Month: August 2022

Q & A with Alisher Azimov head trainer of HK Binokor Tashkent

HK Binokor Tashkent youth team.

By George Da Silva – National teams of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure of once again talking to Alisher Azimov chief trainer of HK Binokor Tashkent and one of only a few people in Uzbekistan to have made a living playing hockey. It is thanks to Azimov that the sport has received another lease on life.

The last time we talked was in 2016, a lot has changed in Uzbekistan. Can you tell us about how the Binokor ice hockey club has grown over the last 5 years?
Yes you are right a lot has changed since 2016, and the process is still going on. Having new Ice Rinks was a big step forward in developing the ice hockey sport in Uzbekistan. 
The Main Ice rink named “Humo” is the biggest one we have in the country, it was built with all the international standards and able to host all types of events. 
With the new Ice rinks we were able to accept many more young kids for training, after Binokor we had opened three new official clubs (HUMO, SEMURG, TASHKENT)
Binokor itself has grown, we have attended many tournaments and achieved many good results.

Alisher Azimov.

Binokor youth team played in Kyrgyzstan in early June against their U20 team, how did Binokor do and what is your relationship with Kyrgyzstan?
The Kyrgyzstan ice hockey federation and us have a good relationship so far, they always invite our clubs to their tournaments, as host they always provide good hospitality and support. I would like to say big thanks to their management for what they do.
About the tournament we had good results, overall it was a good experience for our team, we learned many things, team members and players enjoyed the overall atmosphere.

Binokor Youth team in Kyrgyzstan.

In 2013 a Uzbekistan Hockey League was established but since that time no championship has been played. Are there any future plans to start a league in the country?
Yes we have a plan in the near future to start our own league with clubs I have mentioned above, by that time there is a hope we might add more clubs to this league from different regions of the country.
Humo Hockey Club played in the VHL in the 2019-20 season but the playoffs were canceled due to the pandemic. This year Humo is going to play in the Kazakhstan Championship, why the sudden change in leagues?
Yes, as far as I know this year Humo HC will play in Kazakhstan’s ice hockey championship and I think it is a good thing for overall improvement of this sport in Uzbekistan
How many ice rinks have been built in Uzbekistan since 2016 and what is the total number of ice rinks in the country?
Currently we have three ice rinks arenas in Tashkent, one of these is seasonal and operates only in winter season, we have another new one in Samarkand city it is also a good addition to our sport, we hope to see some new clubs with new players coming from that region. Another one and latest one in the Andijan region, we also hope to see new clubs coming from that region too. 
Another very good news is, our old ice rink in Tashkent which was closed off back in 1988, is now reconverting back to ice rink again after the president’s direct initiative, this also shows the support of the government in improving this sport

Humo Arena.

The first ice arena in Samarkand City.

With Uzbekistan building a foundation with youth hockey, when will we see a Under18 or Under 20 national team play in IIHF competition?

Currently we have a team named Tashkent Select in which the players from all above mentioned clubs were invited, there are two groups #1  consisting of 2006-2007 years and the 2nd one with 2008-2009 years, attending in two groups.
I really hope we can create a good team from these guys for U18 and U20 IIHF competitions in the coming years.
How long do you think it will be before we see the Uzbekistan national team play in a IIHF competition?
If everything goes well I hope in the next 3-4 years we will have a solid own national team which can start competing in IIHF competitions.
Your son was in invited to the Next Generation Hockey School in the United States. How was the experience at the school?
This year my son Salahiddin Azimov, was invited by one of the leading hockey schools in the USA named NEXT GENERATION HOCKEY located in the state of Arizona. The invitation came directly from the director of the school and one of the leading coaches in the US Boris Dorozhenko, Mr. Dorozhenko is Ukrainian born with many years of experiences in coaching and providing many good international players with training in his career.  After seeing Salahiddin’s games in the Kyrgyzstan tournament he himself invited us to his summer camp, and we were able to visit the USA and attend the camp. 
I have to say it was a very productive experience for my son and myself, these experiences which we have seen we can implement in our clubs to improve their games and training.
During my visit in the US we have achieved an agreement between our club Binokor HC and Boris Dorojenko’s training school to have winter camp training together in the USA this year in December. We have already started the process of arranging paperwork for visiting Arizona with our team, and I think it will be a big step forward for our own club Binokor HC and to overall ice hockey in Uzbekistan. I believe the experience they will get to see in this camp will give a big boost to our team players and members.

Letter from next generation hockey school.

Hockey Camp Poster.

Boris Dorojenko and Salahiddin Azimov

Salahiddin Azimov at Hockey camp in Phoenix, Arizona.

2022 Women’s Worlds preview

Czechia and host Denmark are two of the 10 countries competing at the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship, each bringing their own hopes and dreams.

By Lucas Aykroyd –

In 2022, international women’s hockey fans are blessed with a banquet of tournaments. It’s the first time the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship has ever been held in an Olympic year, as the sport continues to grow with more than 40 countries in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking.

Excitingly, it’s also the first time the tournament has ever taken place in Denmark. Fans of the men’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will recall the fantastic atmosphere when it debuted in the Nordic nation of 5.8 million in 2018. That year, the Danish hockey hotbed of Herning co-hosted with the capital city of Copenhagen. This year, it’s the turn of Frederikshavn, located on Jutland’s northeast coast, to welcome the world along with Herning.

So which of the 10 women’s national teams are set to shine most brightly in the 31 games staged between 25 August and 4 September? Let’s take a closer look. Teams are listed in alphabetical order in their preliminary round groups.

Group A (Herning)


“How do you stop Canada?” That’s the question every other Group A team is asking – along with Canada’s potential quarter-final opponents from Group B.

The Canadians come in as the reigning Olympic and Women’s Worlds champions. Since installing Troy Ryan as head coach, they have won 14 consecutive IIHF games, including 13 in regulation and the 3-2 gold-medal overtime win over the archrival Americans at the 2021 Women’s Worlds in Calgary. At the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, their goal difference (57-10) was even more devastating than in Calgary (34-7). Playing the proverbial 200-foot-game with speed, skill, and physicality, they are setting the standard in every department.

For another nation, the absence of forwards like 2018 Olympic and 2021 Women’s Worlds MVP Melodie Daoust, perennial all-star candidate Natalie Spooner, and three-time Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Johnston would be a crushing blow. Yet with captain Marie-Philip Poulin leading the way in superstar form at age 31, Canada is unlikely to suffer offensively. One of the few non-PWHPA players on the roster, 22-year-old Sarah Fillier (Princeton), is already being touted as the successor to “Pou.” And with Olympic scoring champ Sarah Nurse (5+13=18) and tournament MVP Brianne Jenner (9+5=14), they’ve got all the veteran savvy you could ask for.

