Month: February 2023

Back-to-back Belgian gold

The Belgian players celebrate with the gold medals after winning all games in Cape Town.

By Andy Potts –

Belgium’s women made it back-to-back gold after sweeping all-comers in Cape Town to win the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B. A year after taking a Covid-hampered Division IIIA, the Belgians secured another gold in impressive style in South Africa.

The key game was against Australia, with Belgium grabbing a 1-0 victory against last year’s silver medallist. Goalie Nina van Orshaegen produced a fantastic performance, stopping 48 shots in a game that was dominated by the Aussies. Belgium was limited to just 12 shots on goal, but a power play goal from Femke Bosmans after 25 minutes made the difference.

“Collectively, our ladies played an incredible game,” head coach Sven van Buren told the Belgian Royal Ice Hockey Federation’s website. “They executed our tactical plan in detail. On defence, we wanted to keep Australia to the outside. That, in combination with Nina’s excellent performance in goal, meant we were able to beat the title favourite. The entire staff is very proud of this achievement.”

Van Orshaegen, 28, featured in all four of Belgium’s games. She finished with a GAA of 1.00 after giving up 3 goals in 180 minutes of game time. The Olen native, who plays her club hockey for Cold Play Sharks Mechelen in the German second division, also stopped 96.51% of the shots she faced. That form earned her the directorate award as leading goalie ahead of Australia’s Sasha King, who played 160 minutes and stopped 20 shots without allowing a single goal. Van Orshaegen played a leading role between the piping alongside understudy Charlotte Swinnen. Swinnen, 20, played three periods in total in Belgium’s wins over South Africa and Croatia, gaining experience of international play.

Lotte de Guchtenaere was another key figure for Belgium. Her four goals in a 4-2 win over New Zealand wrapped up top spot with a game to spare. She finished with eight goals in the tournament, many of them assisted by line-mate and leading scorer Anke Steeno, who had 11 (2+9) points.

Now Belgium is celebrating its first ever back-to-back gold medals in IIHF play. Meanwhile, promotion to Division IIA would put the Blades at their highest ever level in international women’s hockey.

For Australia, the failure to break down Belgium’s defence proved costly. The top seed scored freely in its other games, putting 10 past South Africa and 19 past Croatia before winning a Southern Hemisphere showdown against New Zealand 5-2. However, after losing out to Iceland in a shootout last season, the Aussie Flyers once again suffered a narrow loss in a crucial game. The Australian team included two players from the gold-medal U18s team that won Division IIA last, with Molly Lukowiak and Katrina Rapchuk stepping up to the seniors here. Rapchuk, 15, made a good impression in her rookie championship and was named MVP for her team in the Belgium game.

New Zealand, back in action after withdrawing from last season’s tournament in Zagreb, came closest to halting Belgium’s progress. The Ice Fernz got a 2-1 lead in the first period of the teams’ meeting, but a fine attacking display from Lotte de Guchtenaere scored twice in the middle frame to turn the game around. She finished with all four markers in a 4-2 victory.

That denied the host nation a bronze medal, with New Zealand taking third place in the tournament. Defender Donne van Doesburgh won the directorate award for her position. Croatia, which came fifth on home ice a year ago, had another tough tournament and brought up the rear after again failing to win a game. Türkiye had to withdraw from the competition following the devastating earthquakes that hit the country earlier this month.

Among the individual achievements, de Guchtenaere tied with Australia’s Michelle Clark-Crumpton on eight goals. The Belgian forward also got the nod as top forward in the competition. Sharna Godfrey was the leading scorer in the competition, with 14 (6+8) points, just ahead of Clark-Crumpton. Anke Steeno was the leading Belgian scorer with 11 (2+9) points, tied with New Zealand’s Anjali Mulari.


Japan Calls on Veteran NHL Coach Perry Pearn to Get Men’s National Ice Hockey Team Up to Speed

The Japan Under-20 men’s national team stands on the ice before its game against Ukraine in the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B final in Poland in December 2022. (International Ice Hockey Federation)

By Jim Armstrong – SportsLook

Looking to emulate the progress made by the women’s team, the Japan Ice Hockey Federation has hired a veteran National Hockey League coach to help the men’s national squad move up in the rankings.

As the host nation, both Japan’s men’s and women’s teams took part in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where it was hoped appearing on such a large stage would give the sport a boost in Japan.

