Month: April 2023 (Page 1 of 2)

Japan wins Group B, earns promotion

By  Derek O’Brien –

Japan capped off a perfect Division I Group B tournament with a victory over Ukraine in the last game. As a result, Japan has earned a promotion to Group A next season. Led by two power-play goals from Yushiroh Hirano, Japan built up a 5-0 lead and then held on to win 5-3 before a largely pro-Ukrainian crowd of 3870.

“I don’t care how we play, just as long as we win this one,” said Hirano, holding the gold first-place trophy. “I appreciate the work of my teammates and the coaching staff too.”

The Ukrainians, who had won three in a row after opening with a 5-4 overtime loss to China, could have finished first with a regulation win and were not badly outplayed in the game, but failed to capitalize on their chances until it was too late. Ukraine outshot Japan 33-29 in the game.

“It was a hard game for us,” said Ukrainian head coach Vadym Shakhraichuk. “I believed until the last second that we could come back but Japan was unbelievable. Only second place this year but maybe next season we can win first place.”

Kento Suzuki opened the scoring just shy of the eight-minute mark. Right off a faceoff, he leaned into a one-timer that hit a Ukrainian player and bounced down off the ice, fooling Bogdan Dyachenko.

The next bad break for Ukraine came late in the first period when Dymitro Nymenko was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding. With 31 seconds left in the period, Hirano struck for the first time, teeing up a slapper from the point that went over Dyachenko’s glove.

Early in the second period, two straight Japanese penalties gave Ukraine plenty of power-play time and 34 seconds of 5-on-3. They moved the puck well but the Japanese penalty-killers were relentless, blocking numberous shots, including one that robbed Danil Trakht of what looked like a sure empty-net goal.

“Every single player sacrificed himself, that’s why we won this game,” said Hirano.

And then two nearly identical goals 21 seconds apart put Japan in firm control. The first was another power-play goal by Hirano and the second was by Kenta Takagi, both lasers over the glove. At that point, Dyachenko was lifted in favour of Eduard Zakharchenko.

Less than a minute later, just past the game’s midpoint, Ukraine appeared to get on the board but Japanese coach Perry Pearn challenged for goaltender interference, which was upheld.

“I looked up and saw the replay on the board and that made me really confident to call it,” said Pearn. “It looked pretty obvious to me, so it was an easy call and we’d been killing penalties pretty well anyway, so we were confident.”

In the first minute of the third period, Ukraine suffered another bad break when Zakharenko charged out of the net to play the puck, but his clearing attempt hit the chest of Japan’s Kosuke Otsu and bounced into the net to make it 5-0.

Cue the Ukrainian comeback attempt.

On the power play with 14:48 to play, Olexi Vorona’s fifth of the tournament finally got Ukraine on the board. Then it was Ukraine’s turn to get a lucky bounce when Yuta Narisawa stopped Vitali Lialka’s shot and played the rebound to teammate Takagi, who inadvertently played the puck into his own net.

Finally, Illia Korenchuk found the top corner with 3:27 to play and it was suddenly, and surprisingly, a two-goal game.

“We opened the door a little bit with the penalty, and they pushed and pushed.” said Pearn. “Ukraine, you gotta give them credit, they played hard till the end.”

Zakharchenko came out of the net for a sixth attacker as the Ukrainians went for it all, but although they furiously attacked the Japanese net, they simply ran out of time.

Chinese Taipei won the first gold medal

The Chinese team went to South Africa to participate in World Championships Division III Group A and won the first gold medal in team history.

Source: United Daily News

Chinese Taipei ice hockey team has been reporting success. In April last year, it first won the U18 World Ice Hockey Championship Division III Group A . This year, it challenged the  U18 World Championships Division II Group B for the first time and won the bronze medal . The men’s  team won the IIHF World Men’s Championship Division III Group A gold medal in Group A. This is the best result in the team’s 16 year history.

Chinese Taipei established the Ice Hockey Association in 1983, and began to challenge the U18 World Ice Hockey Championship in 1999, and the Men representative team was not established until 2007. Weifeng Zong, secretary-general of the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, mentioned that the first game to played for the Men was in 2008 Challenge Cup of Asia In Hong Kong. “The Challenge Cup held in Asia is for teams that cannot participate in the official championship . The Asian Federation invited us to sign up for the World Championships in 2017, and then we started to participate in the World Championships.”

