Year: 2021 (Page 2 of 14)

NaturEnergie Challenge: Swiss win home tournament

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

The Swiss national team wins the home tournament in Visp. After the 2-1 win against Latvia, coach Patrick Fischer’s team also defeated Slovakia 3-2. Denis Hollenstein scores twice.

In the second and third periods, the Swiss showed an excellent performance. They used their speed and dominated the Slovaks practically at will, which underlines the shot ratio of 21: 3. Hollenstein  tied the game to 1: 1. The Swiss missed many chances example: Yannick Zehnder and Denis Malgin each failed in the 25th minute in front of the Slovak goalkeeper Patrik Rybar. Numerous other opportunities could also be mentioned.

In the 43rd minute the second goal came from Hollenstein again. The ZSC Lions striker scored on the power play. Three minutes later, the Slovaks equalized out of nowhere. As with the the first goal it was an own goal, this time Simon Le Coultre was the unlucky one.

Killian Mottet, who had already scored against Latvia on Thursday, scored the winning goal in the 57th minute. He only had to push the puck over the line after a push by defender Christian Marti. The Swiss were able to take revenge for their 6-1 defeat in November at the German Cup in Krefeld. 

The Swiss National team will now gear up for the Olympic Games in Bejing, China.

A pretty, pretty big shame’: Germany’s Borzecki ready for World Juniors debut after spending last year’s tournament in quarantine

Jakub Borzecki joined EC Red Bull Salzburg of the ICEHL in the fall of 2021

Matthew Black – CTV News Edmonton

Last year’s World Juniors in Edmonton were supposed to be a special time for German hockey prospect Jakub Borzecki.

He made the squad as an 18-year-old, and was expected to play a key role, including on the power play, as part of a team considered to be his country’s best in years.

But, he never saw the ice.

Four days before Germany’s tournament opener on Christmas Day, and just one day after exiting his mandated travel quarantine, Borzecki learned he had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was just really excited to actually fly out to Canada to play at the World Juniors,” he said.

”I was really looking forward to it.”

He was the last of nine German players to test positive for the coronavirus.

The outbreak forced the team back into isolation and left it with only 16 players, 14 of them skaters, for its first three games instead of the usual roster of 25.

“At first I didn’t quite realize it,” Borzecki said. “I felt great …I still did my workouts as planned. I didn’t feel anything.”

“It was a pretty, pretty big shame to not be able to get out.”

WE TESTED SO MUCH

Borzecki spent most of his time alone in his hotel room less than a block away from Rogers Place where his teammates carried on without him .

He says he was initially able to gather for stretching exercises and video games with the eight others who had also tested positive.

“I was actually shocked that so many guys went missing because we expected everybody to be just fine. We tested so much in Germany.”

The players watched on television from their hotel as an outmanned Team Germany held its own in a tournament-opening 5-3 defeat to Finland before running out of gas a day later in a 16-2 defeat to the host Canadians.

“It was a big challenge for them and a lot of ice time but they really managed well.”

A 16-man German team scored a 4-3 overtime upset over Slovakia in its third game to keep its tournament hopes alive.

The squad was back to full strength, minus Borzecki, for its final opening round game, a 5-4 win over Switzerland.

“I was sweating in my room just watching the games, because it was really exciting to watch the guys play,” he said.

“I was really happy for them.”

SHOCKED TO SEE ME

The win over Switzerland earned Germany its first ever quarterfinal appearance at the World Juniors, and a matchup against a Russian team considered to be among the favourites to win the event.

Ahead of the game, someone on the team arranged to have Borzecki’s jersey hung on the glass behind the team’s bench during the game, much to his surprise. 

Germany forward Jakub Borzecki’s (20) jersey hangs on the bench after he has been unable to play in the tournament due to a COVID positive test, as the Germans take on Russia during first period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action in Edmonton on Saturday, January 2, 2021

“I just had my white jersey in my room, and suddenly my other jersey was hanging there,” he said. “Just had a big smile all over my face.”