The Japanese men, under Canadian coach Dave King, had two losses and a draw in the preliminary round. Then, before a capacity crowd of 9,495 at the Big Hat arena, they beat Austria 4-3 in the consolation round.

It was a significant accomplishment. While not a top-tier nation, Austria had a decent hockey program at the time and was in the group of teams just below the elite division.

The women went 0-5 in the preliminary round with their best result being a 5-0 loss to Sweden.

It was hoped both the men and women would build on the Nagano experience. But that’s only been the case for the women’s team, which has risen all the way to seventh in the IIHF rankings.

Known as “Smile Japan,” the women’s team has found a winning formula. The men, currently 25th in the world rankings, are still looking for one.

In order to take the next step, Japanese ice officials named veteran former NHL coach Perry Pearn as head coach of the national senior and junior men’s teams in November of 2022. And the move is already paying off.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead the Japan national team,” Pearn said in a statement after the announcement was made.

Japan men’s ice hockey head coach Perry Pearn coached for many years in the NHL. (Japan Ice Hockey Federation)

Junior Squad’s Successful Debut Under Pearn

One of Pearn’s first assignments was guiding Japan’s Under-20 team at the 2023 IIHF U20 World Championship Division 1 Group B tournament in Bytom, Poland in December.

And the team came through with a stunning 7-4 win over Ukraine to take the gold medal and secure a place in next season’s Division 1A competition.

Such wins are hugely important to the overall men’s program. The players on the U20 team are the future stars of the senior team.

Pearn attributed Japan’s success in Poland to the team’s quickness.

“We’re not a big team but our speed and quickness is really noticeable,” Pearn told the IIHF website. 

He added, “We’re much better skaters overall than most of the teams in the tournament.”

Pearn said Japan was able to compensate for its lack of size against the bigger Europeans.

“We’re not as big as some of the teams. So we have to be really smart in terms of winning battles by playing a different way than probably a team like Ukraine is able to play,” the coach said.

Preparation Paid Off for Japan

One of Ukraine’s star players, forward Olexi Dakhnovskyi, marveled at Japan’s ability to anticipate the flow of the game, a tribute to Pearn’s coaching no doubt.

“They were the best team because they were so prepared for us,” Dakhnovskyi told IIHF after the game. 

He added, “They were the most disciplined team we faced, [and] they were ready. And it was like they knew what we were going to do on every centimeter of the rink.”

In Poland, Japan was led by Junya Owa who had three assists in the final and finished the tournament with six points to be named best defender. Forward Kotaro Murase was tied for the tournament lead with 10 points.

After the gold-medal win in Poland that included wins over South Korea, Poland and Estonia in the preliminary round, there was still more success for the juniors at the 2023 World University Games in Lake Placid, New York, in January. 

Japan opened with an 8-3 win over Latvia and beat Sweden 5-0 in a major upset. 

Two wins against two losses in the preliminary round was good enough to get Pearn’s team to the semifinals where it lost a hard-fought game 4-3 to the United States.

Japan played Kazakhstan in the bronze medal game but lost 8-1. Still, there were plenty of positives in Lake Placid, and it was more proof the Japanese men are getting more competitive at the international level.

Upcoming Test for Japan Senior Squad 

The hope now is that Pearn can do for the senior men what he has done at the junior level.

The next big test will come when the senior men’s team plays in the Ice Hockey World Championship, Division 1 Group B tournament in Estonia from April 23-29.

Currently, the elite level of international ice hockey is made up of 16 teams that contest the IIHF World Championships every spring.

This group includes powerhouses like Canada, Sweden, the United States, Finland and the Czech Republic. Russia and Belarus are currently suspended.

Other nations like Germany, Norway and Switzerland are also currently in the elite 16 and will compete at the IIHF World Championship in Finland and Latvia from May 12-28.

Below the elite level is Division 1 which has Group A and Group B. Group A teams compete for promotion to the Elite Division while Group B teams compete for promotion to Division 1 Group A.

Japan currently finds itself in Group B along with Estonia, China, the Netherlands, Serbia and Ukraine.

The goal for Japan now is to earn promotion to Group A just like the junior team did. There are also Divisions II through IV so Japan is ahead of many countries.

The Japan Under-20 men’s national team in Poland. (International Ice Hockey Federation)

A Wealth of Coaching Experience

Pearn seems to be the right man for the job.