It was only in 2017 that we began to challenge the world powers. The Chinese team’s journey to the World Championships was suspended for two years due to the  pneumonia epidemic, and almost all the players were “slash” part-time players. They worked during the day and trained at night.  Our first  game in the Championship was against Thailand 11:2 win, the we beat South Africa 6:1, The their game we defeated Luxembourg 10:0, and defeating Turkmenistan 3:1 in the final battle, winning the first place in team history with a complete victory World Championship gold medal.

The World Championships are divided into four levels, which are divided into groups A and B. Although the Chinese team won the first place in the third level, it is still uncertain whether they can be promoted. Weifeng Zong, explained that due to the impact of the epidemic, some countries did not participate or withdrew from the competition. The formal grouping will not be clear until the annual meeting in May of this year.

The Chinese Taipei team achieved great results and we hope to continue our journey to the top in the the future.

UAE emerge unbeaten champions at IIHF World Championship Division 2

The UAE won the IIHF World Championship Division 2 Group B at the Zaytinburnu Ice Rink in Istanbul.

By Amith Passela – The National

The UAE Ice Hockey team continued their progress up the rankings with a historic triumph in the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Championship Division 2 Group B in Turkey.

They defeated Mexico 9-4 in their final game to emerge unbeaten champions in the six-team competition at the Zaytinburnu Ice Rink in Istanbul on Sunday.

Artem Klavdiev put the UAE ahead in the opening minute and then Luka Vukoja and Sergei Kuznetsov stretched their advantage to 3-0 in the first period to set the platform.

UAE captain Juma Al Dhaheri added a fourth early in the second period before Mexico struck twice through Alejandro Apud and Angel Tapia to close the gap to 4-2.

Daniel Cuellar struck for Mexico three minutes into the third and final period to reduce the deficit further to a solitary goal but Al Dhaheri and Kuznetsov were on target for the UAE to regain the three-goal advantage.

Eduardo Valencia pulled one back but that was as close Mexico got, as the UAE struck thrice in the closing stages courtesy Kuznetsov, Klavdiev and Maxim Zakharau to seal the match and the championship title.

Belgium finished second ahead of Bulgaria, New Zealand, Turkiye and Mexico in that order.

Earlier, the UAE outclassed Turkey 8-0, edged out Belgium 4-3, defeated New Zealand 7-1, and overcame Bulgaria 7-2.

Last year, the UAE won the Division 3 Group A in Luxembourg for their promotion to Division 2.

“Winning an IIHF World Championship title for the second year in succession is a remarkable achievement and it is indeed a clear indication of the progress we have made,” Al Dhaheri said.

“We work closely with the IIHF to develop the sport in the country. We have a strong domestic league with full-time foreign players. It is getting better and better every passing year, and the success we have had is due to the continuity of the development strategies in place.”

S. Korea earns promotion in women’s hockey world championship

South Korean women’s national team participating in the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship Division I Group B at Suwon Ice Rink in Suwon, 35 kilometers south of Seoul.

By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News Agency

South Korea has earned a promotion to the next level in the women’s hockey world championship, after completing an undefeated run through the third-tier championship with a narrow win on home ice Sunday.

South Korea edged past Kazakhstan 2-1 to clinch first place at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship Division I Group B at Suwon Ice Rink in Suwon, some 35 kilometers south of Seoul. By winning the tournament, South Korea has booked a spot in the next-highest women’s competition in the IIHF, Division I Group A, for 2024.

It will be South Korea’s debut at that level.

Forward Kim Hee-won broke the 1-1 deadlock with 3:37 left in the third period, as she walked in from the right point for a wrist shot to the top left corner past goalie Arina Chshyokolova.

South Korea outshot Kazakhstan 41-18 in its fifth consecutive victory.

South Korea finished with 14 points from four regulation wins and one overtime win. Italy and Poland were scheduled to play the tournament finale Sunday evening, and Italy, in second place at the start of Sunday with 10 points, can’t catch South Korea even with a regulation win over Poland.