“[I was] a little sad too of course, just seeing my jersey, but not being able to get out.” 

His teammates exceeded expectations again, but came up short in a narrow 2-1 defeat to Russia. 

The next day marked the end of what would be more than three weeks in quarantine, and he was able to board the team bus and fly back to Germany with his teammates. 

“The guys were just shocked to see me.”

A BIG RELIEF

Borzecki, now 19, is in his first year of senior pro hockey with EC Red Bull Salzburg of the ICE Hockey League. 

The power forward has recorded seven points, including two goals, in 25 games so far this season and will be part of Team Germany at this year’s World Juniors.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” he said of making his tournament debut. “It’s gonna be a big relief to finally be able to be there.”

A relief that will help bury thoughts of what might have been for him and his team last year.

“I think if everybody would have been there, we could have had a great chance to get even further,” he said.

“It was a nice hotel room at least.”

Андраш Михалик: «Цель — сохранить прописку»

После первого тура МЧМ Div IA нападающий сборной Венгрии Андраш Михалик подвел итоги матча против сборной Казахстана (1:3) и рассказал о том, каких ошибок стоит избегать в игре сборной

— Андраш, какие эмоции вы испытывали перед первой игрой на турнире? Как вам в целом матч? Оцените первую игру своей команды и оцените игру команды соперника

— Это была мой дебют на МЧМ. Вначале я был очень взволнован, для меня это большой успех, ведь я попал в окончательный ростер и получил шанс представлять свою страну. Игра против Казахстана была очень быстрой, у соперников было много опытных игроков, поэтому мы должны были приложить все усилия, чтобы не отставать от них. Казахстан — отличная команда, они быстро перемещали шайбу, поэтому мы старались играть попроще. Думаю, сработало очень хорошо. В целом я чувствовал, что мы проделали отличную работу как команда, мы оставались в игре все 60 минут. После матча извлекли уроки и продолжим совершенствоваться.

Кроме того, самое большое положительное впечатление на данный момент заключается в том, что мы, игроки, окружены очень профессиональной средой, с которой мы раньше не сталкивались, поэтому нам нужно сосредоточиться только на хоккее и играх. Мы играли хорошо, но на таком уровне каждая ошибка имеет значение. В следующих играх нам придется свести ошибки минимуму и использовать те немногие шансы, которые мы получаем.

— Какой соперник, на ваш взгляд, будет самым сложным?

— Мы попытались посмотреть на все команды. Мне кажется, что Беларусь и Латвия — сильнейшие команды, судя по их составам. Однако на этом турнире мы и все наши соперники должны сыграть пять игр за семь дней, а это значит, что команды покажут свои хорошие и также плохие стороны.

— Какие цели и задачи стоят перед командой на стартовавший турнир? Насколько команда готова к предстоящим играм ?

— Наша главная цель – остаться в группе А. Сборная Венгрии U20 никогда не выигрывала ни одной игры в этом дивизионе, поэтому мы хотели бы быть первой командой, достигшей этого рубежа. Перед турниром мы cчитаемся аутсайдерами, но мы хотим доказать, что можем конкурировать с любой командой в этом дивизионе, а также выигрывать матчи.

— От чего в сегодняшнем матче у двоих команд было немалое количество удалений?

— Да, я согласен, что в этой игре у обеих команд было большое количество необязательных удалений. Я думаю, это связано с тем, рефери здесь намного строже, чем в чемпионате Венгрии. В оставшейся части турнира мы должны помнить об этом и играть без подобных ошибок.

— Есть ли у тебя какие-нибудь ритуалы перед матчами? Как вообще настраиваешься на игру?

— В отличие от большинства игроков, у меня действительно нет никаких персональных ритуалов перед играми. Хоть и мне нравится каждый раз делать одну и ту же разминку и заматывать клюшку одним и тем же способом, в остальном я не придерживаюсь каких-либо ритуальных действий.

