Year: 2022 (Page 1 of 10)

A new agreement has been reached on the Baltic Cup tournament, the first tournament in Lithuania in November

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Lithuania together with the Estonia, Poland and Latvia Ice hockey federations, reached an agreement on the organization of the Baltic Cup,  during the International breaks in November of the International Hockey Federation (IIHF).

During the IIHF Congress, the four countries decided to continue organizing the Baltic Cup, and representatives of Poland joined the three other federations of the tournament: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. From now on, the tournament will be held annually in one of the four countries that have reached an agreement. Lithuania, Estonia and Poland will be sending their strongest national teams to the tournament, while Latvia will compete with their second team (Latvia B).

Once the agreement was reached, the hosts of the future tournaments were also elected. It has been decided that the first Baltic Cup tournament will be held in Lithuania. The tournament will take place in November of this year.

At the same time, the Federation of Lithuania has reached agreements on international tournaments at the U-20 and U-18 levels. Lithuania, Poland and Estonia and a fourth team will take part in the four nations tournaments in both age groups.  Most likely Hungary and Romania will be the forth team.

The first tournament of the U-20 will also be held in November, and its hosts will also be Lithuania Meanwhile, the U-18 tournament will be hosted by Poland and is scheduled for the IIHF February window.

The cities where all three tournaments will take place will be announced at a later date.

2023 World Ice Hockey Championships Lower Divisions

By Vitaly Nesterov – National Teams of Ice Hockey

The 2023 World Championships lower divisions have became known. The IIHF has decided to add each of the lower division groups to a traditional 6-team Divisions.

Indian national team  will make its World Championships debut next year. General Director of the hockey association of the country Samart Sharma said: “This is a historic step for ice hockey in our country. We hope that at the upcoming championship we will be able to impose a worthy struggle on our rivals and gain a foothold in the world hockey system.”

Division IIA (to be held in Spain from April 16 to 22)
Croatia (3rd place in division IIA in 2022)
Spain (4th place in division IIA in 2022)
Israel (5th place in division IIA in 2022)
Australia (did not participate in 2022)
Iceland (1st place in division IIB in 2022)
Georgia (2nd place in Division IIB in 2022)

Division IIB (will be held in Turkey from 17 to 23 April)
Belgium (3rd place in Division IV in 2022)
Bulgaria (4th place in Division IIB in 2022)
Mexico (5th place in Division IB in 2022)
New Zealand (did not participate in 2022)
UAE (1st place in Division IIIA in 2022)
Turkey (2nd place in Division IIIA in 2022)

Division IIIA (to be held in South Africa from 17 to 23 April)
Turkmenistan (3rd place in Division IIIA in 2022)
Taiwan (4th place in Division IIIA in 2022)
Luxembourg (5th place in Division IIIA in 2022)
DPRK (did not participate in 2022)
South Africa (1st place in Division IIIB in 2022)
Thailand (2nd place in Division IIIA in 2022) 

Division IIIB (to be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 14 to 21 April)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (3rd place in Division IIIA in 2022)
Hong Kong (did not participate in 2022)
Kyrgyzstan (1st place in Division IV in 2022)
Iran (2nd place in Division IV in 2022)
Singapore (3rd place in Division IV in 2022)
Malaysia (4th place in Division IV in 2022)

Division IV (to be held in Kuwait from March 10 to 16)
Kuwait (5th in Division IV in 2022)
Philippines (did not participate in 2022)
India (DEBUT)
(Other Countries are possible)

India will make its World Championship debut in 2023.

Finland does it!

Finland’s Joel Armia scores the 3-1 goal in the gold medal game against Canada.

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Sakari Manninen scored at 6:42 of the three-on-three unlimited overtime with a one-timer on a power play to give Finland a thrilling 4-3 win over Canada to win World Championship gold.

It’s the first medal on home ice in nine tries for Finland, and they join Sweden in 2006 as the only teams to win Olympic gold and World Championship gold in the same year. The double means that Valtteri Filppula becomes the first Finn to join the Triple Gold Club, the 30th member overall.

Finland scored three goals in the third period to erase a 1-0 Canada lead, but Canada responded with two late goals to send the game to overtime. 

This marks a continuation of the most successful period in international hockey history for Finland, which has now won gold or silver in the last four major events – gold at the 2019 Worlds, silver in 2021, gold at the Olympics three months ago, and now gold at the 2022 Worlds. Goalkeeper Jussi Olkinuora, tournament MVP here, and skaters Marko Anttila and Atte Ohtamaa have been on all four teams.

Canada has now won either gold or silver in six of the last seven World Championships (excepting 2018).

Max Comtois is the only returnee from last year’s gold-medal team, but Thomas Chabot and Pierre-Luc Dubois were part of Canada’s 2019 entry, which lost to the Finns in the gold-medal game. 

This was only the second World Championship game ever in Tampere between the two teams. The first was way back in 1965, a 4-0 Canada win when the tournament was strictly a round-robin event.