A lifelong coach, the 71-year-old from Stettler, Alberta, has twice served as an assistant coach with Canada’s national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championships (1990, 1991). 

Then as head coach, he led Canada ― and future Hockey Hall of Famers Paul Kariya and Chris Pronger ― to gold in 1993.

After 1993, Pearn went to coach professionally in Switzerland. He then went on to serve as an assistant coach in the NHL for 21 years with the Winnipeg Jets (twice), Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks.

He brings a wealth of experience that can only help Japan’s bid to reach the next level. 

Hallam keeps up winning start

Sweden’s Anton Bengtsson celebrates a goal against Czechia at the last World Championship. Sweden has won all three Euro Hockey Tour tournaments so far this season.

By  Andy Potts –

Sweden continued its impressive Euro Hockey Tour campaign by winning the Beijer Hockey Games on home ice. Despite dropping an overtime verdict to Czechia in the opening game, Tre Kronor rebounded to blank Switzerland before facing Finland in the deciding action in Malmo.

In the latest instalment of that big Nordic rivalry, Sweden eased to a 3-1 lead against the current World and Olympic champion. Theodor Lunnstrom opened the scoring midway through the first period, converting the first power play of the game after Tommi Tikka sat for tripping. At the start of the second, Hardy Haman Aktell got his first goal in international hockey. The Vaxjo Lakers defender saw his shot deflect into the net off an opposing player to double Sweden’s lead. Anton Bengtsson added a third midway through the game and after that, Tre Kronor had little difficulty protecting that lead. The only blemish came a fraction of a second before the hooter when Robert Leino’s consolation goal denied Lars Johansson a shutout.

The victory secured top spot for Sweden for the third time in three Euro Tour competitions. That’s a great start for new head coach Sam Hallam, who replaced Johan Garpenlov at the end of last season. The 43-year-old, a three-time Swedish champion with Vaxjo and twice named Coach of the Year, stepped up to the national team in the summer and is enjoying the role so far.

“The big thing is that we have very good players out there in Europe,” he told TV6 after the tournament in Malmo. “If you look at the guys we put on the ice today, and in the other tournaments, we have a very good team.

“But really, it’s all about May and another World Championship.”

The game against Sweden was a test too far for the free-scoring Finns. Earlier, they edged Switzerland in a shootout after a 5-5 tie, then thumped Czechia 6-1. Team manager Mika Kortelainen told “I have to admit that Sweden was better today. They had more energy, they skated better. We had a hard week, we did a lot of work, but we couldn’t meet that final challenge.”

Sweden’s victory in its home tournament consolidates its position at the top of the overall Euro Hockey Tour standings. Tre Kronor has 19 points from nine games over the three tournaments to date, five clear of Czechia. Finland is third with 13 points and Switzerland remains in fourth with eight points.

Although Switzerland finished at the foot of the standings in Malmo, there was some good news. Two of the three games were tied in regulation, including the clash with Finland. That game was the first chance for the Swiss national team to play at the new Swiss Life Arena in Zurich, one of the venues for the 2026 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. That inaugural fixture turned out to be a barn-burner, with the Swiss powering to a 5-2 lead against Jukka Jalonen’s Finns, only to end up tied at 5-5. Finland took the verdict in a shootout after Ahti Oksanen beat Melvin Nyffeler.

Boost for Austria against Elite Pool opponents

Austria triumphed at a four-team tournament in Denmark, enjoying victories over Norway and the host nation. That’s an encouraging result for the Austrians, who escaped relegation from the top division of the World Championship last season thanks to a big fightback in the third period of their final game in Tampere.

Against Norway, Austria grabbed the lead with a shorthanded goal from Thomas Raffl midway through the first period. Eskil Wold, a 20-year-old forward establishing himself on the national team this season, tied it up for Norway in the 33rd minute and the game remained locked at 1-1 until Manuel Ganahl gave Austria the shoot-out verdict.

That win sent Austria into a final against Denmark, 3-0 victors over France in Friday’s other game. David Madlener made 26 saves to backstop a 3-0 win for Roger Bader’s team. Paul Huber, Fabian Hochegger and Lucas Thaler got the Austrian goals. In the game for third place, Norway edged France 2-1 with Mats Rosseli Olsen potting the winner 90 seconds before the hooter.