— Пару слов болельщикам на трибунах

— Независимо от того, выиграем мы или проиграем, или что говорит табло, мы всегда будем выкладываться на льду. Мы хотим показать болельщикам, которые приехали сюда, и тем, кто следит за нами из дома, что мы можем дать бой нашим соперникам и достичь нашей цели — остаться в этом дивизионе.

Автор материала: Алсу Фаткуллина

Kuwait National Ice Hockey Team awaits ‘time to shine’

Kuwait Men’s National Team

By Ben Garcia – Kuwait Times

The Kuwait National Ice Hockey Team Federation is currently busy preparing for its national team to participate in the upcoming 3rd GCC Games set to be held in Kuwait on January 9-19, 2022. “We want to win. That’s our objective,” started Khaled Mubarak Al-Mutairi, the Vice Chairman of the Board of Kuwait Winter Games Club, which manages the Kuwait National Ice Hockey (KNIH) men’s and women’s teams.

The teams are participating in a three-week camp in Turkey starting today for some “rigid training” in preparation for the tournament, Mutairi said. Kuwait looks at the GCC Games as an opportunity to showcase its skills not only in hockey, but other games to be featured in the regional tournament.

Kuwait’s national women’s hockey team

KNIH has been an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), an international organization for ice hockey and in-line hockey based in Zurich, Switzerland, and has 81 member countries. But Mutairi admits that winter games are not very common among Kuwaitis. Yet, he says national players can compete on a high level through practice and perseverance, fueled by the love of the game.

“Even countries with ice or snow have to practice and train on the man-made-installed facilities. Trainings and the actual games are not normally done in the wild or snow mountains, so this means that we can learn how to play too,” Mutairi argued. “Whether you live in a sandy desert in the Middle East or a European country with snow, training and the formal games are usually held in installed facilities, so it can easily be learned if your heart is into it,” he added.

Mutairi further spoke about how the Kuwait National Ice Hockey team was conceived from scratch. “I remember visiting the Ice Skating Rink in 1987 and I saw a group of Canadian and US players taking part in a hockey game. Many of us were naïve to this sport, but eventually our interest grew, and I encouraged many of my friends to join and play hockey,” he said. “We started with nothing, and our club here started with nothing too; but we are determined to learn. Eventually we applied for government recognition – we developed a club and we were able to go through the tedious process of accreditation,” he added.

National team
After the liberation in 1991, Mutairi, along with Fhaid Hamad Al-Ajmi, the current Board Chairman of the Kuwait Winter Games Club, created a small hockey team and they started trainings and workshops to form a national team for Kuwait. “It was small group then, but the interest of Kuwaitis has sprung up from then onwards until we finally got the nod of the government,” Mutairi remembered.

“When we were invited in Scotland for a hockey tournament in 1993, we joined without hesitation; we went there, 23 of us without any support from the government. Then several tournaments followed after that,” he reminisced. As years went by, those who were part of the team became trainers and referees. “They are still with us, and we keep them because of their experience which they can share to our new members,” he said.

Ajmi admitted meanwhile that getting recognition from the government was not an easy task. “I thought it was easy at first, but it took us years to comply with government requirements. At first, we were told to get real ice hockey training, then we were told to learn how to run and manage a team. After that, they told us to get stronger support from people and fans in order to move forward. It took us two years to comply with those requirements, but we managed it anyways,” he explained.

“In 1997, we were invited by China to join in the tournament. We lost as expected because we have no support from the government, but we were happy representing our flag in an international arena,” Ajmi noted. “That game attended in China paved way for the government to do something for the ice hockey team in Kuwait. It was 1998 when the Kuwait Olympic Committee noticed us and so they started giving us some sort of budget. They had given us a chance to form a committee until we were finally and officially recognized by the Public Authority for Youth and Sports in 2013,” he said.

Kuwait’s ice hockey teams did most of their home trainings at the Ice Skating Rink at Al-Soor Street. But when the rink was demolished in 2018, they went ‘homeless’ temporarily. In the absence of the standard-size training grounds, the club had to send their players outside the country for practice. In 2019, the government allowed the construction of its new training ground for the ice hockey team. It was built at the Bayan district known now as the Kuwait Winter Games Club.