After Finland took a 3-1 lead with only six minutes to go, matters looked dire for Canada, but as they so often do, they fought back with two goals in the final two minutes.

It was clear from the outset what Canada’s plan was – dump the puck in and make the Finnish defenders chase it and work to get possession. Time and again, though, Canada roared in to get the puck, and although the period was scoreless the tempo and tone were dictated heavily by Canada’s pressure and willingness to use the body.

The home crowd chanted and clapped for their heroes time and again, but there wasn’t a lot to cheer for in the first 20 minutes. The few Finnish shots all had a familiar look to them – long range, right into the logo of Chris Dreidger, who swallowed every puck without giving up a rebound.

The best chance of the period came off pressure from Canada. Saku Maenalanen was slow with the puck inside his line, and he was checked by Matt Barzal, who got the puck to Josh Anderson, trailing the play. Anderson let go a quality shot from the slot, but Olkinuora got his right pad out to make the save.

Canada opened the scoring early in the second on the game’s first power play. With Niklas Friman in the box for hooking, Canada moved the puck around nicely to set up Dylan Cozens with a one-timer. He made no mistake, slapping a cross-ice pass from Barzal high to the open side before Olkinuora could get over. 

The Finns earned a power play of their own later, and although they produced several good chances Dreidger was sensational in goal, kicking out one dangerous shot and smothering several other chances. Suomi had their best chance late in the period when Jere Sallinen hit the post.

After 40 minutes, tight defence, and one goal, no one could have envisioned a third period with five goals. Canada incurred not one, not two, but three overlapping penalties to start, and Finland cashed in big time. Mikael Granlund scored two goals in a span of 1:44, the first with a two-man advantage, and then one man, sending the crowd into a frenzy of delight. His first was a quick shot from the left side, and the second from the other side.

Making matters worse for Canada, Dreidger, who had played so well the last few games, injured himself trying to make the save on Granlund’s first shot. Matt Tomkins, who hadn’t played all tournament, was forced to come in. He surrendered the second power-play goal, a high shot over his glove.

The Finns went up 3-1 at 14:04 off a faceoff win. Joel Armia got to the puck first and wristed a quick shot through traffic that eluded Tomkins. And that seemed to be that. Two-goals lead, six minutes to play.

Canada had other ideas, though. They pressured Finland and got back in it when Zach Whitecloud drew Canada to within one with 2:12 remaining when he snapped a shot in. Tomkins came to the bench after the next faceoff, and Canada took possession immediately. After cycling and passing the puck superbly, Comtois tied the game at 18:36, silencing the crowd and sending the game to a fourth period, where Manninen made himself a part of IIHF World Championship history.

Media All-Star Team

Goalkeeper: FINLAND #45 OLKINUORA Jussi
Defender: FINLAND #4 LEHTONEN Mikko
Defender: USA #4 SETH Jones
Forward: CZECHIA #10 CERVENKA Roman
Forward: CANADA #80 DUBOIS Pierre-Luc
Forward: FINLAND #65 MANNINEN Sakari

Directorate Awards

Best Goalkeeper: FINLAND #45 OLKINUORA Jussi
Best Defender: FINLAND #4 LEHTONEN Mikko
Best Forward: CZECHIA #10 CERVENKA Roman

MVP

FINLAND #45 OLKINUORA Jussi

Czechs rally to thump U.S. for bronze

The Czech men’s national team celebrates after a come-from-behind win against the United States in the bronze medal game.

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

The long wait is over. The Czechs exploded for six third-period goals in an 8-4 comeback win over the U.S. in the bronze medal game on Sunday afternoon. It’s Czechia’s first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship medal since 2012’s bronze.

“It’s good for us, a bronze medal after 10 years,” said an ecstatic David Sklenicka. “It’s amazing for us, it’s unbelievable!”

Boston Bruins superstar David Pastrnak led the third-period rally with a hat trick and David Kampf scored twice. Captain Roman Cervenka got his fifth goal to extend his lead atop the tournament scoring race with 17 points. Jiri Cernoch and Jiri Smejkal also tallied for the Czechs, who trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period.

The relief and happiness for Czech players, coaches, management, and fans is huge. The Central European nation’s 2012 bronze medal also came on Finnish ice in Helsinki. David Krejci, then 26, scored a first-period goal set up by Ales Hemsky that stood up as the winner as Czechia edged Finland 3-2.

“It’s going to be a big thing for [Czechia] and for the young kids who want to play hockey,” said Kari Jalonen, Czechia’s Finnish head coach. “These players are their idols and now they see them win this medal at a World Championship. Hopefully this will give a big push for the juniors too.”

With just seven games played, Pastrnak now shares the 2022 goals lead (seven) with Pierre-Luc Dubois ahead of the Finland-Canada gold medal game.

For the disappointed Americans, Karlson Kuhlman had a pair of first-period goals, and Adam Gaudette added his team-leading sixth goal.