Factor in arguably the world’s top current starting goalie in Ann-Renee Desbiens (1.80 GAA, 94.0 save percentage in Beijing) and hard-rock veteran defenders like Jocelyne Larocque and Renata Fast, and opponents should struggle almost as much to score on Canada as to keep pucks out of their own net. Claire Thompson had a spectacular Olympic debut with a single-tournament points record for blueliners (2+11=13), and her non-participation could mean a slight reduction of offence from the back end, but that’s about it. A little more sandpaper, a little less silk. It’s still gold or bust.


Pasi Mustonen, Finland’s head coach since 2015, handed over the reins to Juuso Toivola after one game at the 2022 Olympics due to a family health emergency. Well before that, Mustonen spoke repeatedly about how it had taken years to build the right blend of veteran experience and skill to produce the historic silver-medal Cinderella at the 2019 Women’s Worlds in Espoo.

Under Toivola, the Finns remain in a rebuilding phase, but are still the perennial third-place favourites. That’s where Suomi sits in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking. They claimed the bronze medal at the last Women’s Worlds and Olympics.

Secondary scoring is the primary concern. In both Calgary and Beijing, Finland’s top three scorers came from the top line of Petra Nieminen, Susanna Tapani, and Michelle Karvinen. To challenge the Canadians or Americans, especially 5-on-5, a real breakout tournament for 20-year-old attackers like perennial Naisten Liiga scoring leader Elisa Holopainen or Viivi Vainikka, a two-time SDHL champion with Lulea, would go a long way. The slippery Sanni Vanhanen, 17, is coming off a tournament all-star berth with the bronze Finnish squad at June’s U18 Women’s Worlds in Wisconsin.

Having the most individually decorated blueliner in IIHF women’s history in tireless captain Jenni Hiirikoski, 35, is an asset that speaks for itself. Nelli Laitinen, 20, took another big step forward in production as she led all Finnish rearguards in Olympic scoring (2+5=7). And Hiirikoski’s Lulea teammate Ronja Savolainen remains one of the biggest presences in European hockey. That said, the depth overall isn’t quite there compared to the North Americans.

However, with the skill and focus of starting netminder Anni Keisala – Best Goalie at the 2021 Women’s Worlds – between the pipes, the Finns should take anything other than another bronze as unacceptable.


In many respects, Japanese women’s hockey is cresting at the moment. Sixth-place finishes at both the 2021 Women’s Worlds and 2022 Olympics were high-water marks for the national team. Recently, Japan has defeated rivals like Czechia, Germany, and Sweden. With the Russians disqualified from international competition, the well-drilled Japanese under head coach Yuji Iizuka now get to apply their grit and skills in Group A. How will they fare?

Japan’s ability to deliver a full 60 minutes is never in doubt. However, this roster features some major changes from Beijing as we head into a new Olympic quad cycle.

Goaltender Nana Fujimoto, the backbone of the team whose top-level Women’s Worlds debut came in 2008, isn’t on this roster. That could place a big burden on 27-year-old Akane Konishi, who saw Olympic action in the 6-2 win over Denmark and 7-1 quarter-final loss to Finland. The soon-to-be Vanersborgs HC netminder had only ever appeared in one game at most in her prior IIHF competitions, dating back to the 2014 Olympics.

Long-time captain Chiho Osawa, 30, announced her retirement at the start of August. From Rui Ukita, a long-time offensive threat, to Hanae Kubo, the 39-year-old who is as close to Finland’s ageless wonder Riika Sallinen as Japan’s ever had, the forward group also lacks some key names. So it’s a chance for younger players to step up.

Forward Haruka Toko, 25, led the Olympic team in scoring (3+3=6) and is poised to make her SDHL debut with Linkopings HC in 2022-23. Akane Shiga, 21, has definite game-breaker potential. She led Japan with four goals at the last Women’s Worlds, including both markers when her team fell 10-2 to the Americans in the quarter-finals. She also had Japan’s lone goal in the Olympic quarter-final.

Meanwhile, the defence corps will lean on the experience and leadership of two-time Olympians like Shiga’s big sister, 23-year-old Aoi Shiga, and Akane Hosoyamada, who is 30. However, up and down the roster, there will be a learning curve for the many new faces, and for Japan to upset any of its Group A foes will be a big challenge.


In one respect, the Swiss women’s national team has a problem similar to that facing the Edmonton Oilers. Both teams have two elite, world-class forwards – Switzerland’s Alina Muller and Lara Stalder and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – and then a fairly steep drop-off up front.

Producing offence has thus been a challenge for the Swiss. When Muller got knocked out of the 2021 Women’s Worlds with an injury after scoring Switzerland’s lone goal in a 3-1 opening loss to the Russians, Switzerland miraculously scraped out a fourth-place finish – despite totalling just five goals in the entire tournament. That reflects the value of Muller, a 24-year-old Patty Kazmaier Award finalist from Northeastern University, who helped Switzerland win an historic 2014 Olympic bronze medal at age 15. She has excelled with 10 points at both of the last two Winter Games. 

Another fourth-place finish followed in Beijing. Stalder – a 28-year-old sniper who has won three straight SDHL scoring titles with Brynas Gavle – got the winner when Switzerland shocked Finland 3-2 in the group, and then Muller led the way with a pair in the 4-2 quarter-final win over ROC.

Realistically, if these two aces aren’t going, the Swiss are going nowhere in Group A. Hopes are high for offensive support from Alini Marti, 18, entering her second Women’s Worlds as a Swiss champ with ZSC Lions Frauen and coming off seven points in seven games at June’s U18 Women’s Worlds in Wisconsin. If fellow forward Evelina Raselli, 30, can rediscover the touch that got her four points at the 2018 Olympics, that’d be a nice bonus.

On defence, Lara Christen, a 19-year-old ZSC Lions Frauen member who potted three points in Beijing, shows good promise. But in any scenario, starting goalie Andrea Braendli, 25, is likely to be extremely busy again. The long-time Ohio State star, who heads to Boston University next year, faced a tournament-high 242 shots in Beijing.

If Braendli isn’t lights-out, the Swiss could find themselves tangling with Japan to avoid fifth place in Group A rather than vying for another bronze medal. Their only other IIHF bronze came at the 2012 Women’s Worlds with the legendary Florence Schelling between the pipes.