“With the government’s recognition, we were able to get the proper funding for the construction of the new ice skating rink, as well as the funding needed for our players and members,” Ajmi said. He also thanked “all the people who were instrumental for the success of the club and the creation of this federation.” The ice skating rink at the Kuwait Winter Games Club is open to public every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (10am to 10pm), but closes for the rest of the week for the Kuwait National Team trainings.

Team Canada Black wins 2021 Capital City Challenge

Source: Hockey Canada

Team Canada Black has been crowned champions at the 2021 Capital City Challenge after downing Team Canada Red 5-4 in an overtime thriller in the tournament final on Wednesday night.

Team Canada Black jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period after goals by Ty Halaburda (Victoria, B.C./Vancouver, WHL) and Alex Pharand (Sudbury, Ont./Hamilton, OHL), but Matthew Wood (Nanaimo, B.C./Victoria, BCHL) and Natan Éthier (Rosemère, Que./Saint-Eustache, LHM18AAAQ) responded with goals for Team Canada Red to even the score at 2-2. The teams traded goals in the second as Halaburda notched his second goal of the game and Owen Outwater (Orleans, Ont./North Bay, OHL) scored just over two minutes later to tie the game again.

The final minute of the third period was a wild one. Riley Heidt (Saskatoon, Sask./Prince George, WHL) fired home a rebound with 29 seconds to go to put Red ahead, but Zach Benson (Chilliwack, B.C./Winnipeg, WHL) netted his tournament-leading seventh goal on a shot off the face-off with 0.4 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Calum Ritchie (Oakville, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) was the extra-time hero, beating Team Canada Red goaltender Jackson Unger (Calgary, Alta./Edge School, CSSHL) on a breakaway in the extra frame.

“It was a little bit of a blur. I saw the puck bounce off the boards and I had the opportunity to get a breakaway, so I just skated as hard as I could,” Ritchie said. “Muscle memory from practice took over, and to be honest I do not really remember [scoring], but it was such a great feeling to get the game-winner.”

Team Canada Black netminder Mason Vaccari (Mississauga, Ont./Cobourg, OJHL) stopped 30 shots, while Unger made 35 saves.

Team Canada White defeats National Women’s Team in third-place game

In the third-place game earlier on Wednesday, five different skaters found the back of the net for Team Canada White as it defeated Canada’s National Women’s Team 5-1.

Carey Terrance (Akwesasne, N.Y./Erie, OHL) kick-started the offence for Canada White, opening the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Tyler Peddle (Antigonish, N.S./Drummondville, QMJHL) added a goal and an assist, and Ethan Gauthier (Drummondville, Que./Sherbrooke, QMJHL) chipped in with a pair of helpers.

Goaltender Scott Ratzlaff (Irma, Alta./Seattle, WHL) made 12 saves in the win.

“Our players were a little bit disappointed after yesterday’s result, but overall I am proud of the way they finished the tournament,” said Canada White head coach Rob Wilson (Toronto/Peterborough, Ont.). “We had such a great group of players and staff, and it was a pleasure to be a part of this team. I am looking forward to watching our players flourish as they continue on in their careers.”

Emma Maltais (Burlington, Ont./Ohio State University, WCHA) scored the lone goal for Canada’s National Women’s Team, while goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer (Bruderheim, Alta./PWHPA) turned in a 38-save performance.

The traditional Catalonia-Basque ice hockey returns this Christmas

Four years after the last edition, the two powers of state ice hockey will meet again on December 28, 2021 on the ice rink of Puigcerdà

Source: Catalan Federation of Winter Sports

In a further sign of a return to normalcy prior to the pandemic, on the 28th of December the Puigcerdà ice rink will host a new clash between the Catalan and Basque ice hockey teams. A duel with a certain tradition behind it that had not taken place for four years The last edtion was in 2017, also in Puigcerdà, with a Catalan victory. 