The Americans earned four bronze medals at the last eight tournaments (2013, 2015, 2018, 2021), and have six in total since the IIHF instituted the playoff system in 1992. However, they have never played in the gold medal game, and last won the World Championship tournament in 1933.

It was a gritty effort, as the Americans again played with just four regular defencemen: captain Seth Jones, Nate Schmidt, Andrew Peeke, and Luke Hughes. The U.S. blue line has been decimated by injuries, COVID-19 issues, and departures due to family issues.

“I’m tired,” said Schmidt. “These last four days we were down to four defencemen, and it was tiring. We had a couple forwards come and help us out, which isn’t an easy thing to do, especially on the world stage with some of the best players in the world and playing a position you’re not used to. I don’t envy that position.”

“It was a learning experience,” added Sam Lafferty, who filled in on defence. “It felt pretty comfortable overall but the team needed me to play defence, so I was able to play D.”

Shots on goal favoured the Czechs 33-24.

Jalonen and U.S. coach David Quinn each started the NHL netminders that got them this far. However, Jalonen pulled Karel Vejmelka of the Arizona Coyotes after he let in three first-period goals on eight shots.

Substituting backup Marek Langhamer to start the second period paid off. Langhamer, who plays in Tampere for Ilves, looked comfortable and confident and was named the Czech Player of the Game, allowing just one goal on 16 shots.

Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman, who backstopped the U.S. to within one goal of the final in the 4-3 semi-final loss to host Finland, recorded 25 saves.

This was the most goals ever scored by the Czechs versus the U.S. at the Worlds in the era of Czechia. Czechoslovakia beat the U.S. 11-2 in both 1981 and 1985.

“It got out of hand a little bit,” said Jones. “Going 3-2 into the third period, we were in a good spot. We’re not where we wanted to be. We gave up six goals in the third period. Obviously it happened against a high-score offence.”

The Americans opened the scoring at 9:33, profiting from a fortunate bounce. Off a faceoff in the Czech end, Andrew Peeke’s shot from the blue line deflected off the skate of defender Michael Kempny, enabling Kuhlman to put the puck into the open side.

At 12:14, Gaudette gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead on the power play. T.J. Tynan fed Matthew Boldy down low and he centred it to the Ottawa Senators forward, who fired it home. It was a mirror image of the late third-period goal Gaudette scored against Finland.

Swayman stopped Matej Blumel on a partial break with under seven minutes left in the first period. But the Czechs persevered and cut the gap to 2-1. Jakub Flek came out of the corner with the puck and fed Cernoch, who took the puck off his skate and fired it through Swayman’s five-hole despite being surrounded by three U.S. checkers.

Showing great anticipation, Kuhlman scored shorthanded with just 13 seconds left in the opening frame. The U.S. broke out of its zone, and after Kuhlman pivoted to send a backhanded pass to Sam Lafferty, he hustled to the net to convert a subsequent feed from Nate Schmidt.

Kuhlman, a fourth-year NHLer who was acquired by the Seattle Kraken off waivers from the Boston Bruins, isn’t known as a big scorer. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth captain had just two assists in his nine previous games in Finland. In 100 career NHL games, Kuhlman has nine goals and 14 assists. Unfortunately, his hot first period was as good as it got for America.

At 12:12 of the second period, the Czechs made it a one-goal game. Sklenicka’s release from the left point hit Peeke in front, and as the U.S. rearguard struggled to find the puck at his feet, Smejkal banged the rebound past a surprised Swayman.

“Thank God our goal came there,” said Smejkal. “That really helped us going into the third that we were down by just one goal.”

The third period was wild. Just 51 seconds in, the Czechs drew even at 3-3. Peeke tried to clear the puck out on the right wall, but it barely got over the blue line, where Tomas Hertl and the linesman stood. Herlt got the puck to Pastrnak and he swooped into the faceoff circle to score on a quick release, using Peeke as his decoy.

“We switched the lines a little bit,” Hertl said. “Me and Pasta, we played together a couple of times in summer hockey, so we found some chemistry and scored some goals. I know he’s one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL, so I just tried to find him and he can did the rest. It worked out and I’m just happy we won.”

At 2:29, Cervenka gave Czechia its first lead of the game. Off a draw in the U.S. end, Krejci won it back to the Czech captain and he zipped it past Swayman’s glove before the netminder could budge.

“After the second period we said in the locker room that we have 20 minutes and we have to put it all in,” Cervenka said. “We scored in the beginning of the third and one goal came after another. We controlled the game and were better and faster and we made it.”

Truly, smelling blood, the Czechs kept coming. They got the U.S. goalie moving side to side, and Michal Jordan found Pastrnak right in front for the 5-3 marker.

With 5:18 left in the third period, Swayman stretched out to stop Smejkal’s backhand deke on a shorthanded breakaway, but couldn’t prevent Kampf from gobbling up the rebound for Czechia’s sixth goal.

