in China and are very likely to play for the Chinese national team in future competitions. Former England U19 team member Nico Yennaris and Norway U-18 player John Hou Sæter both joined Beijing Guoan, and are now naturalized Chinese citizens eligible for playing in future Asian Cups and FIFA World Cup Tournaments. For Chinese officials who are desperately looking for fresh talent to improve the national team records, naturalizing foreign-raised competitive players with Chinese heritage seems to be an easy way to make things happen.

The 2018 South Korean Olympics team may be a good reference for the Chinese national team in 2022. South Koreans finished last out of the 12 teams that played in the Olympics finals. Losing all four games in the tournament, the Korean team scored 3 goals but conceded 19 in group stages and placement playoffs. It is, however, worth to mention that the South Korean national team naturalized several foreign players who have no Korean ancestry, including former Boston Bruins goaltender Matt Dalton, former Anaheim Duck defenseman Eric Regan, and former New Jersey Devils Centre Michael Swift. The South Koreans have the highest IIHF ranking among all participating Asian teams. They showed significant improvements thanks to foreign talent, better training and professional guidance from a Stanley Cup Winner Jim Paek.

It is worth to note that unlike the South Korean model, the Chinese naturalization model remains limited and may not be efficient. While having a significant advantage over the native Chinese players, the overseas Chinese players may not be as competitive as expected on the international level. With no clear signs of changes in the country’s naturalization law, the Chinese hockey team is likely to face great challenges and potential embarrassment in its first-ever Olympics in 2022.

German ice hockey continues upward trajectory

By Deutsche Welle

Germany’s hopes of reaching the semifinals of the Ice Hockey World Championship were dashed at the hands of the Czech Republic. However, there were signs that the national team remains on an upward trajectory.

Having beaten one of the traditional ice hockey powers in the form of Finland in their final group-stage game at this year’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Germany rightly hoped for much more ahead of Thursday’s quarterfinal match against another top-six team, the Czech Republic.

After all, wasn’t it just 15 months ago that the Germans stunned the hockey world by getting to the gold-medal game in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“The Czechs were the team that we all hoped for (in the quarterfinals),” said Dominik Kahun, who was coming off of his rookie season with the Chicago Black Hawks. “This is an opponent we can beat.”

Through two periods, Kahun and Germany’s hope, or even confidence, that they could get past the Czech Republic and reach their first World Championship semifinal since 2010 looked more than justified.

Missed opportunities

However, Germany’s first bona fide NHL star Leon Draisaitl, who had a golden opportunity to take the lead on a breakaway in the first, coughed up the puck in the second, allowing the Czechs to take the lead. Still, the Germans, who have proven more than once that they are now capable of coming back from a deficit, capitalized on a mistake by the Czech goalie to even the score just four minutes later.

The Czechs, though, took control in the third, striking first on a counterattack to take the advantage – then converting another. As if to emphasize that all luck had deserted Germany on the night, the Czechs converted another two goals to make it 5-1. It was a scoreline that by no means reflected the actual game, as Germany’s new head coach Toni Söderholm noted.

‘All according to plan’

“Through 40 minutes things were going according to our game plan, and we created some good goal-scoring chances. After that, we were a bit unlucky, and a good opponent will take advantage of this,” Söderholm said.

While Germany’s relatively inexperienced Finnish coach and his players were understandably disappointed by what now may seem like an early exit, there are a number of positives to be taken from how the Eishockeynationalmannschaft fared in Slovakia.

Best finish since 2010

First, based on Germany’s history at the worlds, this was actually no early exit. Eighth-ranked Germany finished sixth at this tournament, their highest placing since they reached the semifinals on home soil in 2010.
Another positive is the fact that by getting to the quarterfinals in Slovakia, they have already qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. This is significant for a country that failed to make it to the Olympics not so long ago.

Newfound confidence

Perhaps most impressive, though, is the fact that the Germans actually believed they could beat the Czechs, a team they have a terrible record against and haven’t beaten in 25 years.