With the organization of the Catalan Federation of Winter Sports (FCEH) and the support of local institutions and entities, the Christmas festivities will once again feature a two games between two friendly teams and with strong social and sporting roots in the state ice hockey.

And it is expected that many of the players who make up the staff of the men’s and women’s teams are from  CG Puigcerdà  and  FC Barcelona , in the case of Catalonia, and  CHH Txuri-Urdin , in the Basque Country.

Catalunya – Euskadi  Femení     14:00h

Catalunya – Euskadi   Masculí     20:00h 

Action from 2017 Catalonia and Basque Country

Both teams have a significant weight in Spanish ice hockey, where CG Puigcerdà, FC Barcelona and CHH Txuri-Urdin have dominated the state competitions in recent years. The League is a clear example of this, as you have to travel back to 2015-2016 season to find a champion who is not Catalan or Basque.

Chinese hockey team loses another game in test for Olympics

Kunlun Red Star’s Parker Foo, left, and Avangard’s Arseny Gritsyuk battle for the puck during the Kontinental Hockey League ice hockey match between Kunlun Red Star Beijing and Avangard Omsk in Mytishchi, outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS

The players hoping to make China’s men’s hockey team for next year’s Beijing Olympics lost a second trial game against a Russian club on Wednesday as uncertainty builds over whether they will be allowed to play at the Winter Games.

International Ice Hockey Federation officials observed Kunlun Red Star’s 4-1 loss to Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. The Chinese team’s 5-4 overtime loss to Amur Khabarovsk in another KHL game two days earlier was also used to assess the competitive strength of the team. Kunlun has a 7-22 record in the Russia-based league.

Kunlun coach Ivano Zanatta said the games were evidence his team meets the Olympic standard.

“Definitely not second to a Norway or a Denmark or Latvia. We’re equal to those countries,” Zanatta said. “Today and the last game they proved they have the character and the ability and they have the right to participate in their own Olympics.”

Denmark and Latvia qualified for Beijing. Norway is the highest-ranked unqualified team — and a possible replacement if China doesn’t play.

China is using Kunlun as a proxy for the national team. Most of the roster consists of North American-born players who league records list as having taken Chinese nationality. More players could be naturalized in time for the Olympics.

Avangard had 35 shots on goal while Kunlun had 14, but the score was only 2-1 with four minutes remaining. Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jake Chelios — son of NHL great Chris Chelios — scored Kunlun’s only goal.

China has never previously competed in a men’s Olympic hockey tournament. It most recently played in the fourth-highest division of the IIHF world championships in 2019, before it naturalized foreign-born players.

Zanatta said the club was building team spirit between its foreign-born players — many of whom have Chinese heritage — and the players born and raised in China who are on the roster and practice squad.

“There’s a great union made, I would have to say, through the months here, and there’s a great group of guys, there’s a great mix. And there’s been a lot of sharing of Chinese culture,” Zanatta said.

The IIHF has acknowledged concerns about China’s competitiveness but president Luc Tardif said this month the federation would not remove the team from the Olympics. Tardif appeared to change his stance Tuesday, telling reporters in Canada that the IIHF and International Olympic Committee would decide next week whether China could play and that Norway’s team could step in as a replacement.

It’s unclear how many foreign-born players could represent China. The IIHF has refused to say which Kunlun players are eligible — Chelios, for example, is listed as a U.S. player in KHL records — and Tardif has said the IIHF needs to confirm player eligibility.

Zanatta, who has experience at the Olympics as a Canada-born player for Italy, has said his players will struggle to keep the score down in Beijing.

“For me, it’s pretty easy, having lived the experience of the heritage player with the Italian national team. We basically circled the wagons and we held solid defense and that has to be the attitude,” Zanatta said Monday. “Let’s face it, we’re playing Canada, USA. We’re not looking at anything other than, you know, you’ve got to be able to compete, stay with them.”

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Russia perfect in Angelholm

Danila Yurov was among the key players for Russia in its tournament in in Sweden in what was the last big test for the teams before departing to the World Juniors in December

By Risto Pakarinen – IIHF.com

Russia came, they saw and they conquered, winning all three games in the under-20 Four Nations tournament in Angelholm, Sweden. The tournament is an important part of the four teams’ preparation for the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Canada in December. 