United States

For the Americans, these Women’s Worlds in Denmark are an opportunity for a big reset. At this writing a year ago, the U.S. was still the reigning Olympic and world champion. That, of course, included a long COVID-19-imposed pause, given that the 2020 Women’s Worlds in Nova Scotia were cancelled and the 2021 sequel slated for that spring was postponed.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that the core leadership group with captain Kendall Coyne Schofield, all-time U.S. leading scorer Hilary Knight, and three-time Olympic defender Lee Stecklein didn’t expect to find themselves as clear silver-medal favourites in 2022.

Make no mistake: these are all great warriors, along with sniper Alex Carpenter and playmaker Amanda Kessel. But as they push or pass age 30, what they can provide is likely to stabilize at best or start to decline. For the U.S to grab its crown back from Canada, it’s essential for younger players to start driving the bus.

In Calgary and Beijing, former head coach Joel Johnson got criticism for limiting the minutes of budding stars like defenders Jincy Dunne (25) and Caroline Harvey (19) and forwards Grace Zumwinkle (23) and Abby Roque (24). Each has shown flashes of “best in the world” potential.

That trend appears likely to change under Johnson’s replacement, John Wroblewski. A newcomer to women’s hockey, he oversaw the 2001-born U.S. National Team Development Program class that featured NHL-bound uber-talents like Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, and Trevor Zegras. Expect a return to the confident, creativity-driven style that propelled the Americans to five straight world titles and the 2018 Olympic gold medal between 2013 and 2019.

The goaltending trio of Nicole Hensley, Maddie Rooney, and Aerin Frankel gives Wroblewski plenty of strong options versus Canada and the Finns. But until proven otherwise, the Americans are 1B, not 1A, for now.

Group B (Frederikshavn)


Under new head coach Carla MacLeod, the Czechs are looking to max out the potential they didn’t quite achieve under her predecessor Tomas Pacina. With back-to-back seventh-place results at the 2021 Women’s Worlds and 2022 Olympics, which marked their Winter Games debut, they fell short of their peak (sixth at the 2016 and 2019 Women’s Worlds).

Czechia is blessed with undeniable offensive skills. It ranges from the powerful shot of long-time captain Alena Mills to the playmaking of former SDHL MVP Katerina Mrazova to the slick dangles and snipes of Tereza Vanisova, a two-time Isobel Cup winner with the Boston Pride who led the 2022 Olympic team in scoring (2+4=6). When the Czechs play a strong puck possession game and trust their offensive instincts, they’re formidable. But they have shown vulnerability at inopportune times, like losing 3-2 to both Denmark and Japan (in a shootout) in Beijing.

MacLeod – a two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist (2006, 2010) who also helped jumpstart Japan’s program in the 2010s and now coaches the University of Calgary – could help Czechia finally stage a quarter-final upset. The 40-year-old former defender brings a positive outlook and strong analytical and communication skills.

Much will hinge on whether star goalie Klara Peslarova is dialled in again. The 25-year-old Ostrava native (Brynas Gavle) was named a 2022 Olympic all-star (1.60 GAA, 94.4 save percentage), largely thanks to her superhuman quarter-final outing versus the Americans with 55 saves in a 4-1 defeat.


Denmark’s primary goal is simple: avoid relegation. That’s about the worst thing that can happen for a host nation. At the men’s Worlds, it’s only happened once in the 21st century (Austria, 2005).

Happily, the Danish women’s confidence got a big boost in their Olympic debut. After going winless at the 2021 Women’s Worlds in their first appearance since 1992, they shocked Czechia 3-2 in Beijing. Silke Glud’s early third-period power play goal snapped the tie.

For new head coach Bjorn Edlund (ex-MODO Ornskoldsvik), the key players remain the same and are largely Sweden-based. Along with Glud (Malmo Redhawks), veteran captain Josefine Jakobsen (Djurgarden) and Josefine Hoegh Persson (Lulea) lead the attack, while Josephine Asperup (Malmo Redhawks) brings veteran know-how on the back end.

Goaltender Cassandra Repstock-Romme (Hvidovre IK) will be under siege again. But if the Danes can simply put on a good show or even nab a surprising quarter-final spot, it’ll be a huge selling point for women’s hockey in a country whose passion for the men’s game has grown recently with stars like Nikolaj Ehlers, Lars Eller, and Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Right now, the spotlight is deservedly on the female game, with more than 20 Danish journalists accredited to cover these Women’s Worlds alongside their international counterparts. May the excitement build on and off the ice as we get going in Herning and Frederikshavn!


Talk about a family feeling in the dressing room. As well as the veteran Eisenschmid sisters (Tanja on defence, Nicola at forward), the Germans will ice a pair of twins who’ll suit up for the University of Maine this fall after finishing 1-2 in club scoring for Mad Dogs Mannheim in the Frauen Bundesliga last year: Lilli and Luisa Welcke.

Head coach Thomas Schadler needs this group to become a family quickly and bring a full defensive effort if Germany is to reverse its recent decline. It’s gone from a fourth-place Women’s Worlds peak in 2017 to a disappointing eighth place in 2021.

In Calgary, Katarina Jobst-Smith – born in North Vancouver like Connor Bedard – was a pillar on defence, averaging a team-high ice time of 23:31. Forward Nina Christof, still just 19, set the right tone in the opening 3-0 win over Hungary with a pair of goals.

The Germans aren’t close to challenging for a medal, as shown by a 7-0 quarter-final loss to Canada in which they were outshot 52-3. But returning to the quarter-finals is doable if they get decent goaltending and offence by committee.


The Hungarians return for their second straight year in the elite division, and they’re keen to make more history. Hungary’s recipe for success remains similar to its 2021 debut in Calgary.

First, get quality netminding from starter Aniko Nemeth, who posted a 2.67 GAA and 87.9 save percentage last year. Second, ride the offensive contributions of dipsy-doodler Fanni Gasparics, who led the Magyars in Calgary (4+1=5), and her linemate Kinga Jokai-Szilagyi (1+3=4), plus Alexandra Huszak, a 27-year-old with a shoot-first mentality: she accumulated 101 goals in 125 games over four seasons in Russia. Third, get solid defending from veteran blueliners like Franciska Kiss-Simon and Sarah Knee and hope for the best.

New head coach Pat Cortina brings a remarkable breadth of experience. Since 2001, the 57-year-old Montreal native coached Italy, Germany, and Hungary at the men’s Worlds. The addition of Delaney Collins as an assistant coach further boosts Hungary’s hopes. Collins was an all-star defender for Canada at the 2007 Women’s Worlds in Winnipeg, where she won one of her three WW gold medals. The female hockey ambassador for the Nashville Predators also served as a head or assistant coach with three Canadian U18 Women’s Worlds teams.