Ticar leads Slovenia to success in Italy

Slovenia claimed top spot at the Michele Bolognini Tournament in Bolzano, Italy, by the narrowest of margins. A goal from Roc Ticar three minutes into overtime snapped a goalless tie between the Slovenes and the host in their first action of the competition. Ticar’s effort decided the whole tournament: the two countries would finish tied on seven points, with Slovenia getting the verdict thanks to the head-to-head result.

Both nations are looking to prepare for World Championship action in May. Here they were joined by Hungary, back in the top flight after winning promotion last season, and Korea. The Hungarians took third place and also had the distinction of scoring the only goal on Slovenia before going down in a shootout. Korea, though, found things tough, allowing 19 goals in three games that included a 0-10 hammering against the tournament winner.

That emphatic win over Korea helped Ticar finish the tournament as leading scorer. He had a five-point game (1+4) to claim 6 (2+4) points in total. Next came a clutch of six players on four points apiece – Italy’s Peter Spornberger, Phil Pietroniro, Brandon McNally and Daniel Tedesco, plus Slovenia’s Ziga Pance and Anze Kuralt.

GB tunes up for promotion push

Great Britain rarely takes part in international play outside of the World Championship and Olympic Qualification programs. However, as part of the country’s preparations for its Division IA campaign in Nottingham in the spring, the Brits hosted a four-team tournament. The opposition came from Poland and Romania, two opponents in that World Championship group, plus Japan, runner-up in Division IB last season.

The tournament went well for the host nation, which won all three games. A 3-0 victory over Japan started things off, followed by a 4-1 success against Poland and a 6-1 thrashing of Romania. In particular, the return of Liam Kirk – still part of the Coyotes organisation and currently on loan at Jukurit Mikkeli in Finland – was a lift for GB. He had 5 (2+3) points from his two appearances. Kirk scored seven goals in his last World Championship campaign in Latvia in 2021 but was injured as Britain suffered relegation from the top division last May.

Japan, looking to secure promotion to Division IA after three silver medals in its last four IB campaigns, can take several positives from this tournament. The Japanese finished second after defeating Romania and Poland, both of which will play in the higher group this season.

Finnish women top in Fussen

Pauliina Salonen and Emilia Kyrkko were among the young players joining the Finnish women’s senior national team.

By  Erin Brown –

Nineteen women’s national teams were in action across Europe between 7 to 12 February in preparation for upcoming 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championships in April.

The four multi-nation tournaments took place in Germany, Hungary, Poland and Estonia and featured the senior team debuts of a few U18 standouts — including Finnish goalkeeper Emilia Kyrkko, Czechia’s Tereza Plosova and Slovakia’s Nela Lopusanova.

Ukraine’s women’s team also returned to competition for the first time since December 2021.

Finland dominates in Fussen

Finland went unbeaten and outscored its opponents 16-3 in four games in Fussen, Germany.

The Finns opened with an 8-2 win against Switzerland, then posted 3-0 and 1-0 shutouts against Germany and Czechia, respectively. They closed with a 4-1 win over rival Sweden.

“We have grown a lot as a team during the season and we have welded together well,” Finland coach Saara Niemi said. “Our active defence in every area of the ice has paid off. In addition, we have developed our attacking game.”

Kyrkko and Anni Keisala held opponents without a goal for a stretch of 163:33 before Swedish defender Anna Kjellbin struck in the final contest.

Kyrkko led the tournament with a 0.5 goals-against average and 96.3 save percentage in her senior debut. The Best Goalkeeper at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship, Kyrkko finished with two wins and earned a shutout with 15 saves against Czechia.

Jenni Hiirikoski, who shared the tournament lead in goals with teammate Petra Nieminen with four apiece, provided the game-winner against the Czechs just under seven minutes into the defence-heavy contest.

Nieminen finished atop the scoring leaders with seven points (four goals, three assists). Defender Sanni Rantala ranked second with six, all assists.

Czechia, which captured bronze at the 2022 Women’s Worlds, finished second. Plosova, 16, led her team with three goals and two assists in her first appearance with Czechia’s senior squad.

Sweden (2-2-0-0) placed third.

The teams will face off again from 5 to 16 April at the 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.

Japan, Hungary stand out in Budapest

Haruka Toko provided the game-deciding goal a 4-3 shootout win over host Hungary, lifting Japan to a first-place finish at the Five Nations Tournament in Budapest.