What makes the feat even more impressive is the fact that Russia had age-eligible players in the Karjala tournament with the men’s team, including the 16-year-old phenom Matvei Michkov. 

The Russian team still had enough firepower, scoring 16 goals in the three games. 

Head coach Vladimir Filatov, who will be an assistant on the World Juniors team, was happy with his team’s play, and even opened the door to Edmonton for some.

“Yes, we have a lot of players in Helsinki at the same time, but these guys are candidates to make the World Juniors team as well as players in Canadian junior leagues,” he said. 

“Coaches don’t usually like to name names publicly, but Alexander Pashin has scored in every game and deserves to be named,” Filatov said of the diminutive forward who led the tournament in scoring with four goals and six points in three games.

Finland finished second, having lost their opening game to Russia.     

For the hosts, more important than their third-place finish was the fact that they’re finding their groove at the right time. 

“We’ve taken a major step since the July-August games when we didn’t play very well and were rather pedestrian. Over here we showed that we can put up a fight [against these teams],” said Sweden’s head coach Tomas Monten. 

The offence is still lacking that one high-quality scorer, and unfortunately for Monten and Sweden, the players that would bring scoring to the team, such as Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz, are playing in North America, and especially in the case of Raymond, so well in the NHL that he probably won’t be available in December. On the other hand, Monten does have William Eklund in reserve as the 19-year-old forward just returned to Sweden from the San Jose Sharks. 

“We have good goalies, defence is solid, but unfortunately, we don’t have many forwards who stand out in the SHL, or that would, for example, get to play a lot of minutes on power play,” he said. 

However, Monten did have the tournament’s best defenceman, Simon Edvinsson, who was a majestic presence on the Swedish blueline. He recorded two assists in the two games he played. The 18-year-old was recovering from an illness and hadn’t practised the week before so he was given some rest after the first two games. 

The Czechs had a weak outing, finishing fourth, and having scored just five goals. Their leading scorer was defenceman Jakub Sedivy who collected two assists, tied for 18th in the tournament scoring.

Germany wins in Lillehammer

For World Juniors teams were involved in the Four Nations tournament in Lillehammer where Germany got the most out of it. After starting with a 5-4 shootout loss to Slovakia, the Germany rebounded and beat both host Norway (4-2) and Switzerland (5-2) to claim first place. The 5-2 win in the neighbouring clash against Switzerland was a winner-takes-it-all game as the Swiss had previously beaten Norway (6-3) and Slovakia (5-3). Norway finished in third place after a 5-3 victory against Slovakia.

Goaltender Niklas Lunemann shone with a tournament-leading 92.7% save percentage while Maksymilian Szuber, Joshua, Samanski and Florian Elias were among the scoring leaders only behind Switzerland’s Simon Knak, who impressed with five goals and seven points in three games.

Belarus finished another tournament in neighbouring Latvia in first place ahead of Austria, the only top-division team in the tournament, while France succeeded in a four-team tournament in Italy.

Sweden wins Karjala Tournament

Swedish forward Anton Lander got the opening goal in the decisive game and scored a couple against Russia

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Sweden took the honours in the first stage of this season’s Euro Hockey Tour, defeating Finland in Sunday’s decisive game at the Karjala Tournament in Helsinki. The Tre Kronor enjoyed a perfect weekend at the start of the international campaign, beginning with a 4-1 win over the Czechs in Linkoping before heading to the Finnish capital to beat Russia 4-2 and Finland 3-1.

The game against neighbouring Finland was a winner-take-all clash, with both teams victorious in their opening games. However, Sweden always held a slight advantage and converted that into an opening goal from Anton Lander late in the first period. The middle frame brought two more goals for the visitor, with Jesper Olofsson and Henrik Tommernes on target before Heikki Liedes potted a consolation effort for Suomi in the third.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia defeated the Czech Republic 5-2 to take third place. Once again, the Russians played a youthful roster – 25-year-olds Alexander Yelesin and Danil Vovchenko were the elder statesmen on the team – but unlike last season the Red Machine found it tough against more experienced European opposition.