The Hungarians have enough flair to give other Group B teams headaches and keep themselves afloat. Certainly, their 5-1 win in Calgary over 2022 host Denmark sent a strong message. But relegation is also a possibility for this group.


Returning to the elite division of the Women’s Worlds is a relief for Sweden, last sighted here in 2019. However, a return to the glory days of the mid-2000s – including the surprise 2006 Olympic silver medal in Turin – is still a ways off. The Swedes qualified for Beijing, but started off with a tough 3-1 loss to Japan and exited with an 11-0 quarter-final shellacking against Canada.

For head coach Ulf Lundberg, getting big performances out of the University of Minnesota’s star goalie Emma Soderberg and incoming ace Josefine Bouveng – twice a 24-goal-scorer with Brynas Gavle – would make a big difference.

The blue line is anchored by Maja Nylen Persson, already a two-time Olympian at age 21. She had a career-best 47 points with Brynas last year. Another intriguing prodigy to watch is Mira Jungaker. Barely 17, she led HV71’s SDHL rearguards with 35 points in 2021-22 and is a real go-getter, as she showed with three points in three playoff games at June’s U18 Women’s Worlds.

With that said, the decision to exclude seasoned veterans like goalie Sara Grahn and forward Emma Nordin – Sweden’s Olympic flag-bearer at the Beijing opening ceremonies – may pay dividends in terms of giving youngsters valuable experience, but hurt in the immediate term.

The Swedes have a shot at a quarter-final berth. Yet they can’t take anything for granted, or they could find themselves staring down relegation again.

Canada claims summertime gold in OT

Team Canada players celebrate a goal in the 3-2 gold-medal game win against Finland.

By  Andrew Podnieks –

Kent Johnson knocked in a loose puck at 3:20 of overtime to give Canada a 3-2 win over Finland and take the gold medal at the 2022 World Junior Championship. It capped the wildest three-on-three imaginable, one that included great saves by both goalies. But the biggest save came from Canada’s captain, tournament MVP, and leading scorer, Mason McTavish, who swept a puck off his goal line to keep play alive and allow Johnson to score soon after.

Logan Stankoven toe-dragged the puck in front of the Finnish goal and was stoned by Juha Jatkola, but the puck bounced free and Johnson smacked it in, sending the raucous crowd of 13,327 into a frenzy. Finland had taken the game to overtime by rallying from 2-0 down with two goals in the third.

Yes, World Junior fans, it felt like Christmas!

Canada finished the tournament with a perfect record, seven wins without a loss, including an earlier 6-3 win over the Finns during the preliminary round. They have now won their record 19th all-time gold medals at the World Juniors. The win also marks the 15th time in 16 hostings that Canada has earned a medal, the lone exception coming in 2019. For Finland, they take silver, their fifth U20 medal since 2014.

The win is especially sweet for coach Dave Cameron, who was behind the bench in 2011 when Canada lost a 5-3 heart-breaker in the gold-medal game that year against Russia after leading 3-0 after two periods.

Dylan Garand was the winning goalie and finished the tournament with a 6-0 record. McTavish led all players in the game with 26:50 of ice time, including 1:55 of the 3:20 in the OT.

At the other end, Juha Jatkola was sensational in the Finnish goal, the only reason the game went to an extra session.

Backed by the biggest, loudest, and most raucous crowd of the tournament, Canada came out guns a-blazin’, getting the puck deep, hitting every white sweater in sight, and getting pucks on the net. All Finland could do was withstand the barrage and hope it wouldn’t last 60 minutes. Wave after wave attacked Juha Jatkola’s net, and he made some fine saves while his nervous mates tried to adjust.

But before they did, Canada took the lead thanks to McTavish. He drove around the goal and fired a quick shot. Jatkola made the save, but the puck dropped at the feet of Joshua Roy, and he smacked it in before defender Aleksi Heimosalmi could check him.

That goal came at 11:18, by which time Finland had yet to register a shot on goal. They finally did half a minute later, but soon after that, the McTavish-Roy combination almost clicked again. This time the captain fired a pass from the corner to Roy alone in front, but Jatkola made the save on the deke.

Finland skated their way into the game and got a few pucks on Dylan Garand, the most dangerous off the stick of Roni Hirvonen, but the goalie was perfectly positioned to take the shot to the midsection.

Finland had every right to feel pretty good heading to the dressing room, down a single goal in a period it was overwhelmed, but Canada reversed their opponenets’ happy feelings quickly in the middle period. Coming in on the rush, William Dufur fired a bullet past Jatkola just 41 seconds after the faceoff to make it 2-0. 

That set off a series of chances both ways. Kasper Simontaival made an expert tip of a Joel Mattaa shot, but Garand stuck out the right pad just in time for the beautiful save. Johnson then had a long breakaway but was stoned by Jatkola.

Canada then had a whopping five power plays intermittently created by their intensity and pressure in the Finland end. They had plenty of possession and some good chances, but although they didn’t add to their lead virtually the rest of the period passed in the Finland end again as a result. 

That failure to score with all those power plays became a problem early in the third when the Finns got their first goal of the night. It started when Dufour lost his stick and went off on a change, leaving Canada down a skater for a precious couple of seconds. Heimosalmi got the puck and fired a quick shot through traffic that beat Garand at 4:09 and changed the complexion of the game entirely.

The Finns nearly tied the game seconds later, but Garand made a fine stop on Sami Helenius, and then Tyson Foerster had an empty net only to shoot into Jatkola’s glove, the best save of the night by far. Finland responded with dominating play that eventually resulted in the tying goal. 

They were relentless in the Canada end, just as the hosts were in the opening period, and tied the game after more pressure induced a turnover. Topi Niemela spotted Joakim Kemell to the back side and fired a pass across, and Kemell wired a one-timer in to make it 2-2 at 10:46.

Canada acquired a sixth power play, but before much happened it incurred its first penalty of the night to negate the advantage. And then Finland got another penalty that went to video review. In the end, it all went for naught and teams headed to the dressing room for a full intermission before playing 20 minutes of three-on-three unlimited overtime.

It didn’t last long, but every second was thrilling. Junior hockey might not be a summer sport on a reguar basis, but for one night, well, it was a dream.

Sweden defeats Czechia in bronze game

Sweden celebrates the bronze medal win after beating Czechie 3-1 at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

By Lucas Aykroyd

Buoyed by goalie Jesper Wallstedt’s 27-save performance, Sweden beat Czechia 3-1 to win the bronze medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton on Saturday.

Fabian Lysell, Isak Rosen, and Linus Sjodin scored for Sweden.