The forward finished the tournament with two goals and nine assists, while Rui Ukita notched six goals and three assists. Riko Kawaguchi and Kiku Kobayashi each recorded shutouts. The Japanese, who went unbeaten in three games, outscored opponents 21-3 and outshot them 138-56.

In the most closely contested tournament of the week, the mix of top-level and Division IA teams required shootouts in four of the nine games.

Hungary, which appeared in one more match than Japan, finished with eight points. France (1-0-1-1) placed third.

All three teams will compete at the top-level Women’s World Championship in Brampton. Norway and Slovakia aim to join them with a promotion from the Division IA in Shenzen, China.

The tournament schedule favoured the Japanese, who only played their first game after all teams except France had skated twice. Slovakia was competing in its fourth game in as many days when it fell to Japan, 10-0.

“The Japanese women have a very strong team and they entered the match relaxed,” Slovakia coach Arto Sieppi said. “After four games, we ran out of energy, but that is logical. We saw what our female players are capable of. It was another important step for us on the way forward.”

Slovakia’s Nela Lopusanova had five points in her senior debut. The 14-year-old phenom scored a hat trick in the opener, a 7-6 shootout loss to Hungary. She added two primary assists and a shootout goal in Slovakia’s 3-2 win over Norway the next day.

Lopusanova became the first women’s player to score a lacrosse-style goal in international competition and earned MVP honours with 12 points at 2023 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship.

Making their Budapest homecoming, Fanni Garat-Gasparics and Reka Dabasi powered Hungary’s second-place finish. Garat-Gasparics, formerly of MAC Budapest, had four goals and an assist. Dabasi, a long-time KMH Budapest star, finished with a goal and four assists. Both are playing this season with PHF’s Metropolitan Riveters in New York.

Danes go unbeaten in Katowice

Julie Oksbjerg (three goals, one assist) and Silke Glud (two goals, two assists) led Denmark to a sweep in Poland. Netminder Caroline Bjergstad, who shouldered the workload for the Danes, finished with three wins and a 93.7 save percentage.

Oksberg provided the game-winner with 54 seconds remaining in a 2-1 win over second-place Italy.

The Italians secured their finish with a comeback victory over Poland. Trailing 1-0 on a goal by Poland’s Wiktoria Dziwok, Italy’s Greta Niccolai  struck twice in the final three minutes. Niccolai delivered the game-winner with nine seconds left in regulation.

Italy finished also with a 4-2 win over Great Britain.

Denmark will compete at the Division I-A tournament in China, while Italy, Poland and Great Britain will take part in the Division I-B competition in Suwon, Korea.

Ukraine returns, Lithuania shines at Baltic Cup

The Ukrainian women’s national team returned to action for the first time in 14 months and finished second in the 2023 Baltic Cup in Kohtla-Jarve, Estonia.

Ukraine defeated Estonia, 3-2, with captain Daria Tsymyrenko delivering the game-deciding goal in an eight-round shootout. The Ukrainians fell 7-4 to Lithuania the next day.

Lithuania’s Klara Mueller recorded 10 points in the event’s final two matches to earn Best Player honours. The 19-year-old scored four goals and added an assist the triumph over Ukraine and followed with a hat trick and two assists in a 6-0 win against Estonia.

“The women’s team gained much-needed game experience in this tournament, and we know what we have to work on,” Estonian captain Kirke Kulla said. “I would like to thank the team manager Juri Rooba, who organized the whole tournament so well.”

The teams will all meet again alongside Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Romania at the Division IIIA tournament from 3 to 9 April in Brasov, Romania.

In other action, the Netherlands and Austria split a two-game exhibition series in preparation for the Women’s World Championship Division IA. The orange team won 3-1 in the first match before falling 5-3 in the second. The games drew about 1,800 spectators across both days.

Canada and the United States will face off in the final two contests their Rivalry Series 20-22 Feb. in Trois-Rivieres and Laval, Quebec, Canada. The U.S. leads the series, 3-2.

Costa Rica Ice Hockey: Winter Olympic Dreams in the Tropics

By Bruce Callow – Tico Times

It is not widely appreciated or publicized but it is possible to ice skate and play ice hockey in Costa Rica and an ice hockey program has managed to survive at the Castillo Country Club for over two decades. Access to the rink is limited to Castillo Club members and their guests with the exception of hockey tournaments.