Sweden’s roster was uncharacteristically light on KHL players this time, with Johann Garpenlov choosing to take a look at his Swiss-based players. The likes of Lander, Tommernes, Olofsson, Niklas Hansson, Mathias Brome and Carl Klingberg all featured in the Karjala Tournament but will be unavailable for December’s Channel 1 Cup due to club commitments. That could open the door for several KHLers to take part in the tournament in Moscow.

That tournament will also feature a Canadian line-up. Russian Hockey Federation vice-president Roman Rotenberg confirmed that Hockey Canada had asked to take part, explaining that Canada wanted to prepare a team of European-based players in case the Covid-19 situation makes it impossible for NHLers to go to the Olympics in February.

Michkov makes an instant impact

While Sweden took the honours in Helsinki, Russia’s 16-year-old star Matvei Michkov wrote plenty of headlines. The SKA St. Petersburg prospect became the youngest ever player to represent Russia or the USSR, making his debut in Thursday’s game against Finland at the tender age of 16 years, 11 months and two days. That smashed the record set by Alexander Ovechkin in 2003 as the youngest skater on a Russian team, and the all-time Russian and Soviet record held by legendary goalie Vladislav Tretyak since 1968. Ovechkin and Tretyak were the only players to represent the Red Machine at the age of 17; Nikita Chibrikov became the third to do so at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Michkov was by no means overawed in that exulted company. In his second appearance, Saturday’s 2-4 loss to Sweden, he became his country’s youngest ever goal scorer – and how! Early in the second period, the teenager collected the puck behind Gustaf Lindvall’s net and executed a lacrosse goal. The following day, Michkov was on the scoresheet again as a youthful Russian team signed off with a 5-2 win over the Czechs to take third place in the competition.

Like any sniper, though, Michkov’s thoughts were as much on the chance he missed as the goal he so spectacularly scored.

“In the first period I should have scored, but the puck didn’t quite drop for me. In the second, when I scored, everything fell into place; the puck dropped onto the crook, I decided to give it a go and it all worked out,” he said after the game. “I don’t even remember when I first learned that trick, but if you keep slaving away at it, you can work these things out.”

Meanwhile, the SKA youngster got rave reviews from his clubmate Lars Johansson, who was understudy to Lindvall for the game against Russia. “Michkov’s goal was unreal,” he told RIA Novosti. “I know how much of a skilled player he is, but I’m still amazed by how quick his hands are, how quickly he reads the situation.

“When I was 16, I was nowhere near that level. Michkov is a unique talent, and I’ve seen how hard he works. I hope he’ll just get better and better.

“He’s scored on me more than once in practice and, believe me, he’s scored some crazy goals there, but I’ve never seen a ‘lacrosse’ goal before. Matvei loves to compete, so it’s always fun to come up against him.”

Germany triumphs in Deutschland Cup

Three wins from three saw the host nation top the standings in Krefeld. This four-team contest came down to a winner-takes-all showdown between Germany and Slovakia on Sunday afternoon and Toni Soderholm’s team came out on top with a 4-1 verdict. Leonhard Pfoderl opened the scoring after 14 seconds, Tobias Rieder led the scoring with two goals and an assist, while Marcel Noebels had two helpers. Dominik Bittner was the other German scorer, while Samuel Bucek got Slovakia’s consolation effort. Switzerland took third place in the group after recovering from 0-2 to post a 3-2 victory over Russia ‘B’. Long-serving captain Andres Ambuhl started the fightback, Sven Andrighetto potted the equalizer and Inti Pestoni grabbed the winning in the final minutes.

Rieder’s game-winning display against Slovakia helped him to the top of the scoring charts with 5 (4+1) points. Noebels’ handful of assists saw him join his colleague on five, while Pfoderl finished with 4 (3+1) from the weekend.