The Division I Group A tournament for 2023 will take place in China in August. The last place from that six-nation competition will trade places with South Korea and end up in Division I Group B for 2024.

South Korea first joined Division I Group B in 2018, one year after winning the Division II Group A tournament.

In 2018, South Korea finished one point behind Italy for first place in Division I Group B. It once again finished in second place the following year, though six points behind the winner, the Netherlands. The 2020 and 2021 tournaments were canceled due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and South Korea barely avoided relegation in 2022 by finishing fifth among six teams.

Carried by still-improving veterans from 2018 and rising teenagers, South Korea opened this year’s tournament with a dramatic, 2-1 overtime victory over Italy, considered the toughest opponent here. South Korea then dispatched Poland 4-0, Slovenia 4-2 and Britain 3-2, setting itself up for Sunday’s drama.

Though Kazakhstan had long been eliminated from contention here with four straight losses prior to Sunday, the team kept South Korea at bay for most of the game, after the teams traded goals in the opening frame.

Han Soo-jin’s power play goal opened the scoring for South Korea about four minutes into the game. Park Jong-ah delivered a diagonal pass from behind the net in the exact same pattern that they’d used for a goal in the Slovenia game from Tuesday.

Kazakhstan tied things up some five minutes later on a goal by Larissa Sviridova.

It was all South Korea from there. The home team outshot Kazakhstan 15-3 in the second period but couldn’t put one past Chshyokolova. A perfectly-placed wrist shot by Kim just after a penalty expired late in the final frame finally put South Korea ahead for good.

Han and Kim, the two goal scorers Sunday, finished tied for the team lead with four goals apiece.


Knight, U.S. prevail 6-3 over Canada to claim women’s hockey world championship gold

USA forward Hilary Knight, center, celebrates her goal with teammates during third period IHF Women’s World Hockey Championship gold medal hockey action against Canada in Brampton, Ont.

Source – Canadian Press

Hilary Knight scored the go-ahead goal as part of a hat trick in leading the U.S. to a 6-3 gold-medal victory over Canada at the world women’s hockey championship on Sunday.

Abbey Murphy, Caroline Harvey and Cayla Barnes added the other goal for the U.S. Aerin Frankel earned the win in goal as the Americans won their 10th world title.

Brianne Jenner, with two goals and an assist, and Marie-Philip Poulin, with a goal and an assist, scored for Canada. Ann-Renee Desbiens took the loss in net.

Jenner has five goals across the last three world championship gold-medal finals. The Oakville, Ont., native had both of Canada’s goals in a 2-1 win over the U.S. last year and one in Canada’s 3-2 overtime victory in 2021.

The two sides have met in every world championship gold-medal final since the tournament’s inception in 1990 except for 2019, when the U.S. defeated Finland and Canada settled for bronze.

Czechia defeated Switzerland 3-2 in the bronze-medal game earlier on Sunday. The 2024 worlds will be held in Utica, N.Y., from April 4-14, USA Hockey announced Sunday afternoon.

The Americans almost opened the scoring just under five minutes in when Lacey Eden sent a backhand on net that almost trickled in from beneath Desbiens’s pads, but the netminder kept it out.

Twenty-five seconds after Hayley Scamurra was sent to the penalty box for hooking, Eden joined her for a delay of game after sending the puck into the crowd from the U.S. zone.

A mere 14 seconds later, Canada struck on the 5-on-3 power play. Poulin scored on a one-timer from the right faceoff circle on a dish from Erin Ambrose 6:23 into the first period.

Murphy knotted the contest with 1:59 left in the first. She took the puck on a dish from Alex Carpenter, put a toe drag move to get around a diving Ambrose and sent it five-hole on Desbiens.

Coming out of a successful penalty kill early in the second period, Canada came out firing with scoring chances. After a few misses, Jenner scored from the point on a dish from Renata Fast 5:03 into the frame.

Knight tied the contest 8:30 into the second. Amanda Kessel drove into Canada’s zone on a 2-on-1, got around a diving Ella Shelton, and sent the puck across to Knight, who tapped it in.

Jenner doubled her scoring total just 69 seconds later. She tipped in a point shot from Fast to make it 3-2 for Canada.

Harvey tied the game 5:40 into the third period. She moved in from the point, made Blayre Turnbull bite on a fake and sent a wrist shot that beat Desbiens glove side.