Kampf put the icing on the cake with an empty-netter at 18:08 as the Czechs rejoiced. Bordeleau spoiled Langhamer’s unblemished performance 33 seconds later, but it hardly mattered.

“We were close to closing the tournament out in the right way and 20 minutes is what did us in,” Schmidt said.

At 19:23, Pastrnak, set up by Hertl, completed his hat trick with a wicked power play one-timer, and ball caps were tossed on the ice. At the final buzzer, Jalonen’s team flocked together behind the net to hop up and down with glee.

Jalonen received a big round of applause from the Finnish fans as he received his bronze medal from IIHF President Luc Tardif. Jalonen coached Finland to the silver medal at the 2016 Worlds in Moscow.

The Czechs have not won the gold medal since shocking a stacked Russian roster 2-1 in Cologne in 2010. So they’ll now put gold on their must-do list when they take part in the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship (Tampere and Riga).

“I hope this can help us a lot for next season, and we can come back and earn the gold medal next year,” said Sklenicka.

Russia and Belarus barred from 2023 IIHF World Championship

By Patrick Burk – Inside the games

National teams of Russia and Belarus were suspended by the IIHF “until further notice” on February 28 in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and following recommendations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Last month, Saint Petersburg was stripped of hosting rights for the men’s 2023 IIHF World Championship, with the Congress approving Tampere in Finland and Riga in Latvia as its replacement.

IIHF President Luc Tardif has insisted: “Every decision we made was for the safety of the competition, for the safety of the players, staff, fans and officials, including Russia and Belarus.”

At the IIHF Annual Congress at the Tampere Hall Convention Centre, a decision by the Council to “freeze the participation” of Russia and Belarus at World Championship events was ratified.

With both countries out of World Championship across all age groups for 2023, the IIHF has decided to fill tournaments to the regular number of teams.

However, the decision to “freeze participation” would enable both countries to return to the top division of the men’s IIHF World Championship, and Russia to the top tier of the Women’s World Championship, if their bans are lifted.

This provision has failed to appease the RIHF and FHB, who have both released statements criticising the IIHF’s decisions.

The RIHF said it “does not agree with the decision to freeze the participation of the senior Russian national team at the 2023 World Championship”, and claimed “there are no legal grounds for this decision to be made”.

It added that it would provide further statements after a decision by the IIHF Disciplinary Committee on its appeal against Russia’s ban from international competitions, and against the country being stripped of hosting rights for next year’s men’s World Championship and World Junior Championship.

The appeal is expected to be considered by the Disciplinary Committee on June 15.

The FHB was more vociferous in its criticism, blaming the influence of “Western politicians” for the extension of the bans.

“The Ice Hockey Federation of Belarus is convinced that this decision of the International Ice Hockey Federation has become another in the list of decisions taken under the influence and pressure of individual National Federations, which have become virtually hostages of Western politicians,” it claimed.

“We can simply state the fact that once again, under the guise of concern about our own safety, the IIHF violated all the principles of Olympism.

“If desired, one could find options, as is done in other sports, but hockey functionaries, representing, first of all, the countries of the Western bloc, do not even want to do this and only hear themselves.”

The FHB also said it “has already prepared an appeal against the IIHF decision”, but claimed that the sanctions offered “an opportunity for development and growth in other directions”, including strengthening ties with the RIHF, which it described as “the leader of the world hockey”.

Belarus was due to host last year’s men’s World Championship, but it was moved to Latvia due to safety and security issues, after the controversial re-election of Alexander Lukashenko as the country’s President sparked protests and a subsequent Government crackdown.

Canada’s triumph in Latvia drew it level with the combined 27 men’s IIHF World Championship won by the Soviet Union and Russia, whose last victory came in 2014.

Canada has also won a record 11 IIHF Women’s World Championship, with Russia’s best finish being third place.

At the Beijing 2022, the Russian Olympic Committee – the “neutral” banner under which Russia’s team competed due to doping sanctions – claimed men’s silver in ice hockey after losing to Finland in the final, but was eliminated by Switzerland in the women’s quarter-finals.

Just four days after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics on February 24, Russia, assisted by Belarus, invaded Ukraine, sparking widespread condemnation and leading to the countries being largely frozen out of international sport.

French official Tardif, elected as IIHF President in September last year, has declared that the IIHF hopes Russia and Belarus can return to its competitions “as soon as possible”.

His predecessor René Fasel, a Swiss IOC honorary member, is under investigation by the IIHF Ethics Board over reportedly taking up a lucrative consultancy role with the Russian-funded Kontinental Hockey League, as well as public statements about the invasion of Ukraine.

