Month: May 2023 (Page 1 of 2)

Canada rallies to win gold

Canada overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to claim their second gold medal in three years with a 5-2 win over Germany

By Andrew Podnieks –

Patient and calm, Canada scored the only three goals of the third period to break a 2-2 tie and claim their second gold medal in three years, defeating Germany, 5-2, in the final game of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Samuel Blais made it 3-2 at 4:51 of the third, backhanding a rebound from in close, and Tyler Toffoli made it 4-2 on a 2-on-1, beating Mathias Niederberger five-hole for the insurance goal. Scott Laughton added an empty netter to seal the deal.

Blais’ goal, his second of the night and sixth of the tournament, was the result of a turnover by Maksymilian Szuber, who was stripped of the puck by Cody Glass behind the Germany goal. Glass tried a wraparound, and Blais took care of the rebound.

Toffoli’s goal was the result of another German error, this by Marcel Noebels, who moved into the slot in Canada’s end only to fan on a great scoring chance that might have tied the game. Instead, Toffoli claimed the lose puck and went up ice to score.

“It’s the team that wins, said assistant captain Milan Lucic, playing in his firstt World Championship. “We had a really good team that came together, and that’s why we’re champions. I always believed in this group. I think that was a big part of us winning the gold medal. Anytime Canada is in a tournament, we expect to win gold, Canadians expect us to win gold, so it’s nice to bring another championship home. The people of Canada really love and appreciate it.”

“I think we can be so proud of what we did here as Germans, after coming in here, losing the first three games,” said JJ Peterka. “And then with our backs to the wall, having a do-or-die game every game and coming together like that. Coming back late in the third against the U.S. just showed how much how much we wanted it. And today we wanted to [do it again], but sometimes it doesn’t happen. We were just so close. We were in the game in the third period. I think at the end, little mistakes kind of like cost us the game. Canada is too good. They took advantage of that and scored two goals.”

Canada has now been in 13 of the last 21 gold-medal games, winning seven, and has earned a medal in each of the last four years (two gold, two silver). In all, this is gold number 22 in the stand-alone World Championship history.

Today’s win was espeically notable for 18-year-old Adam Fantilli, who becomes just the second Canadian and 11th player to win World Junior gold and World Championship gold in the same season.

For Germany, the loss is a bitter pill to swallow, but the silver medal is their first at the World Championship since 1953 (when only three teams competed). In all, Germany has now won three silver medals (1930, 1953, 2023) and one bronze (1934), so this year’s achievement is nothing short of extraordinary.

“It’s something I can’t really describe right now,” said MacKenzie Weegar, the tournament’s leading scorer among defenders. “I’m just trying to take it all in at the moment. But right from training camp in Budapest, to Riga, to here it’s just been a really surreal experience and it’s all worth it with a gold medal around my neck. There were lots of bumps. Slovakia in OT, we lost to the Swiss, we lost to Norway. We had to come together and learn as a team. We stuck with it, we learned from our mistakes and we came out on top.”

Germany had the better start right from the opening faceoff, showing more interested in getting the puck deep and chasing it down. Canada looked tentative and unsure, and didn’t look particularly intent in playing in the offensive end. Slowly but surely, though, the game opened, and Germany struck first. 

Moritz Seider fired a long pass to JJ Peterka at the Canada blue line. He brought the puck under control and went in alone, snapping a shot under the glove on Samuel Montembeault at 7:44 to make it 1-0. Canada coach Andre Tourigny’s staff thought the play might have been offside and requested a coach’s challenge, thinking Peterka’s skates were inside the blue line as he tried to control the puck, which was right on the line. The video review favoured Germany, and Canada had to play a man down as well.

They weathered that storm and tied the game soon after off the rush. Jake Neighours made a pass in centre ice that hit a skate and bounced fortuitously to Peyton Krebs, and he went in on a 2-on-1 with Blais, who wired a shot high over Niederberger’s shoulder after getting the perfect feed from Krebs at 10:47.