Knight gave the Americans their first lead of the game with 3:10 left in the third. She scored on a 5-on-3 power play after Jenner (tripping) and Claire Thompson (delay of game) were sent to the penalty box.

Twenty-seven seconds later, Knight completed her hat trick to give the U.S. a two-goal lead. With 1:58 remaining, Barnes furthered the Americans’ advantage with an empty-netter.

Sarah Fillier of Canada was named tournament MVP. She had seven goals and four assists in seven games.

IIHF Women’s Worlds 2024 goes to Utica

The Aud is not just a great hockey arena; it is also of historic importance.

By Andrew Podnieks –

The IIHF and USA Hockey today announced that next year’s IIHF Women’s World Championship will be played in Utica, New York. Two venues will be used for the 31 games—the Adirondack Bank Center and Utica University Nexus Center—and the tentative dates are 4-14 April, 2024.

“We’re thrilled to have the IIHF Women’s World Championship back in the U.S. and could not be more excited to bring the event to Utica,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey. “The leadership of the Mohawk Valley Garden group, led by Robert Esche, in partnering with us, and the support from the state of New York, Turning Stone Resort, and the city of Utica has been fantastic. We know fans will enjoy the opportunity to see the best women’s hockey players in the world in person next April.”
“We are confident that Utica will be an excellent host,” said Luc Tardif, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). “It is always a positive to have someone like Robert [Esche] involved, who played on U.S. National Teams and also played in the NHL, as he brings a unique perspective that will contribute to what we know will be a great Women’s Worlds.”

“Hosting an event as prestigious as the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship is truly an honor, and marks another milestone for the Utica University Nexus Center and Adirondack Bank Center as we continue to grow and build on the sports repertoire in the City of Utica,” said Esche, president of Mohawk Valley Garden, who played eight seasons in the NHL and was also a member of the 2006 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team. “We are very lucky to be able to showcase the highest level of women’s hockey in the world and look forward to partnering with USA Hockey to create the best experience possible.”

The U.S. has hosted the IIHF Women’s World Championship four times, most recently in 2017 in Plymouth, Michigan, at USA Hockey Arena. The Americans won gold that year on a Hilary Knight goal in overtime against arch-rivals Canada. Canada won gold in 2012 in Burlington, Vermont, as well as 1994 in Lake Placid, New York.

The historic Adirondack Bank Center, nicknamed the Aud, is home to the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. In 2011 it was designated as a National Historic Civic Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in recognition of its innovative cable suspended roof. The Utica University Nexus Center, opened in 2022, is home of the Utica University women’s ice hockey team, and contains three ice surfaces. The two facilities are connected by a walkway.
Utica is about one hour due east of Syracuse, New York, and about three hours south of Kingston, Ontario.

Winnipegger to lead German national team

By Taylor Allen – Winnipeg Free Press

Harold Kreis never imagined a local newspaper ad would lead to a more than 40-year pro hockey career overseas.

That, however, is exactly how his story began.

Kreis was a 19-year-old Winnipegger when his grandfather flipped open the paper and read about a coach in Germany seeking Canadian players with German ancestry.

The defenceman had played three years of junior, split between the Kildonan North Stars of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Calgary Wranglers of the Western Hockey League, and was hoping to earn a university scholarship in the United States. Although it wasn’t his original plan, he made the choice to head to Europe and attempt to make a name for himself with Mannheim ERC of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) — the highest level of hockey in Germany.

It was a wise move, indeed. Kreis would go on to play 19 seasons with Mannheim and win two league titles, culminating with the retirement of his No. 3 jersey shortly after he called it a career in 1997 to begin coaching.

“I find with anything in life, you have to be open to opportunities. There’s no doubt about it. But you’ve got to have some luck, too,” Kreis, now 64, told the Free Press by phone Wednesday.

“For whatever reason, my grandfather saw this ad. For whatever reason, we decided to meet this (coach), and after that, it was an easy choice to say, ‘OK, let’s take the one-year contract, let’s take the two-way flight to Germany and try this out. Why not?’ A two-way flight and a one-year contract turned into a nearly 20-year playing career and a coaching career. So, yeah, there’s a lot of luck involved.”