I have many happy memories of my days coaching at the Castillo and seeing the new rink being built in 2013 was one of the best. In this interview current Castillo youth hockey program coach Alexei Denysov and Castillo Recreation Director Kathia Bolanos Pacheco talk about the only place in Central America where Winter Olympic dreams are being pursued.

The Castillo Club is unique in having the only ice rink in Central America. Tell us a bit about its history and the programs that are offered there currently.

El Castillo is a mountain club that was created 52 years ago. As part of the recreation and sports areas, the ice rink was built approximately 30 years ago. This rink had very small dimensions, so in 2014 the administration made the decision to remodel the new rink with semi-Olympic dimensions.

This investment was more than 1 million dollars. Currently there is a figure skating school and a hockey school. In addition, members can use the rink recreationally and have the experience of being able to skate on an ice rink that is unique in all of Central America.

How can the general public get involved in ice hockey and figure skating? Can tourists visiting Costa Rica come visit the rink?


The hockey school was formed in 1996 by you (Bruce Callow) and since that year hockey classes have been taught at the club to children and adults. Players start as beginners where they are taught the basic techniques of skating and hockey. At the beginning of each year a sports class fair is held at the club, where the disciplines of hockey and figure skating are made known to attract new athletes to these Winter Olympic sports.

Since 2017 the international hockey tournament has been held, where we have the participation of different teams from Canada, the United States, and the Falkland Islands. The Ice Castle skating school has different levels of SAM, Basic, Free Skate, Pre Free Skate, Advanced and adult skating.

As part of the technical and artistic evaluation, at the end of each year a skating show is held where the skaters stage everything they learned during the year. The club, being private, is not open to the public, so only members or their guests can attend.

If someone is interested in becoming a member of the Castillo Club what do they need to do?


To become a member of the club it is necessary to purchase a share and pay a monthly or annual maintenance fee. At the moment there are no shares available, but if you want information you can contact our colleagues from members services and they will help you with the guide in case you are interested in being part of such a prestigious club.

An exhibit from the Castillo hockey program including a uniform and other memorabilia is on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame museum in Toronto. What does the Castillo Club think about this international projection?


It is an honor and of great pride to be part of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Hockey in Costa Rica has been growing a lot in recent years and we hope to be able to participate in different international tournaments with the representation of the Castillo Knights. We currently have several players who are on the team that represents Central America.

Last year they went to the Amerigol Latam Cup tournament where they placed fourth. For this year we are working with the creation of the Ice Hockey Federation in Costa Rica and continue working on the skills of the players hoping that at some point we can have representation in the Winter Olympic Games.

Please tell us about the youth ice hockey program at the Castillo. What are your plans for the upcoming season?


The hockey program at the Castillo Country Club is mainly designed for children, because children are the future. It is worth mentioning that the children in Costa Rica are quite capable and talented at hockey. Of course, we will not be able to form professional players here, but we will make every effort to provide children with a professional base, a chance to build a professional career in the future, and to gain  sports scholarships in foreign universities.

This season we plan to handle 3-4 children’s training sessions a week, and we are considering the creation and registration of the Ice Hockey Federation in Costa Rica, thus hoping for the help and support of major hockey clubs.

The NHL Players Association ( NHLPA) used to sponsor the hockey program at the Castillo. How do you outfit your players with protective gear these days?


We are very grateful to the NHL organization for providing us with the uniforms. The equipment donated to us is still used by both children and adults. Unfortunately, the situation with the equipment is not the best. There are not enough sets of uniforms, and the ones that we have are already worn out and not in proper condition.

If the situation with adults is not so deplorable, since players buy uniforms, preferring to have their own equipment, then the situation is different with children. Most parents are not ready to invest this amount of money in uniforms, skates, and sticks.

After all, it’s no secret that hockey is not a cheap kind of sport, and even more so for parents, since the children’s uniform has to be updated every couple of years as they grow. At the moment we are compiling a list and buying the necessary children’s equipment for the near future. In the current development of hockey, we still hope to create a federation and enlist the support of sponsors and other hockey clubs.


Every year the Castillo Country Club hosts several teams for friendly international tournaments, exclusively at the amateur level in early November. To date, two teams from the USA (New Jersey and Los Angeles), New Jersey Sure and The Team of LA, as well as two teams from Costa Rica – Castillo Knights and San Jose Vikings, took part in the tournament. In 2019, Castillo Club’s team won first place. In recent years the tournament had to be canceled due to the Covid pandemic.