“The fact that all of us are so disappointed, shows how close we were,” said captain Moritz Müller of a team that prior to the Marco Sturm era would have been happy just to have reached the quarterfinals.

“We’ve proven that we are a top-eight nation. And our aim now must be to beat the big teams,” he added.
This newfound self-confidence was on display throughout the tournament – apart from Germany’s 8-1 drubbing against Canada. To their credit, the Germans bounced back from that debacle with a credible performance against the United States, another one of the traditional hockey powers.  

Early on in the tournament, German Ice Hockey Association (DEB) President Franz Reindl even noted that the atmosphere around the team “reminds me of Pyeongchang”.

Powerplay 2026′

But Reindl and the DEB have long been looking far beyond this tournament. After he took office in 2014, the DEB launched “Powerplay 2026”, a program meant to broaden ice hockey’s base in Germany and improve the development of youth players. The aim is to get German ice hockey to the point where the national team will be capable of credibly challenging for medals at the worlds on a consistent basis.

One player who could be part of reaching that goal is 18-year-old Moritz Seider, a defenseman just coming off his first full professional season with Adler Mannheim, with whom he won the DEL championship, Germany’s top hockey. Seider was one of Germany’s bright lights in Slovakia and is widely expected to go in the first round of the NHL draft next month.

And while it may be too early to pronounce Powerplay 2026 a success, what looked a far-fetched goal prior to February of last year now looks a bit more realistic – even after losing 5-1 in a World Championship quarterfinal. 

Finns repeat in Slovakia

By Andrew Podnieks –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individual Awards selected by the Tournament Directorate:

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

Most Valuable Player selected by the media:

Mark Stone (CAN)

All-Star Team selected by the media:

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

Russia shoots down Czechs for bronze

By Lucas Aykroyd –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Road to Olympics set

By Martin Merk –

The 2019 IIHF Annual Congress approved the qualification criteria for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games men’s ice hockey tournament in Beijing.

Like for 2018, the top-8 countries of the 2019 IIHF Men’s World Ranking will be automatically qualified together with host China. These are: Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, USA, Germany and Switzerland. In 2022 the same format will be used for the 12-team tournament with three groups consisting of four teams each. The seeding will be made next year according to the 2020 IIHF Men’s World Ranking.

The qualified teams and the Olympic Qualification for the 10-team 2022 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament will be determined in a year and based on the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Ranking that will be established following the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Canada.

In total a record number of 46 countries who applied to enter a men’s team for the Olympics are eligible to participate in the qualification process, meaning 37 countries will battle it out for the three remaining spots in the 2022 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament.

The Olympic Qualification will be held in four stages starting in November 2019 with tournaments in Luxembourg and Hong Kong. The tournament winner of each group will advance to the next rounds until the Final Olympic Qualification as the fourth and last stage, which will be held 27 to 30 August 2020 keeping the possibility open for NHL players to join their countries.

The hosts of the 11 qualification tournaments were determined according to the seeding based on the 2019 IIHF Men’s World Ranking, meaning the top-seeded team of each group had the right to host before it would be offered to the next teams in the seeding.

The Final Olympic Qualification will take place in the countries ranked 9th to 11th in the world who opted to make use of their home-ice advantage.

Slovakia will host Group D at a venue to be determined with Belarus, Austria and the third-seeded qualifier.

Latvia will host Group E with France, Italy and the second-best seeded qualifier at Arena Riga, the venue built for the 2006 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship that will become a World Championship venue again in 2021.

Group F with Norway, Denmark, Korea and the top-seeded qualifier will take place in a Norwegian city to be named.

The third round will be hosted next February in Jesenice (Slovenia), Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) and Nottingham (Great Britain).