Kreis was also a member of the German national team at the 1984 (Yugoslavia) and 1988 (Calgary) Winter Olympics, as well as 10 world championships.

“The (‘88 Olympics) were special because I was in my home country. Although, playing for a different nation in your home country, that was a little odd, I have to admit. I don’t want to call myself a traitor, but I did change flags,” he said.

Kreis, who lives in the town of Ladenburg, will continue to represent the black, red, and gold on the international stage as the German Ice Hockey Association recently named him the new head coach of its men’s national team.

His first competition will be next month’s world championship in Latvia and Finland, from May 12-28.

Kreis, currently the head coach of the DEL’s Schwenniger Wild Wings, has paid his dues behind the bench for over two decades. He guided both HC Lugano and the ZSC Lions to Swiss league titles before returning to Germany. He’s also been an assistant coach with Germany at three world championships (2010-2012).

His new position is a full-time, year-round job that will take him away from the club game. The national program is currently holding training camp in Frankfurt.

“Twice I was asked if I would take the head-coach job — once before Marco Sturm (who led Germany to a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics) took it, and once before Toni Söderholm, my predecessor, took the job. But both clubs (I was coaching at the time) didn’t want me to take the job. And I thought, ‘OK, after the second time, that’s it. They’re not going to ask me again,’” said Kreis.

But the job became available again in November when Söderholm took the reins of a team in Switzerland.

“They interviewed multiple coaches and they chose me. And the club decided to let me go this time. I was very fortunate the club let me go and that they thought I was the right guy for the job.”

Harold Kreis, now 63, played 19 seasons for the Mannheim ERC of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, winning two league titles.

Mike Schmidt of Palmerston, Ont., played two seasons with Kreis at Mannheimer. The two also coached together in the DEL at Düsseldorfer EG.

“He’s an icon. He’s one of the rare guys that went over and played for one team his whole playing career. That just doesn’t happen at all, which I also think says something about him,” said Schmidt, who played 17 seasons in Germany.

“I think he’ll do just great. He’s a dedicated, thorough coach. He’s a good communicator who gets along well with his players, but he’s got a line that he draws, too, when you need to draw a line.

“And he enjoys it. From my years coaching with him, he enjoys the job. He’s into it and he’s really good at it, too.”

Spain excitedly presents the Ice Hockey World Cup in Madrid 2023

By George Wiliams – Sportsfinding

The Ice Hockey World Championship in Division II of Group A, which will be held in Madrid from April 16 to 22, was presented this Thursday by the Royal Spanish Ice Sports Federation (RFEDH) in the company of the main institutions of the Community of Madrid and the City Council of the capital.

The event was attended by Frank González, president of the RFEDH; Luciano Basile, national coach; Alberto Tomé, Deputy Minister of Sports of the Community of Madrid, and Sofía Miranda, Delegate Councilor for Sports of the Madrid City Council.

The RFEDH has indicated in a press release that “all the speakers have expressed their enthusiasm for hosting the event for the first time in Madrid”. As an added incentive, it will coincide with the centenary of Spanish ice hockey (1923-2023), according to an anniversary that occurred on March 10.

The Spanish team, which was last in Division I in 2011, will have to fight against Israel, Australia, Georgia, Iceland and Croatia in a regular league format, where only the first classified achieves the gold medal that implies the category upgrade.

The debut of the Spanish team, at the Madrid Ice Rink, will be next Sunday against Israel (7:30 p.m.). The group of 22 players coached by Luciano Basile is one of the youngest in Division II, with an average of just over 22 years.

After the press conference, Spain has lost a friendly against Australia. “The meeting was held in front of more than 60 students from a school in Madrid, the result of an activity in coordination with the Madrid City Council that was attended by Alicia Martín, General Director of Sports at the City Council”, added the RFEDH in his note.

This 2023 Madrid World Cup is organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and by the RFEDH itself, with the institutional sponsorship of the Higher Sports Council (CSD) and the Madrid City Council and Community.

In addition, the tournament receives the collaboration of the Madrid Winter Sports Federation (FMDI). The RFEDH has thanked “sponsors such as Lotteries, Joma or Sidgad and official suppliers such as Supercor, Goiko, MiÓptico and Top Global for their participation”.