The Swedes earned Tomas Monten another medal in his final outing behind their World Junior bench. As a head coach, Monten, 44, also won the 2018 silver medal and 2020 bronze medal. Sweden previously captured World Junior bronze in 1979, 1980, 1987, 1995, 2010, and 2020.

“It was a tough loss yesterday,” said Swedish captain Emil Andrae of falling 1-0 to Finland in the semi-final. “We had to re-group and come together and we talked about having a responsibility to our country. Of course, it was for Tomas Monten, too. It was his last game. We had to do it for him. He’s had six years of grinding, so I’m happy to get a bronze medal for him. He’s a good coach. That’s what this last game was all about.”

Michal Gut replied for Czechia.

To be going home emptyhanded is a genuine disappointment for the Czechs. Everything came together for them when they ended the U.S.’s reign as World Junior champions with a 4-2 quarter-final shocker. However, the host Canadians overpowered coach Radim Rulik’s boys 5-2 in the semi-finals. The Czechs just didn’t have enough left in their tank to top Sweden.

“It wasn’t hard to get up for the game,” Gut said. “We were playing for a medal. It doesn’t matter if it was gold or silver or bronze. We haven’t won a medal for 17 years, so we wanted anything. We were ready to play today.”

Both teams opted for the starting netminders that carried them into the medal round, and Wallstedt more than held down the fort versus Tomas Suchanek. Final shots favoured Czechia 28-23.

“For me, it’s my last junior game, so I also wanted to finish with a medal,” Wallstedt said. “We wanted gold, but bronze is quite good, too. Right now, the feeling is just as good as winning a gold. We’re so happy, and finishing the last game with a medal makes the traveling back home much easier.”

Defensively, Sweden performed well in Edmonton. The Juniorkronorna boasted the best combined goaltending numbers (1.44 GAA, 94.1 save percentage) with the duo of Wallstedt and backup Calle Clang. Their penalty kill ruled at 85.7 percent (three goals allowed on 21 disadvantages).

The Swedes didn’t have an easy time scoring in these World Junior playoffs. They edged Latvia 2-1 in the quarter-final before getting blanked by Finland in the semi-final.

The bronze medal game promised to be a defence-first struggle, and it was. The Czechs fared best against tournament powerhouses by taking away time and space in the neutral zone, while Sweden has come close to overdoing it in the patience department at these World Juniors.

Both sides came out hustling hard, but with little to show for it. Swedish captain Emil Andrae rang one off the post during the first Czech penalty to defender Stanislav Svozil.

Lysell opened the scoring at 14:22 on a dynamic solo rush, fighting off Jiri Tichacek’s check on the right side and looping behind the net to surprise Suchanek with a wraparound. It was Lysell’s second goal of the tournament. The 19-year-old Frolunda product, a 2021 Boston Bruins first-rounder, had 22 goals and 62 points with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants last year.

In the second period, the Czechs increased their tempo. Still nada. Sweden’s best mid-period opportunity saw Daniel Ljungman and Oskar Magnusson narrowly fail to make an odd-man break click. A couple of minutes later, Wallstedt didn’t bite when Petr Hauser stole the puck from Anton Olsson in close and tried a backhand deke. The tension mounted.

With 6:38 left in the middle frame, stud Swedish defenceman Simon Edvinsson was sent off for tripping. It took Czechia just eight seconds to tie it up with the man advantage. Off the faceoff in the Swedish end, Jiricek floated a wrister from the blue line that deflected off Gut and fooled Wallstedt, trickling past his right pad.

Less than three minutes later, Sweden regained the lead, likewise off an offensive-zone draw. Theodor Niederbach won it and Rosen jumped into the slot with the puck. As Jiricek turned to block the shot, Rosen used him as a decoy to zing his fourth goal of these World Juniors past Suchanek.

Rosen praised Sweden’s mentality for this third-place showdown: “We said to ourselves, ‘We have to decide if we want to win a bronze or not.’ I think we had a pretty good game today.”

Wrapping up the middle stanza, the teams vigorously traded chances. Jakub Kos slammed one off the iron to Wallstedt’s right, and Suchanek came across with the blocker to stymie an incoming Niederbach.

About 3:30 into the third, Wallstedt foiled Kos from the slot to keep it 2-1 Sweden. After Andrae went off for slashing, the Swedish goalie stayed sharp, sliding across to block a Jiri Kulich PP one-timer.

Of Sweden’s PK prowess, Gut said: “It’s hard. They played us well, but sometimes you score, and sometimes you don’t.”

At the other end, Oskar Olausson sifted through a pair of Czech defenders and barely failed to beat Suchanek for a third Swedish tally. Mid-period, the Czechs squandered another power play after Andrae flipped the puck over the glass in his own zone for a delay-of-game minor. Kos set up Matous Mensik for a fabulous look in front, but again, Wallstedt said no.

With 3:26 left, Sjodin, taking a nice pass on the rush from William Wallinder, beat Suchanek stick-side from the right faceoff circle to make it 3-1. At last there was some breathing room for the blue-and-yellow team.

Suchanek came out for the extra attacker just moments later, but all the Czech pressure was for naught. A mini-scrum erupted in the Swedish end at the buzzer, momentarily interrupting the bronze celebrations.

“We really didn’t want to leave Edmonton without a medal,” Wallstedt said. “We came out today full of confidence and wanted that medal maybe a little bit more than the Czechs.”

In the post-Czechoslovakia era, Czechia has won just three previous World Junior medals: back-to-back golds under coach Jaroslav Holik (2000-01) and a bronze (2005) with a squad featuring Rostislav Olesz, Roman Cervenka, and David Krejci.

Sweden will look to break another long gold medal drought at the 2023 World Juniors (Halifax and Moncton, 26 December to 5 January). Despite their deep talent pool, the Swedes have won the tournament just twice (1981 in West Germany, 2012 in Calgary).

“We have a bronze medal, not a gold medal, so probably it wasn’t a successful tournament,” Andrae said candidly. “That was our target. It’s a tough event, physically and mentally. We had our ups and downs. We did our best.”

Historical! Venezuela will have ice hockey academy

By Octavio Sequera –

What began as a sarcastic comment on social networks, became the materialization of a visionary dream that now seeks to expand the knowledge and development of hockey throughout a nation like Venezuela, which, although it does not have a historical tradition in this sports discipline, begins to take important steps at the local level to achieve greater goals.

With this goal in mind, Juan de Dios Singer, President of the Venezuelan Hockey Association, has been working for years in providing equipment such as skates, sticks, nets, pucks, protectors, helmets and other instruments for the practice of hockey, in various sectors of Venezuela. All this dedication has allowed the creation of the Ice Hockey Academy Singer , the first ice hockey school in that country and whose headquarters are located in the state of Bolívar in the east of the nation.