In 2022, several friendly matches were held with the San Jose Vikings team from La Sabana, as well as a game with a team from Guatemala on the Castillo Club’s ice rink. As for the annual international tournament, it was resumed in November 2022. Last year, three teams competed, New Jersey Sure,

The Team of LA and Castillo Knights. New Jersey’s and Costa Rican teams entered the final and as a result, the first place was won by the New Jersey Sure team. Last year’s tournament was great, it was fun and entertaining, and also it’s an excellent reason for foreign players to visit Costa Rica, a country that impresses with its beauty and has so much to offer.

In addition to national tournaments, it is planned to hold two international tournaments in 2023. The first one in early July, with the participation of amateur teams at the basic level from Central and South America.

The second tournament is scheduled for early November, with the participation of teams from the USA and Canada at a slightly more advanced level. We would be happy to host teams interested in taking part in our tournament and would be grateful for any other hockey clubs

The Castillo hosts an International ice hockey tournament each November. How was the last tournament and what are the plans for this year‘s tournament?


Every year the Castillo Country Club hosts several teams for friendly international tournaments, exclusively at the amateur level in early November. To date, two teams from the USA (New Jersey and Los Angeles), New Jersey Sure and The Team of LA, as well as two teams from Costa Rica – Castillo Knights and San Jose Vikings, took part in the tournament. In 2019, Castillo Club’s team won first place. In recent years the tournament had to be canceled due to the Covid pandemic.

In 2022, several friendly matches were held with the San Jose Vikings team from La Sabana, as well as a game with a team from Guatemala on the Castillo Club’s ice rink. As for the annual international tournament, it was resumed in November 2022. Last year, three teams competed, New Jersey Sure,

The Team of LA and Castillo Knights. New Jersey’s and Costa Rican teams entered the final and as a result, the first place was won by the New Jersey Sure team. Last year’s tournament was great, it was fun and entertaining, and also it’s an excellent reason for foreign players to visit Costa Rica, a country that impresses with its beauty and has so much to offer.

In addition to national tournaments, it is planned to hold two international tournaments in 2023. The first one in early July, with the participation of amateur teams at the basic level from Central and South America.

The second tournament is scheduled for early November, with the participation of teams from the USA and Canada at a slightly more advanced level. We would be happy to host teams interested in taking part in our tournament and would be grateful for any contacts.


Australia U20 wins in Istanbul

The Australian team celebrates after beating Israel for gold at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III.

By Ivan Tchechankov –

For the third time in the history of the event Australia won gold medals in a tournament of the IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship program. As in the previous occasions (2004 & 2010) that happened in the Division III. The 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III was held at the Zeytinburnu Ice Rink in Istanbul, Türkiye, from 26 January to 2 February. Hoping to get back to the Division II where they played from 2011 to 2017, the Australians beat Israel 4-1 in the gold medal game.

In the first period Australia had a strong hold of their opponents and a big advantage on shots on goal (16-6). Both teams had an opportunity on a power play, but to no avail. In the start of the second, again they exchange penalties and play with man advantage. Less than a minute after Sacha Rapchuk served the Australian team’s penalty for too many players, Dmitri Kuleshov passed the puck to Justin Dixon. His first shot was saved by Israeli goalkeeper Itamar Melzer, but he got his second chance on a rebound and this time the puck redirected from Kuleshov and went into the net. Ori Segal was in the penalty box for boarding, when Lachlan Clifford scored on his second try in close range of Melzer after getting the puck from Rapchuk – 2-0 with three minutes to go in the period.

Australia captain Dixon scored 27 second into the third period to make it 3-0. He got a great backhand pass from Riley Langille, fired the puck from the slot and it found its way between the goalie’s pads. Segal cut the deficit to two goals five minutes later, but Kuleshov tallied an empty net goal for the final score 4-1.