Latvia Women’s Hockey Team Triumphs In Division IIA At WC

Source: Latvian Ice Hockey Federation

The Latvian women’s national team, led by Finnish specialist Hannu Saintulas, defeated Spain in the decisive game with a score of 4:1 (1:0, 1:0, 2:1). 

With 2-1 victory, Līga Miljone stood out on the Latvian national team, while Karīna Šilajāne and Aija Balode also scored goals.

Kristiāna Apsīte, who saved 26 of 27 opponents’ shots, guarded Latvia’s goal in this game as well.

Apsīte was recognized as the best player on the Latvian team in this game.

As a result, the Latvian national team took first place in the tournament and punch a ticket to one division higher – group B of the first division. Before this game, Spain had also won three games in a row.

The Latvian national team defeated Taiwan 3:2 in the first World Championship game, beat Iceland 6-0 in the second game, and defeated Mexico 8-0 in the third game. 

Since this season, experienced women’s hockey specialist Hannu Saintula from Finland has taken over the leadership of the women’s hockey team. For most of his coaching career, Saintula worked as the head coach of the Finnish women’s national team, where he became a four-time world championship bronze medalist! Also, the 65-year-old Saintula managed the Chinese women’s national team and the teams of the Finnish top league – “Espoo Blues” and “Kiekko-Espoo”. 

Hong Kong, China celebrates historical gold

By  Christophe Roy –

Seemingly down and out at one stage, Hong Kong, China bounced back to win gold at the 2023 IIHF Women´s World Championship Division III Group A in Brasov, Romania.

Top-ranked ahead of arrival, Hong Kong, China´s women dropped two points en route to their top-place finish. With seven first-timers on the roster, the only non-European participant team arrived in Romania as the tournament dark horse.

Despite suffering a shootout loss in their penultimate game after squandering a 4-1 lead against Lithuania, the Hong Kongers regrouped and finally came good to finish top of the standings.

It marks a successful four-week medal spree on European ice for the Hong Kong, China hockey program in World Championship play. In early March this year, its men´s national team finished third to win its first medal in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina. One month on and in wintry surroundings at the foot of the Southern Carpathians, the women´s team continued to write hockey history in Romania. A common denominator for both successful national teams is Russian head coach Nikita Smirnov.

“The last time I worked with the women´s team was at the 2020 World Championship Division III in Sofia, Bulgaria. Now three years later we have a different team with a lot of new players. With players coming from North America and Asia we met in Europe and just had a couple of practices before our first game,” said Smirnov.

Having comfortably beaten Bulgaria 6-2 in their opener, the Hong Kongers´ key win came during the second day against Ukraine. Head coach Smirnov opted to give 15-year-old debutant Keira Mok a start as netminder. It turned out to be a masterstroke with on-song Mok selected as the top goalkeeper of the tournament by the directorate. With the Ukrainians dominating proceedings and winning the shots 31-10 during the first 40 minutes of play, Mok´s inspiring goaltending kept the Hong Kongers in the game.

As the third period wore on, Hong Kong, China worked themselves into the game. Estelle Ip broke the deadlock for the Hong Kongers at 46:23 on an assist by Renee Ng. With Ukraine relentlessly charging ahead in their hunt for an equalizing goal, debutant Iris Li poached to double Hong Kong, China´s lead just over four minutes later. Polina Telehina then pulled one back for Ukraine with 6:37 left to play. In a last desperate attempt, Ukraine yanked goalie Viktoria Tkachenko with 50 seconds to go. The Hongkongers managed to weather the storm in a morale-boosting win that instilled belief within their camp.

“Ukraine is a strong team but I was impressed with our team who worked very hard and played well. With our new generation, it was hard to know before the tournament what to expect. But our ambition has been to win each game,” said Smirnov.

After dispatching Romania 3-1, the Hong Kongers headed into their penultimate game against Lithuania. Tracy Wong had put Hong Kong, China 4-1 ahead at 48:38. Then followed a remarkable fightback by Lithuania. With the Lithuanians tying the game with 4:25 left of the third period, Renee Ng became the only Hong Konger netting in the ensuing penalty shootout loss.