“This started in February when I saw on a social network that they were making fun of the construction of an ice rink and I immediately contacted Gabriel Romero, a teammate of the Venezuelan hockey team, to let him know what he was leaving in his home state. to build a track, so we started with the approaches to make that facility, the headquarters of our academy” Singer explained.

The road was not easy, but the manager never lost hope. “Thank God, the talks that began in February and continued until June 2022, ended with the official agreement a week ago, in which we were allowed to start our academy in the facilities of that track in Bolívar state, initially for a period of three to five years.

Part of the factors that allowed the vision of Singer and his team to materialize was having established a tangible contribution agreement with the administrators of the Altavista Ice Rink, officially the headquarters of this historic school in Venezuela. “These four years of work here in South Florida in the United States have filled us with a lot of knowledge and in this way we were able to guide them in terms of maintenance work, but we also bought some products to put the track in optimal conditions” .

One of the main partners of Juan de Dios Singer in this project is Gabriel Romero, owner of a shipping company to Venezuela and whose position provided notable support from the beginning. “He is my great accomplice,” Singer said with a laugh. “Thanks to the donations we have received here in the United States and using Gabriel as a channel, we were able to create six online hockey academies. Now the next step is for the members of these schools to enjoy the experience of playing ice hockey in Venezuela, at least for a weekend.”

The academy begins to take its first steps and in this way, Singer, owner of the school, appointed Alejandro Ramírez, with extensive experience in ice and online hockey, as the Technical Director, who will be receiving orientations to be able to develop the programs in the immediate future. Similarly, Víctor Castro, who, like Ramírez, are local residents in the State of Bolívar, will serve as General Director in terms of the organization and enrollment of future students.

The group, of which Jesús Vergara is also a part, as technical assistant, hopes to start formalizing registrations from next August 20. The minimum age to be part of the academy is five years. “We are going to start with all the irons, the idea is to promote all the work in the best possible way”.

True to his fighting style, Singer has already begun to develop ideas in other locations, such as the city of Maracaibo, in Zulia state, located in western Venezuela. “The fact of having given rise to this initiative in the state of Bolívar, has made the government of Zulia begin to contact me and we agreed to start the work of restructuring an ice rink there, thanks to the knowledge we have acquired here in Florida.” 

As part of the promotion of the Ice Hockey Academy Singer , the creation of a social media account called @guayanaicehockey was announced, which will be the digital platform to provide information on registrations, practices, courses and everything that surrounds the work of a school that, according to its owner, will continue to grow. 

“There are already other projects with the possibility of doing something in cities like Valencia or Maracay, both in the central region of Venezuela, but for now, the state of Bolívar is home to this unique opportunity to develop local ice hockey.” Singer concluded, who at the same time continues to give clinics and work on the provision of equipment, as well as in the preparation of the different Venezuelan teams that will see action in the next Latam Cup, based in the city of Sunrise, in the training facilities of the Florida Panthers. 

Luxembourg forms first ever national women’s team

Tornado Women’s team

Source: RTL Today

The newly-created Luxembourg women’s national ice hockey team will compete in the 2022 IIHF Women’s Development Cup in Kuwait.

The Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation (FLHG) announced the creation of the team in a press release on Thursday.

Ice hockey has been booming in popularity in the Grand Duchy in recent years. For many years there were just two senior teams: Tornado Luxembourg and Ice Hockey Club Beaufort.

Now there are seven active senior clubs, including Luxembourg’s first all women’s team, the Tornado Women.

Luxembourg’s first national women’s team will be composed mainly of players from Tornado Women.

They will get their first chance to compete on the international stage in November, when they compete in the inaugural Women’s Development Cup in Kuwait City.

The Development Cup allows Luxembourg to begin international competition with the support of a few non-Luxembourg nationals, as there are not yet enough registered women players with Luxembourgish nationality.

The FLHG aims to promote the sport with the long-term goal of attracting more Luxembourgish female athletes to the sport, so that the team can eventually compete in the IIHF Women’s World Championships.

University Students From Ghana Dream To Grow Hockey On Concrete And Ice

Blader Skates Ghana

By Kyle Drinnan – The Puck Authority

In life, we have a habit of making possible ideas impossible. In the same vein, we make those possible ideas too good that it becomes unrealistic. To dismiss the idea that ice hockey can be played around the world, like in Africa, is making the possible, impossible. But looking at the harsh realities that the sport has, no history, not a suitable climate, and lack of facilities is the realistic side of growing the sport.

But it’s possible. South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are the only African nations to be represented in the IIHF, with three of them joining in the past 10 years. Even without a membership, Egypt and Kenya have made bigger steps in their quest to join the organization. Now in Ghana, there are grassroots organizations that are ready to make the impossible, possible. Ice hockey in Ghana.

BLADER SKATES GHANA is a not-for-profit organization that wants to make a pathway for ice hockey in Ghana. It was founded by Bright Ababio Mensah, and was co-founded by Henry D.K Mensah and Kwame Sefa Johnson. It is located in the capital of the country, Accra, and is found in the University of Cape Coast. The organization is focusing on all kinds of skating, including skateboarding and inline hockey. The dream of most members is to help develop ice hockey, but they are focusing on what they currently have, and without an ice rink, there are easier sports to first develop.

“Yes, there is. Both are somewhat of a contact sport, except bodychecks are not allowed in inline hockey and inline roller skates are used instead of ice skates, as is used in ice hockey,” said Bright Ababio Mensah, founder of BLADER SKATES GHANA. “The equipment is similar.”

Although similar, ice hockey and inline hockey in terms of governance are very much different. Ice hockey, of course, is governed by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), and while inline hockey used to be governed by the IIHF, in recent years, World Skate has taken over to develop the sport. World Skate has a lot of sports under its organization. The most popular sport in its arsenal would be skateboarding, which made its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

While Ghana has no organization with the IIHF, they are members of World Skate. However, Mensah said that Ghana Skaters Association, the one connected with World Skate, has had its activity halted and has been dormant for a while.

So, BLADER SKATES GHANA picked up the responsibility as soon as it was established in 2019. Since then, the group’s numbers have grown and taken off, having seen registration trend upwards since 2020. The group wants to start educating its population on the sports, but unlike hockey organizations, they have many different sports they want to market to their citizens.

“(We want) public education on skating, and the development of roller sports in Ghana are two of the major aims of our organization,” Mensah said. “So, we try to link the skating to a lot of sports disciplines in the likes of roll-ball, 100 meters and relay race, as well as high and long jumps, hockey, speed skating, and many others.”