Groups & Qualification Men

For the 2022 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament the top-8 nations of the 2019 IIHF Men’s World Ranking will be automatically qualified and together with host China and the three qualifiers be seeded according to the 2020 IIHF Men’s World Ranking. The three qualifiers will be determined in four stages of the Olympic Qualification starting in the 2019/2020 season according to the schematic below.

The 2022 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament will be played according to the same format used in PyeongChang 2018, Sochi 2014 and Vancouver 2010 with three groups of four teams each. The best four teams from an overall 12-team ranking – the group winners and the second-ranked team with the best record – will advance to the quarter-finals while the other teams will play a qualification playoff game.

Olympic Winter Games, Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament
Groups to be determined in 2020. The tournament will include the top-8 nations according to the 2019 IIHF Men’s World Ranking (Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, USA, Germany, Switzerland), host China and three qualifiers.

Final Olympic Qualification (27-30 August 2020)
Group D: Slovakia, Belarus, Austria, Qualifier 6. In Slovakia (city TBA).
Group E: Latvia, France, Italy, Qualifier 5. In Riga, Latvia.
Group F: Norway, Denmark, Korea, Qualifier 4. In Norway (city TBA).

Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 3 (6-9 February 2020)
Group G: Slovenia, Japan, Lithuania, Qualifier 9. In Jesenice, Slovenia.
Group H: Kazakhstan, Poland, Ukraine, Qualifier 8. In Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Group J: Great Britain, Hungary, Estonia, Qualifier 7. In Nottingham, Great Britain.

Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 2 (12-15 December 2019)
Group K: Romania, Iceland, Israel, Qualifier 11. In Brasov, Romania.
Group L: Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, Qualifier 10. In Spain (city TBA).
Group M: Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey. In Croatia (city: TBA)

Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 1 (7-10 November 2019)
Group N: Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan. In Luxembourg (city TBA).
Group O: Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Thailand. In Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

Groups & Qualification Women

2022 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament will for the first time be played with 10 teams. The qualification process will be determined at the Annual Congress in May 2020 and be based on the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Ranking.

IIHF’s new president to be elected in Sept. 2020 at Congress in St. Petersburg

By Rustam Sharafutdinov – Tass Russian New Agency

The new president of the International Ice Hockey Feederation (IIHF) will be elected in September 2020 at the organization’s Congress in Russia’s second largest city of Saint Petersburg, IIHF President Rene Fasel told TASS on Tuesday.

“The IIHF Congress to elect the organization’s new president will be held in [Russia’s] Saint Petersburg in September 2020,” Fasel, who is currently attending the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia, said in an interview with a TASS correspondent.

Fasel first voiced his intention against running for another presidential term in November 2017 and last October he confirmed to TASS that he would vacate the post in 2020.

The current presidential term of Fasel, who is 69, expires in May 2020. The Swiss-born former dentist with a gift for languages and a deep passion for the game of ice hockey was first elected to run the world’s governing body of ice hockey in June 1994. He was re-elected for a sixth presidential term at the 2016 IIHF General Congress in Moscow.

According to the official website of the IIHF: “When Rene Fasel became Dr. (Gunther) Sabetzki’s successor as IIHF President (in 1994), the world federation steeped in tradition entered a new era.”

IIHF President Fasel was also the first ice hockey representative to be appointed in 1995 to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where he massively raised the stature of the sport of ice hockey.

2019 IIHF World Championship

Asked by a TASS correspondent what Fasel thinks of the organization of the 2019 World Championship in Slovakia after more than a week of group stage matches, the IIHF chief said he was completely satisfied.

“I am very happy,” the IIHF president said. “We are in a hockey country, people love hockey here with a lot of great fans.”

“The organization is really going well, the teams and players are very happy and I hope it will continue till the end,” he added.

The 2019 IIHF World Championship is hosted by Slovakia between May 10 and 26. The participating teams were divided into Groups A and B. Group A is playing matches in Slovakia’s Kosice and includes hosts Slovakia, Canada, the United States, Finland, Germany, Denmark, France and Great Britain.