But all was not lost for Hong Kong, China. Heading into the final round of games twists were still left in this tale. Following a nervy 3-0 final day win against Estonia, the players of Hong Kong, China then moved up to the stands of Brasov´s Olympic Ice Rink. In the ensuing nail-biting encounter, they looked on as Ukraine stepped up to edge Lithuania 2-1 and play their part in Hong Kong, China´s historical gold.

Top-placed Hong Kong, China moves up to 2024 IIHF Women´s World Championship Division II Group B.

Valiant Ukrainian team celebrates silver

Heading into their final game against Lithuania, the Ukrainians needed at least two points to leapfrog their opponents to get their hands on the silver medals.

In a tense encounter, Ukraine´s Khrystyna Zahrekova broke the deadlock at 33:07. 16-year-old Gabija Petrauskaite who earlier in the game had hit the post then levelled for Lithuania. But instead of a late rally for the Baltic state chasing gold, Viktoria Tsenova scored Ukraine´s winner with 6:15 left of the third period.
Backed from the stands by a large and vocal contingent of fans inside Brasov´s Olympic Ice Rink throughout the week, Ukraine iced the youngest team by some distance. Disciplined at the back, they conceded the least amount of goals in the tournament. At the opposite end, they also appeared goal-shy struggling throughout the week to convert their superiority in shots into goals.

“We haven´t played for around four years, so just for us to be playing here is very important,” said Ukraine head coach Yevgeniy Alipov. “Now we have a change of generation with older players going out, and younger ones coming in. But we don´t have enough experience right now to make pressure in games which were visible in most of our games and especially in the one versus Hong Kong, China.”

Ukraine´s leading scorer in Brasov was Telehina notching 5+4 in five outings. Still only 19, she has already played club hockey in Ukraine, Turkey, Italy and Switzerland. Telehina was one of five on the Ukrainian roster representing HC Ambri-Piotta in Switzerland. Another player standing out for the Ukrainians was Tetiana Kyrychenko, voted the tournament´s best defender by the directorate.

Bronze for a dejected Lithuania

Silver medalists last year, the southernmost and largest of the three Baltic states arrived in Brasov aiming to go one better this year. In their penultimate thriller against Hong Kong, China, rallying back from 1-4 down to win the ensuing penalty shootout had put Lithuania in the driver´s seat for gold.

With destiny in their own hands, Lithuania stepped out on the ice needing two points from their final game against Ukraine. Lithuania´s vastly experienced German coach Bernd Haake had in Romania relied heavily on his top two lines. Following an intensive schedule in Brasov with competitive games contested in quick succession, Haake knew they were up for a tough task against Ukraine.

“Our goal coming here was to get the gold medal, but I know, Ukraine will be very strong. We played them in Estonia earlier this year. They then outshot us, but we won the game 7-4. Back then they only had 15 girls, now they are 20. Ukraine has also been on a training camp here in Romania for a week and to me, they are the favourites,” he said.

Despite falling tantalisingly short against the Ukrainians 2-1 in Brasov´s Olympic Ice Rink and slipping down to third, Haake sees a bright future ahead for Lithuanian women´s hockey. Voted as the tournament´s best forward, 19-year-old Klara Miuller was also top of the scoring charts with 18 points (13 +5) in five games. Others who stood out for the Lithuanians were 15-year-old debutant Viltaute Jasinevicuite tallying 4+5 and Petrauskaite with 3+6. All three have played on boys’ teams from a very early age.

“The young generation is coming up and our best players are the girls who have started to play with guys. What is very good in Lithuania is that coaches of all teams have accepted that girls can start playing with boys’ teams from a very young age. This is very good progress,” said Haake.

Winless after three games, fourth-placed hosts Romania was rewarded for their hard graft by blanking Estonia 4-0 in their penultimate fixture. The Romanians then closed the tournament to hit double digits in a 10-2 win against neighbours Bulgaria. In a heated encounter with a whopping 554 penalty minutes, Ana Voicu enjoyed a five-goal night playing in her hometown.

Bulgaria finished fifth and was led in the offense by Simona Asparuhova who was overall second in scoring notching 11 points (5+6) points. Newly promoted Estonia battled valiantly throughout the tournament but finished without a point at the bottom of the standings.

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