UAE Ice Hockey Team Claim Title Of 3Rd GCC Games Kuwait ’22

Source: Kuwait News Agency 

The national ice hockey squad of the United Arab Emirates were proclaimed champions of the 3rd GCC Games Kuwait 2022 on Friday evening.
The Saudi team won the silver medal and the host Kuwaiti team won the bronze medal.
The game, hosted by Kuwait Winter Games Club, saw the UAE team unbeaten in the three matches, thus securing nine points.
The Green squad, of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, secured six points from two wins and one loss.
The Blue, of the State of Kuwait, won bronze from one win and two losses, while Bahrain’s team lost their three matches. 

Icelandic women win thriller

The Icelandic players celebrate with their gold medals and trophy after winning the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in a nailbiter of a game against Australia.

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Iceland kept a cool head to win gold by the tiniest of margins at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women´s World Championship Division II Group B in Zagreb, Croatia.

Team captain Silvia Bjorgvinsdottir led by example by scoring the shootout winner to give Iceland a 2-1 victory over Australia. Her coolly dispatched backhand high past Australia’s netminder Olivia Last seals top spot for the Scandinavians. The Icelandic team captain was the sole skater to convert in a nailbiter of a shootout contest lasting six rounds.

“We have been working so hard for the past three or four years for this moment. I am so proud of all the girls on the team, and I think that we deserved it this year,” said the 22-year-old following an afternoon of high drama inside Zagreb’s Velesajam Ice Rink.

A vital cog in the Icelanders’ memorable promotion success was also netminder Birta Helgudottir, who kept all of Australia’s half-a-dozen penalty shots out of her net. Helgudottir and Silvia Bjorgvinsdottir were selected as the tournament’s best goalkeeper and forward respectively by the Directorate.

“It was a very important win for us in a game where the difference between the teams was small in details but huge by going up a division. Everyone contributed as we rolled four lines for most of the game so for me the win came from a team effort,” said Iceland head coach Jon Gislason.

“Our focus was to grow fast as the tournament went on and save the best for last and that worked out for us this time. I felt we improved our puck game throughout the tournament and we had to work hard for any possession against a strong forechecking Australian team that I feel belongs in the group above. But I think we do as well and ahead of next year with good preparation I believe we can play good games and compete for a win against any team in Division IIA,” he said.

The win sees Iceland promote to skate at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A. It also marks the highest overall position Iceland’s women’s national team has been at since entering World Championship play in 2005.

“Huge compliments to our girls who have worked very hard for this for many years and also to all our former players who have made this all possible. Our new generation of players are bringing new skills to our program while our veteran players guide them well and share their experience to take this team to new levels,” said Gislason, who as a player himself was an influential member of the Icelandic men’s national team, who back then punched well above their weight.

In Zagreb, Iceland had gotten the tournament underway by scoring double-digits in a 10-1 win against South Africa. A tougher nut to crack came against eventual bronze-medallists Turkey in game two as Sunna Bjorgvinsdottir scored the winner early in the third period in a 3-2 victory. An 11-1 blowout against Croatia then set them up in a winner-takes-it-all game for gold against Australia on the final day.

In a see-saw battle in Velesajam Ice rink, Australia started the brightest, but as the period wore on Iceland worked themselves into the game, winning the shots 10-6 during a goalless first frame.

Iceland’s men’s national team won gold as recently as last month at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group B. Now eager to emulate their success, the women’s team came one step closer during the second period against Australia.

Despite being outshot the Scandinavians broke the deadlock with 2:23 left of the second period. From her position along the boards Silvia Bjorgvinsdottir picked out Teresa Snorradottir whose shot from the point was saved by Last before Sunna Bjorgvinsdottir reacted quickest on the rebound to score Iceland’s opener.

Australia’s men’s team had withdrawn from World Championship play contested last month at this very same venue. With the women’s team now being able to return to the world stage as first team from Down Under in two years, the “Mighty Jills” were eager to make up for lost time.

They were level at 7:31 of the third peirod. Iceland’s Sunna Bjorgvinsdottir failed to control the puck in her defensive zone, it was snapped up by the lighting quick Kristelle van der Wolf. From her position in the slot between the two face-off circles, she unleashed a wrister between the pads of Helgudottir to tie things up.

With the game appearing now appearing to tilt over into Australia’s favour, 60 minutes of regular time were unable to separate the two evenly matched teams. With overtime and three-on-three taking over, it appeared to suit the pacy Australians better. They outshot Iceland 7-2 but failed to find a way to get the puck behind Helgudottir in the Icelandic net.

“I felt our speed and skating ability was a little bit better than theirs. However, they were able to skate with us during that time and outmuscle us during the 3-on-3. Even though we had a lot of the play at their end, we had a few high scoring chances but we were just unable to put the puck into the back of the net,” said Australia’s head coach Stuart Philps.

Throughout the tournament, Last of Finland’s RoKi Rovaniemi played 125 minutes and conceded just one goal for Australia. She shared goaltending duties with 33-year-old Tina Girdler of the Sydney Sirens, who did not concede a single goal in 120 minutes of play. Rylie Ellis also stood out for Australia being voted the best defender by the Directorate. Going forward they found the net with ease scoring 38 goals while conceding only twice in four games.