It is also tough, as there is only one place to buy equipment, and that is in the nation’s capital, Accra. However, interest has started to show in more provinces around the country, and there are hopes that the interest will help make sports more accessible in the country.

Winter sports have a unique relationship with Ghana. Ghana is one of the rare countries in Africa that are involved with at least one of the seven sports bodies that make up the Winter Olympics. They are also in a more exclusive group where the country is involved with two.

Ghana is a member of both the International Ski Association (FIS) and the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF). Ghana has been in three Winter Olympics, with their first being in 2010 Vancouver. They missed out in Sochi, but were represented in Pyeongchang and Beijing.

Ghana’s first winter Olympic athlete, Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, has helped set up the Ghanaian Winter Olympic Association and hopes to build Ghana’s first artificial ski slope.

But right now, ice hockey is a far goal for Ghana. Even with Mensah’s interest, it is a long and winding road. However, the development of inline will help the future goal. Nations like Jamaica, and even places in the United States, have used an iceless hockey form to help teach the locals about the sport and get the government involved with the sport.

“We want to have started regional and nationwide inline hockey, and then would have been supported with at least one ice hockey rink to start training,” Mensah said, “and to host competitions for the whole of the West African Subregion.”

But right now, the organization needs equipment and training for inline hockey if they want to grow the sport. Any help, no matter how big or small, would be appreciated by BLADER SKATES GHANA.

Twitter: @bladerskatesgh
Instagram: @bladerskatesgh

2022 World Junior Championship Group A preview

Mason McTavish Canadian Captain.

By Adam Kimelman

Mason McTavish was chosen as captain for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship for a very simple reason.

“He’s the guy that sets the bar that everybody else is going to aspire to get to,” coach Dave Cameron said. “We think we have a lot of guys that were captain material but picking ‘Mac’ actually was pretty easy.”

McTavish will try to lead Canada to a WJC title after it lost to the United States in the 2021 championship game.

The 2022 WJC will be held Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament originally was scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 but was postponed Dec. 29 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Canada will play in Group A, along with Finland, Czechia, Slovakia and Latvia. The United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria will play in Group B.

Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international play because of its invasion of Ukraine.

McTavish, selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the No. 3 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, began last season with three points (two goals, one assist) in nine NHL games, and after a short stint with San Diego of the American Hockey League, the 19-year-old was returned to the Ontario Hockey League. He played five games with Peterborough before being traded to Hamilton on Jan. 9. McTavish helped Hamilton win the OHL championship with 16 goals in 19 playoff games, and his eight points (six goals, two assists) in five games tied for the lead at the Memorial Cup.

“In simple terms, he’s a hockey player,” Cameron said. “Everything about him shows that. Very attentive in meetings, asks the right questions, works as hard as anybody off ice, has no ego, and his on-ice performance speaks for itself. He’s played in the NHL, and he’s got a long NHL career ahead of him.”

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Aug. 17. The semifinals are Aug. 19, and the championship and third-place games are Aug. 20. All games will be shown on NHL Network in the United States and on TSN in Canada.

There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the 2023 WJC, which will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5, 2023, in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Here’s a look at each Group A team, in predicted order of finish:


Coach: Dave Cameron

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Connor Bedard, F, Regina, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 10, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Czechia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Canada’s strength is its depth, especially at center. McTavish, Logan Stankoven (Dallas Stars), Ridly Greig (Ottawa Senators) and Elliot Desnoyers (Philadelphia Flyers) likely will start the tournament in the middle, but another option could be Connor Bedard. The likely No. 1 pick of the 2023 NHL Draft displayed his dazzling skills in two games as a 16-year-old when the tournament initially was held in December, including a four-goal game against Austria. Now he’s older and more experienced after finishing fourth in the Western Hockey League with 100 points (51 goals, 49 assists) in 62 games with Regina, and could be ready for an even bigger breakout. Seven of the eight defensemen are left shots, but Olen Zellweger (Anaheim Ducks), the top defenseman in the WHL last season, is part of a versatile group of strong skaters who should be fine on their off side. With goalies Sebastian Cossa (Detroit Red Wings) and Dylan Garand (New York Rangers) likely sharing time, Canada again will be a favorite to reach the championship game.


Coach: Antti Pennanen

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Ruben Rafkin, D, TPS, FIN

Schedule: Aug. 9, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Finland will have five defensemen back from its third-place finish at the 2021 WJC, led by Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs), voted the best defensemen at the tournament after he had eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games. They’ll have to be good with three inexperienced goalies behind them in Leevi Merilainen (Ottawa Senators) and Juha Jatkola (2023 draft eligible), each of whom played one game in December, and Jani Lampinen (2023 draft eligible). Forward Brad Lambert (Winnipeg Jets), who had five points (one goal, four assists) in two games before the tournament was canceled in December, will be counted on to play at a similar level now. Also expected to chip in on offense will be Aatu Raty (New York Islanders), who had 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games with Jukurit in Liiga last season, as well as Kasper Simontaival (Los Angeles Kings), who scored four goals in seven games at the 2021 WJC. If the goaltending holds up and the offense delivers, Finland could push Canada for the top spot in the group.


Coach: Radim Rulik

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Daniel Hercik, F, Pardubice, CZE; Adam Mechura, F, Tri-City, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Latvia (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadiens), Matyas Sapovaliv (Vegas Golden Knights) and Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabres) likely will key the offense. Mysak had 64 points (34 goals, 30 assists) in 61 games for Hamilton of the OHL last season, and is one of five returning players from the 2021 WJC, where he had three points (two goals, one assist) in five games. Sapovaliv was fourth among OHL rookies with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 68 games for Saginaw. Kulich was named most valuable player of the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship after he led all players with nine goals in six games. Two defensemen are among the returnees from the 2021 WJC, Columbus Blue Jackets prospects David Jiricek and Stanislav Svozil. Jiricek’s status for the start of the tournament is in question after testing positive for COVID-19, but the hope is he’ll arrive in time for the opener. Czechia will need him if it hopes to finish ahead of Slovakia and push Finland for second place in the group.