“We really played our best game when it counted the most – in the gold medal match. I’m really happy about that. The key against Israel was that we stuck to our structure – to play simple hockey, chipped it out, got it deep in their zone, attack the net, score on our chances. It’s defence first, the priority was on all good defensive habits and we were able to shut them down. The only goal that they got was because we didn’t pummel him to the boards when we should have,” said David Ruck, the 53-year-old Canada-born head coach of Australia. He was on this position in the team’s last three U20 World Championships, where the Australians finished in second place two times (2019, 2020) and once third (2022). Last year the Division III was staged at the end of July in Queretaro, Mexico, and Australia was first in the preliminary-round Group B, won its quarter-final against Kyrgyzstan, but was upset by the host Mexico in the semis. For the bronze medal Australia beat Israel 1-0.

“We had almost the same team as in Mexico and we tried to save some money, so we only had a four-day camp before Istanbul. Short camp, but we were already half prepared from Mexico and we kept improving as we played each game,” explained Ruck.

Australia had unexpected strong opposition from Bulgaria in the semi-finals. Kuleshov scored their first goal on a power play in the end of the first period. He found the net again with a man advantage after just 41 seconds from the second and the score became 3-0 only in the middle of the third. Bulgaria responded with a goal after a clear face-off win and a shot through traffic, but Rapchuk put the stamp on the game just a minute later – 4:1.

“Bulgaria battled really hard and never gave up. They competed very well, were strong on the board battles, played super hard and we learned our lesson, which was good for us. We brought this experience with us for the final against Israel,” Ruck praised the semi-final opponent.

The format for this championship was the same as last year in Queretaro. Eight teams were divided in two groups (A – Australia, Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand and Bosna and Herzegovina; B – Israel, Bulgaria, Türkiye and South Africa) and after a round robin stage all the teams went into the playoffs.

Australia was the best team in Group A with three wins and a 28-6 goal difference after beating Kyrgyzstan, 12-4, New Zealand, 6:2, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10-0. In Group B, Israel was Number 1 with even better stats (30-4 goal record) defeating South Africa, 16-1, Bulgaria, 8-0, and Türkiye, 6-3. In the first quarter-final, Australia had the biggest win in its 24th participation in the U20 World Championships – 28-0 over South Africa. Bulgaria defeated convincingly New Zealand, 6-2, Israel overpowered Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10-0 and the most equal quarter-final was the last one as Türkiye beat Kyrgyzstan, 3-1. In the second semi-final Israel won for the second time in four days against Türkiye. The host team tied the score two times – 1-1 and 2-2 – but then the Israelis opened a two-goal advantage and led 4-2 and 6-3 before eventually winning 6-4.

“It’s about youth. We are a young team that is developing. We have some players born in 2007 and 2006 on this team. Next year we will have much better results, because it will be almost the same roster besides the goalies. I see a good future for the team. In the final the guys gave it all. They did everything what they could on the ice. Australia is a good, strong and fast team. We had a plan, which was good, but we missed some chances and gave them few also and they scored. In my opinion a series between these two teams would be even, for example in ten games, we will win five, but unfortunately this was just one game,” said Itay Ben Tov, Israel’s assistant coach.

Speaking about youth, the biggest surprise of the tournament was Bulgaria with a roster that featured just three players, which won’t be available for the U18 World Championship in spring, and an average age of just 16.4 years. There were pessimistic opinions in the Bulgarian hockey community about the participation in Istanbul because of the lack of experience. Martin Raynov was the only one, who played in an U20 World Championship before, as Bulgaria withdrew from the event in Queretaro last July.

“We used that as kind of motivation in the locker room, for sure. Because twenty people that work together for a common goal will achieve a lot. I don’t think anyone of them overstepped the boundaries of their job and their responsibility. It was a group effort,” said Derek Eisler, who is coaching Bulgaria’s U18 and U20 national teams for a second season. On the roster for Istanbul there were five players born in 2007, six each born in 2006 and 2005.

“When you build a squad, you hopefully build it around people first and then the ability to play hockey. We just happen to find good people that can play and want to buy in what’s going on. It’s a long, long road ahead of them. This is a good thing for them to win a bronze medal in their first real championship. But if you want to win a gold medal, you got to put a little more time and effort. We believe as a staff there is still a long way to go. This is a good first step, a good start,” Eisler continued.

Bulgarian won an emotional first game with Türkiye, 5-3, and in the Bronze Medal Game had another victory against the host, 8:3. “We ran a camp in the summer time in August and we identified some core people that we want to build this kind of process around. Those core people just happened to be of younger birth years, that can play both in U18 and U20. Some of them will be able to play four to six U20 World Championships. We just have to continue to build the pieces and process around that core,” explained Eisler.

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