“A shootout is not a good way to win or lose a tournament. But that’s the way it is, which we have to accept. The performance of the Australian team has been outstanding. For a team brought together with short notice and to only concede one goal in regulation time in the entire tournament is a credit to our players and goaltenders,” said Philps.

Heronbridge College learner selected as part of South African U20 ice hockey team heading to Mexico

Nicholas Tylor in action in the World Championships in Bosnia.

Source: Fourway Review

Following a successful Ice Hockey World Championships in Bosnia in April, Heronbridge College learner and ice hockey player, Nicholas Tylor said he couldn’t wait for his next trip to Mexico in July.

Nicholas was part of the South Africa U18 National Ice Hockey team that recently won bronze in the World Championships, and will now represent his country at U20 level.

“It was an incredible opportunity for me to be a part of this national team and represent South Africa internationally. To be able to travel and play abroad against stronger teams will help improve the game for my team and myself.”
Nicholas, who started playing ice hockey eight years ago, hoped that the lessons learned at the World Championships would help him and the U20 national team to perform well in an upcoming competition in Mexico.

“I have no doubt that playing in the championships will enhance the level of play that we can bring home to South Africa. I’m so excited about travelling to Mexico. We will be playing against the Mexican team but as far as the other countries involved in the championship, we are still waiting for that confirmation.

Colombia wins at debut

By Christian Pierre – IIHF.com

For a second time the ice rink in Fussen, Germany served as venue for the Development Cup. Celebrating its third edition, the tournament has been established to provide an international tournament for IIHF members that are not able to compete in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program. It has become increasingly important for these countries, and their players, to be able to play competitive games to further their development.

With six participating countries – Algeria, Andorra, Colombia, Ireland, Liechtenstein and Portugal – this third edition of the Development Cup was the biggest and most successful since its inauguration in 2017. The first edition in Canillo, Andorra saw four participants –Ireland, Morocco, Portugal, and host Andorra. In 2018, North Macedonia joined returning countries Andorra, Ireland and Portugal for the second edition in Fussen, Germany.

The Corona pandemic intervened for any further action, thus the hiatus. But with six participating nations the tournament made a brilliant comeback much to the joy of the driving forces behind the event such as Irishman Aaron Guli and Adil El Farj, a Canadian with Moroccan roots.

Common Ground

What all participating countries have in common is that their ice hockey programs are quite small. Either because their countries are small, like microstates Andorra and Liechtenstein, or because ice hockey under IIHF rules is difficult for reasons related to ice rink infrastructure, such as the lack of full-size ice rinks. Of the six participants in Füssen, only Ireland had previous experience of participating in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program. Interesting detail, Andorra boasts a nice regular IIHF ice rink (1,500 seats) in Canillo, where Spain organized the then IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship D-Pool in 1997.

Diaspora

While Andorra has its own ice rink, Liechtenstein, the other microstate participating in Füssen, hasn’t. Its players practise their ice hockey in neighboring countries Austria and Switzerland. Nor does Algeria. The players on its roster live in the diaspora and have Algerian roots and mainly developed their hockey skills abroad, like France or Great Britain. Unfortunately, Dundalk Ice Dome, the only regulation size Irish ice rink, closed a few years ago, in 2010. However, there is hope that a new ice rink will open in the future to give the program another boost. In the meantime, the Irish travel to neighbour Northern Ireland to hit the ice in Belfast. Portugal has had some temporary ice venues and developed its ice hockey program via inline hockey as did Colombia. However, the latter is making a lot of progress having participated several times in the Amerigol Cup in Florida winning the 2018 edition and recently participated in the Dallas Spring Classic, an event powered by NHL club Dallas Stars. In Fussen they showed their mastery of the game coming out on top with four wins and one tie winning the tournament.

Inspirer

Inspirer and organizer Guli, who is also president of the Irish Ice Hockey Association, is extremely satisfied with this third edition. “I conceived this tournament for national teams that for whatever reason cannot participate in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program can still play the sport representing their respective countries on the international level and thus profile themselves as an ice hockey nation. The traditional ways of developing ice hockey don’t really work in these countries. The focus is on showing that these countries are involved in the sport of ice hockey and can use this event to promote the grassroots development of the sport in their country through their national senior men’s teams,” explains Guli.

“This edition was a challenge, obviously with Covid. There was a two-year lay-off. The 3rd edition was originally scheduled for October 2021, but with the Delta variant peaking in that period the decision was made to postpone it until now. But I think it is a sign of resilience by everyone because of Covid and the long gap that there is even more interest as we have grown from four to six teams, and we have also more interest from other men’s teams, and we are even in discussions with the IIHF in holding a women’s edition as well.” 