Group B is playing matches in Bratislava and enlists teams from Sweden, Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Norway, Latvia, Austria and Italy.

Slovakia offers two venues for hosting matches of the championship and they are the country’s capital of Bratislava and the country’s second largest city of Kosice. Each city hosts 28 matches of the group stage as well as two quarterfinals.

The semifinals, the final and the match for the bronze will be played in Bratislava at the over 10,000-seat capacity Ondrej Nepela Arena. Kosice, which has a population of 240,000, offers the over 8,300-seat capacity Steel Arena.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Paul Newman – MailOnline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texier making history

French forward Alexandre Texier celebrates after scoring his first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship goal in the game against Slovakia

By Andrew Podnieks –

Twelve came before him. Twelve players who have appeared in an NHL game were born in France. Three were really Canadian – Maxime Sauve, Paul MacLean, Pat Daley – so the true number is nine.

The most famous are surely Philippe Bozon and Cristobal Huet. Andre Peloffy is retired, and six are active – Stephane DaCosta, Antoine Roussel, Xavier Ouellet, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Yohann Auvitu, Kalle Kossila.

And then there is Alexandre Texier. As of 5 April 2019, he is lucky number 13. Born in Grenoble, the 19-year-old is already important in French hockey because he is the first from his country to be drafted out of the domestic league, the Ligue Magnus.

Two years ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected him 45th overall, and since then his career has taken off.

“It’s great for the French league, but for me I just want to play in the NHL,” Texier began. “It’s great for the young guys in France. You have to follow your dream. But you have to work hard, no matter how much talent you have.”

Texier played for the Grenoble Bruleurs de Loups, the same team his father played for 30 years ago. But after being drafted he moved to Finland to accelerate his development. He put on weight and gained strength and worked on skills and every aspect of his game.

I didn’t expect anything about the draft. I was just playing in the French league, trying my best, and good things happened. I enjoyed that moment, but it’s only one step.
Alexandre Texier
French forward

For two years Texier played for KalPa Kuopio, scoring 63 points in 108 games between 2017 and 2019. He led the team in scoring in that second year, and after the season that’s when things started to take off.

Because the European regular season finishes much earlier than the NHL, Columbus signed him just a couple of months ago and assigned him to their AHL team, the Cleveland Monsters. It was a welcome, but completely unexpected, promotion.

“I started the year in Finland and just wanted to get better with every game,” Texier said. “I didn’t have any special expectations, just play a physical game. I didn’t want to think too much.”

Whatever adjustments he may have had to deal with – smaller ice, more physical game, new culture – he made them immediately. In seven games with the Monsters, he scored five goals.

“I cannot compare between Finland and the AHL,” he continued. “It’s different hockey. There are a lot of young guys in the AHL, so I tried to keep things simple.”

Impressed, GM Jarmo Kekalainen called him up to the big club, and on 5 April he was in the line-up for a road game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York. The team won, 3-2, in a shootout, and Texier had 11:49 of ice time.

A day later, in Ottawa, he scored his first goal. It came on a two-on-one, and it was an international goal. That is, Dane Oliver Bjorkstrand made the pass to the Frenchman Texier, who ripped a nice shot past Swedish goalie Anders Nilsson.

“I was so happy to play in that first game,” he smiled. “My family was there, and the next game I scored. The puck is on my wall now. It was a great experience for me.”

Texier relishes his past and is proud of what he’s done, but it’s clear his ambitions are far greater. What’s done is done, and it’s the future to which he sets his sights. That means keeping France in the top level of the World Championship, and becoming an even better player in the NHL next season.

“It was a great year for me this year,” he said, “so I’m happy, but now I’m here at this World Championship and this is my focus. The work comes first, if you want to play in the NHL. This is the first step for me, but it’s going to be hard. I have to prepare and be ready for next year. I have to be way better, on the ice and off the ice. I have to work on my shot, on my skills, my physical game, everything. This is just the beginning.”

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