Coach: Ivan Fenes

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Dalibor Dvorsky, F, AIK Jr., SWE-JR; Samuel Honzek, F, Vancouver, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Finland (2 p.m. ET) 

Outlook: Dvorsky is a potential top-five pick in the 2023 draft after he had 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 33 games with AIK’s team in Sweden’s junior league. In addition to Dvorsky, forward Servac Petrovsky (Minnesota Wild), who was third among OHL rookies last season with 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in 65 games with Owen Sound, also should have a big role in the offense. Goalie Simon Latkoczy returns after he had a .922 save percentage in three games at the 2021 WJC despite facing 34.0 shots on goal per game, and he’s played the past three seasons in the United States Hockey League, which means he’s experienced on the smaller North American ice. Slovakia won’t have forward Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens) and defenseman Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils), the first two picks of the 2022 NHL Draft, but still has a talented group. If Latkoczy can steal them a game, they could challenge Czechia for third place in Group A.


Coach: Artis Abols

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Niks Fenenko, D, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Finland (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 10, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Czechia (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: It’s the first time Latvia has played in the top level of the World Juniors since 2017, and being placed in a group with the second-place (Canada) and third-place (Finland) finishers from 2021 won’t help their cause. Three players on the roster have been drafted by NHL teams, including forward Klavs Veinbergs (Tampa Bay Lightning). He had seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine playoff games to help Zemgale win the championship in Latvia’s top professional league. It will take a lot for Latvia to win a game, but with no relegation round to worry about, the experience the players gain could help them for the 2023 WJC.

2022 World Junior Championship Group B preview

Devils defenseman prospect Luke Hughes leads United States attempt at back-to-back titles.

By Mike G. Morreale –

Luke Hughes, selected No. 4 by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL Draft, is looking forward to having the opportunity to make history as a member of the United States at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The United States will try to win back-to-back titles for the first time after defeating Canada 2-0 in the 2021 championship game. Canada was the last team to do so, winning five straight from 2005-09.

The 2022 WJC is Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament originally was scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 but postponed Dec. 29 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The United States is scheduled to play preliminary-round games in Group B with Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Group A consists of Canada, Finland, Czechia, Slovakia and Latvia.

Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international play because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Hughes, the youngest brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and Devils center Jack Hughes, had 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games as a freshman at the University of Michigan last season. The 18-year-old defenseman was a top-10 candidate for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award presented annually to recognize the top NCAA men’s hockey player.

“It’s an honor to wear the jersey whenever you can,” Hughes said. “To go back there and try to defend that is super important for USA Hockey and our country. I think it’s really exciting, and we’re going to do our best. We’re going to go game by game, and we’re really excited as a team.”

The top four teams in each group will play the quarterfinals Aug. 17. The semifinals are Aug. 19, and the championship and third-place games are Aug. 20.

There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the 2023 WJC in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

All games will be shown on NHL Network in the United States and TSN in Canada.

Here’s a look at each Group B team, in predicted order of finish:

United States

Coach: Nate Leaman

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Charlie Stramel, F, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Schedule: Aug. 9, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Switzerland (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Sweden (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Leaman will incorporate a fast and supportive game up front and on the back end with the help of returning forwards Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes), Brett Berard (New York Rangers) and Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks), and defensemen Brock Faber (Minnesota Wild), Tyler Kleven (Ottawa Senators) and Hughes. Goalies Andrew Oke (2023 draft eligible) and Kaidan Mbereko (2023 draft eligible) each impressed during development camp and are the frontrunners to compete for playing time. Cooley, a freshman center at the University of Minnesota, was second on the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 51 games last season. He was second for the second-place United States at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in six games. Stramel (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), a right-shot center who will be a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 26 games for the United States under-18 team last season. Faber is team captain. He was traded to the Wild with the No. 19 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings for forward Kevin Fiala on June 29.


Coach: Tomas Monten 

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Mans Forsfjall, D, Skelleftea (SWE)

Schedule: Aug. 10, Switzerland (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Germany (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Sweden won’t have forwards Alexander Holtz (Devils) or William Eklund (San Jose Sharks) to lead the offense but remain solid in goal with Jesper Wallstedt (Wild), Calle Clang (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Carl Lindbom (Vegas Golden Knights), and at defenseman with Simon Edvinsson (Detroit Red Wings), Helge Grans (Kings) and William Wallinder (Red Wings). Offensively, Monten will look to Daniel Ljungman (Dallas Stars), Theodor Niederbach (Red Wings), Oskar Olausson (Colorado Avalanche) and Jonathan Lekkerimaki (Vancouver Canucks). Wallstedt will play for Iowa in the American Hockey League this season after going 12-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .918 save percentage for Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League last season. The 19-year-old was 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .962 save percentage at the 2022 WJC in December before the tournament was postponed.


Coach: Tobias Abstreiter

2023 NHL Draft Watch: None

Schedule: Aug. 9, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 10, Austria (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Switzerland (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Sweden (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Germany will have a tough time matching its sixth-place finish at the 2021 WJC without its best eligible players, forwards Tim Stutzle (Senators), JJ Peterka (Buffalo Sabres), and Lukas Reichel (Blackhawks). Defenseman Luca Munzenberger, who averaged 21:41 of ice time in five games at the 2021 WJC, will be counted on heavily. The 19-year-old, selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round (No. 90) of the 2021 draft, will be a sophomore at the University of Vermont this season. Goalie Florian Bugl (2023 draft eligible eligible), who helped Germany to wins against Slovakia and Switzerland at the 2021 WJC and finished with a 2.95 GAA and .896 save percentage in three games, is returning but will be pushed for the starting job by Nikita Quapp (Carolina Hurricanes). 


Coach: Marco Bayer

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Rodwin Dionicio, D, Niagara (OHL)

Schedule: Aug. 10, Sweden (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Austria (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Switzerland will rely on goalies Noah Patenaude (7-2-2, 2.96 GAA, .914 save percentage) of Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Kevin Pasche (20-19-4, 2.87 GAA, .903 save percentage) of Omaha in the United States Hockey League to remain competitive. Forward Simon Knak (Nashville Predators) returns for his third World Juniors after he was captain for ninth-place Switzerland in 2021. Defenseman Brian Zanetti (Philadelphia Flyers) had 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) in 56 games for Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League last season and should play a big role. Dionicio (6-2, 207) had 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 57 games for Niagara in his North America debut last season and is on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2023 draft.


Coach: Philipp Pinter

2023 NHL Draft Watch: None

Schedule: Aug. 10, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Sweden (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, United States (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Switzerland (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Austria finished 10th in 2021 and returns looking for its first win in its fifth tournament appearance (0-17), but it will not be easy against its preliminary-round competition. It will be without Marco Kasper (Red Wings), the No. 8 pick in the 2022 draft. Forward Senna Peeters, who scored Austria’s only goal and will play his third WJC, will be counted on to provide some offense. The 20-year-old had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 34 games for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. Kasper, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Detroit on July 13, decided to take a break from hockey in August because of a heavy workload on an international level and with Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League last season.

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