At the upcoming IIHF Annual Congress Guli and his colleagues will have talks about the future. “We will be looking to take the 4th edition as the next step up. Every time we organize the Development Cup, we want to make it better every new edition. We were so pleased IIHF President Luc Tardif and General Secretary ad interim Gion Veraguth were present, as well as IIHF Council member and retiring German Ice Hockey Association President Franz Reindl. A sign the IIHF is committed to further support the Development Cup which will be massive for us. Mr. Tardif is a strong believer in development and him being present also sent a strong message to the participating teams.”

His colleague Adil El Farj agrees. “Seeing IIHF President Luc Tardif dropping the puck at the ceremonial face-off was huge, not only fur us organizers, but also for the participating nations. The IIHF President met with the Associate Members Working Group (which represents non-championship participants) to talk about the future and working on eligibility. It’s in our common interest that this tournament is more than just a competition, but also continues to focus on development. A Development Cup for women’s teams could be the next step to further improve the sport for associate members worldwide.”

Colombians writing History

For the Colombians this Development Cup couldn’t have been any better, claiming the victory as its first South American participant and writing ice hockey history. “It has been indeed a valuable experience this week,” confirms Daniel Fierro, president of the Colombian Ice Hockey Federation and player on the team. “Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect, as we had no clue about the strength of our opponents since we previously only played in tournaments on the American continent. Obviously, we are very happy in achieving the first place in this IIHF-sanctioned event. It is very important for us to show what Colombian ice hockey is capable of so one day we can participate in the IIHF World Championships.” 

The Colombian Ice Hockey Federation develops its ice hockey program through inline hockey as there are currently no ice rinks in the South American country. And apparently this surrogate sport can help. “We play inline hockey, but we started playing this dryland variant with ice hockey rules, like offside and icing etc., to accustom our players once they hit the ice. Since we don’t have ice rinks in Colombia, we travel a few days prior of a tournament so we can practise a couple of times on the ice before the event starts. We were in Fussen, three days prior to the Development Cup to practise on the ice. It eases our players to make the transition from inline to ice. That was part of the success we had this week.”

The team in Fussen consisted of 22 players. “Twenty of them were Colombian born,” proudly states Daniel. “Two have Colombian roots, being born in Sweden and the USA. Something we are very proud of is the fact that all players play in Colombia today and a few had some experience playing ice hockey abroad in the States and Europe. So, we try to comply with the IIHF rules as we hope to bring this team to an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the future. We are making steps towards that. This victory is a huge step for us. Showcasing our ice hockey skills outside the Americas was very important, especially towards our ministry of sports. A delegate of the ministry was present and saw what we can achieve. Hence, winning on the international scene is huge for us, so claiming the Development Cup was an enormous step forward to achieving a first ice rink in our country.”

Building a new team

It was the first time that Liechtenstein participated in the Development Cup. Previously its national team played only two international games versus Luxemburg. “We started building a new team a year ago for this Development Cup,” explains Liechtenstein coach Herbi Schadler. “We set several goals for our federation, such as a full-size ice rink in our country, the participation of our country in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships while aiming towards the top-50 in the World Ranking. Therefore, it was important to be present at this edition of the Development Cup. Our first goal was to develop the team and to find our identity. We were process-orientated, not result orientated. We planned different steps as this participation was also important for our younger players, getting the experience on the international level.”

Liechtenstein ended in second place. Coach Schadler is satisfied. “We reached all our goals set for this tournament. We ran through our process as we aimed to and the result is very good with only one loss against a strong Colombia, so we are very pleased. We planned well. We want to continue with this young team for the next years to come, building a thorough foundation for the national team program. We set up a good environment for the players and now we want to take it to the next level.”

Liechtenstein has only one very small ice rink in Malbun. The national team practises in neighboring countries Austria and Switzerland. “Our participation in the Development Cup will help us achieve a regular-size ice rink in the country. We had a lot of media coverage playing in Fussen, some national press was even present. So we are very happy about the outcome. This was very helpful. We could show the media and politicians that we work professionally to further develop ice hockey in our country. I think we did a good job. We are a step closer to a new ice rink.”

Importance for further development

For first timer Algeria, being present was very important. “The participation in this Development Cup was massive. We really needed this boost,” confirms Karim Kerbouche, from Team Algeria. “Just before we became IIHF member in 2019, we were on a peak with the Algerian government paying attention to us and willing to fund and building our sport in Algeria. It had taken us some years to get this recognition and support. It resulted in government funding for a kids’ program, an ice hockey school on the sole ice rink in Algeria, a rink suited for 3-on-3 games situated in a shopping mall in the city of Setif. Unfortunately, Covid happened some three months later, and everything went in lockdown like in the rest of the world. As a result, our local hockey program went in hibernation for two years. Hence, we needed this Development Cup to get back on track and rekindle the attention of the Algerian government to restart the aid they were providing for us and helping us with the ice hockey school in Setif and for participation in tournaments abroad like this Development Cup.