Young Belarusians impress in Slovenia

Slovenia hosted a four-team tournament in Jesenice, inviting Belarus, France and Austria to the competition. For three of the teams, this was a chance to prepare for the World Championship promotion campaign in Division IA in the spring, while for Belarus it was an opportunity to build a team ready for elite pool action in Finland in May.

With that in mind, the Belarusians brought a young roster to the competition and named 20-year-old Ilya Usov as captain. The formula was successful: after edging past Austria in overtime in the opening game, the Belarusians went on to top the standings with wins over Slovenia (3-0) and France (6-3). Austria took second place with OT victories in its other two games, while France’s 3-2 success against the host nation secured third place. Slovenia managed just three goals in three games, giving head coach Matjaz Kopitar plenty to ponder before hosting Division IA in April.

Denmark hosted a three-way affair involving Norway and Latvia, with all three countries agreeing to bring experimental rosters to the games in Esbjerg and Vojens. The host nation enjoyed two victories, beating Latvia 5-1 and Norway 3-1. In the third game, Latvia blanked the Norwegians for a 3-0 win.

Hungary also staged a three-team event involving Italy and Ukraine. The host nation came out on top, winning 4-1 against Italy and 2-1 against Ukraine. The Italians pipped the Ukrainians to second place, winning in a shoot-out against a team depleted by last minute withdrawals on arrival in Budapest.

Estonia hosted the Baltic Challenge Cup that after two wins for both teams ended with a winner-takes-it-all game between Poland and Estonia that the Poles won easily 8-1. Latvia’s B-team finished in third place getting its only win against Lithuania, 6-1.

Chinese Hockey Team Loses 1st Trial Game for Olympics in OT

Kunlun Red Star’s Brandon Yip in action during the Kontinental Hockey League ice hockey match between Kunlun Red Star Beijing and Amur Khabarovsk in Mytishchi, just outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Many of Kunlun Red Star’s players are aiming to represent the Chinese national team at the Olympics in Beijing

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mytishchi, Russia (AP) — The players hoping to represent China in men’s hockey at next year’s Beijing Olympics lost to a Russian club in overtime Monday in a game used by international officials to assess the Chinese team’s competitive strength.

Kunlun Red Star, wearing red shirts with Chinese flag patches on the shoulder, fought back from a four-goal deficit to force overtime before losing to Amur Khabarovsk 5-4 in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League.

It was a very strong sign of the upside,” said Kunlun coach Ivano Zanatta, who played for Italy at the 1992 Olympics. “There’s definitely signs of character, resilience and there’s more upside, no question.”

Kunlun has been playing in the KHL as a proxy for the China team and a base for naturalized players who grew up in the United States and Canada. The team has won seven of 28 games in the league this season.

Amur led 4-0 with five minutes to go in the second period in a near-empty arena in the Moscow suburbs before the comeback started.

The International Ice Hockey Federation had officials watching the game, and will monitor another on Wednesday, to “evaluate the status of the team’s preparations” amid concerns the China squad will lose big on the Olympic stage. Defense will be the priority in a preliminary round group also containing the United States, Canada and 2018 silver medalist Germany.

The IIHF has refused to confirm which Kunlun players are eligible for Olympic roster spots, but one of those eyeing Beijing is winger Brandon Yip, who played 174 NHL games over five seasons, mostly for the Colorado Avalanche.

Yip scored Kunlun’s first goal on Monday before former NHL prospect Josh Nicholls, Russian forward Mikhail Abramov and former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ryan Sproul took the game to overtime, where Czech forward Radan Lenc won the game for Amur.

KHL records list 19 players on the Kunlun roster as having Chinese nationality, and more could be naturalized in time for the Olympics. Time spent playing for Kunlun counts toward the IIHF-mandated two years of residence needed to qualify for international play, even though Kunlun has been based in Russia since early 2020 because of pandemic-related travel restrictions.

China got its spots in the Olympic hockey tournaments as host country and the IIHF has said it will not seek to remove the teams from the competitions.

More AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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