“I’m very happy with the outcome. I didn’t expect we would win the tournament. We had 10 plus guys born in Algeria. And we bring as many players as possible back to our project for the kids. So, from that side of things, our two victories were amazing. The tournament gave us the opportunity to play against European nations, which was a first for us and win against one, which was big for us. And then of course the historical game against Colombia. An African nation playing ice hockey against a South American, that’s material for the history books of ice hockey. It’s an honour to be part of that history. And it’s definitely interesting, it’s proof ice hockey has become a global sport.”

Perfect finish for Slovenia

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Slovenia beat Korea 4-1 in its last game of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A on home ice for a perfect finish in Ljubljana that ended with the gold medals for the Slovenes.

Slovenia ends the tournament with a 4-0 record. The Slovenes won all games with a clear margin of three or more goals except the first one, a 4-2 win against Lithuania where they also held a four-goal lead until five minutes before the final buzzer.

Slovenia outshot the Koreans 29-13 although the margin came from the first period when Slovenia had five power plays while the teams had equal numbers of shots on goal in each of the other periods.

At the closing ceremony the Slovenian team got the gold medals awarded and Hungary took silver. The top-two teams earned promotion to the top division for next year. Lithuania didn’t play today and was awarded the bronze medals yesterday.

The game came after a media conference where the ice hockey associations from Slovenia and Hungary announced to bid together to host the top-level 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Budapest and Ljubljana (see here) to replace the original host St. Petersburg, Russia. It would be a bonus for the two countries few days after having earned promotion to the top level.

“It’s sometimes tough for focus when the games doesn’t change the standings but we started off well, had chances to score goals,” said Ziga Jeglic.

“It’s fun to be back in the top division. I hope we can stay this time and I really hope that it’s going to work out with Hungary to host. It would be great for hockey around this area. It’s important to develop hockey not just in the top hockey nations and not to have it there every time. It would mean a lot for us and we would have the support from our fans.”

Jeglic led the tournament in scoring with seven points (3+4), same as his teammate Jan Urbas (0+7). He was selected as best forward by the tournament directorate and as MVP in the media vote.

“I have to thank first my team and then my linemates Jan [Urbas] and Miha [Verlic]. For sure I couldn’t do that without them,” Jeglic said.

Slovenia and Korea entered the game knowing in advance that they would finish the tournament in first and fourth place respectively. Despite that 4,000 fans came to almost fill the arena for a farewell of the tournament and to see the medal ceremony with gold for Slovenia.

For the Slovenes it was also a chance to avenge the 5-3 loss in the teams’ last Division I encounter three years ago.

“It’s great to win this kind of tournaments in front of the own fans with such a great atmosphere,” said captain Mitja Robar.

“We were a strong team, individually and as a team. We achieved all these good results thanks to our team spirit. We are like a family, a closely tied group. That’s our advantage. When we needed we just changed up a gear and dominated.”

Favorites on paper by the teams’ performances earlier this week the Slovenes lived up to the expectations. Also thanks to its many power plays – Korea took five minor penalties – the Slovenes outshot Korea 18-2 in the opening frame.

With a slapshot from the blue line Robar opened the scoring for Slovenia at 5:54 with the second power play.

The Slovenes also capitalized on the next man advantage with Sangwook Kim in the penalty box. At 11:26 Sabolic’s shot from the right face-off dot bounced from the right goal post to Korea goalie Matt Dalton and from there into the net.

The Koreans played more disciplined in a second period that allowed them to create chances and find back into the game. Shots were 7-7 but the only goal was scored by Slovenia at equal strength.

At 15:35 Sabolic finished a breakout with his second goal after a centering pass from Rok Ticar.

Ticar himself was in charge of Slovenia’s fourth marker just after a successful penalty kill. He intercepted a pass from Korean defender Heedoo Nam in the Korean zone and beat Dalton one-on-one.

“The game didn’t make a difference but we’re all professional. We won the game, that’s what we wanted,” said Urbas.

“Next year it’s definitely going to be a challenge. You always dream to play against the best and that’s going to happen next year. We’re excited about it,” he said. And the Ljubljana native hopes it could happen in his hometown with the bid. “It would be awesome to play in Ljubljana. I hope it happens.”

With 4:37 left on the game clock it was time for the Korean goal song. After Hyeongcheol Song saw his shot from the right side deflected, Jong Min Lee was well positioned to capitalize on the rebound and make it a 4-1 game.

For Korea the game and the tournament didn’t go as well as hoped. With little game experience at home due to tougher Covid-19 rules in the Far East than in Europe and the integration of new and younger players the tournament was a learning experience for the team. Thanks to a 4-1 win against Romania on Thursday the Koreans stay in this group.

“It was a good experience for us. We will try next year to get promoted,” said Sanghoon Shin.

Final Ranking

  1. Slovenia 12 (promoted)
  2. Hungary 9 (promoted)
  3. Lithuania 6
  4. Korea 3
  5. Romania 0 (relegated)
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