Play turned tepid as the second period began as teams didn’t want to open up and leave themselves vulnerable. It became apparent this was going to be a low-scoring game, and goals would be hard to come by. Germany took the lead at 13:47 on a weird play. They tried to clear the puck in deep from centre but it hit a player at the blue line, then hit another man in front after an errant pass. But then it landed on the stick of Daniel Fischbuch, and he beat Montembeault before anyone knew what had happened.

But as in the first, Canada didn’t panic and tied the score less than four minutes later, on the power play. It was Krebs again who was the set-up man, this time finding Lawson Crouse in front, inside Germany’s defensive box. Crouse just redirected Krebs’s pass past Niederberger’s glove at 17:28.

In the third, it was all Canada, looking poised and confident, their experience in pressure games evident. It seemed just a matter of time before they would go ahead, and Blais provided the gold-medal-winning goal in due course.

Even at the end, when coach Harold Kreis pulled Niederberger for a sixth skater with 3:21 to play, Canada never looked like they would surrender the lead, and at 18:06 Laughton hit the empty net to start Canada’s celebrations early.

“I think it was an even fight, and if we learn from our mistakes, I think we’ll be in a good position in the upcoming years,” said Moritz Seider, the team’s young star on the blue line. “We haven’t done this in 70 years, so nobody can take that away from us. We made history today. The team made history, and I’m really proud of every one of us.”

Latvia wins historic bronze in OT

The Latvian team rejoices after a 4-3 overtime win over the U.S. in the bronze medal game of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Finland – Latvia.

By Lucas Aykroyd –

Kristians Rubins scored the late equalizer and the sudden-death winner at 1:22 as Latvia rallied to stun the U.S. 4-3 for the bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Finland – Latvia. It’s the small Baltic nation’s first IIHF medal ever.

“For the big teams like Canada, this is what they do,” said an ecstatic Miks Indrasis. “They win medals all the time. But for us, it’s like a one-time opportunity. This is unreal.”

In overtime, Latvian captain Kaspar Daugavins carried the puck into the U.S. zone and put a backhanded pass off defenceman Lane Hutson’s skate. The puck came to Rubins and he wired it high for a goal that will never be forgotten.

The Latvian party in Tampere is on, and the party in Riga may never end.

“I’m lucky that I’m a hockey player in Latvia because the people there love hockey so much,” said Martins Dzierkals. “To be a hockey player at this time, I have no words.”

Buoyed by incredible fan support at Nokia Arena on Sunday, the Latvians wanted this historic bronze badly. They played with heart and desperation, taking two first-period leads and then tying it up with under six minutes left in regulation time.

The challenge for the Americans was to get up emotionally after failing to end their 90-year Ice Hockey World Championship gold medal drought. The tournament’s highest-scoring team played hard all night, but fell short. It’s a disappointing outcome after going unbeaten in their first eight games.

“Hockey’s a game of inches,” said U.S. assistant captain Alex Tuch. “Anyone can be beaten on any given day and Latvia got it today and they beat us.”

Both sides were coming off tough semi-final losses. The Latvians led Canada 2-1 through 40 minutes, but fell 4-2. The U.S. faced even greater heartbreak, leading Germany 3-2 with under two minutes left but losing 4-3 in sudden-death overtime.

The U.S.’s Rocco Grimaldi stepped up with two goals in the bronze battle. Grimaldi also scored twice when the U.S. beat Sweden 3-1 in the 2013 World Junior final, the 30-year-old forward’s last IIHF experience.

“You could see what this means to them,” Grimaldi said of Latvia. “I think they probably wanted it little more than we did. We said after the first period, we have to want it as much as they do because they’re playing like it was for a gold medal, not just a bronze. I don’t think we matched their intensity for the full 60.”

It was a fine goaltending showdown between Casey DeSmith and Arturs Silovs. The Latvian workhorse played in all 10 of his team’s games and carried his team to the medals day.

The U.S. outshot Latvia 29-25.

This result is Latvia’s best by a country mile. It’s the first time they’ve ever even played for an IIHF medal. Previously at the Ice Hockey World Championships, they peaked at seventh place in their 1997 debut (Finland), as well as in 2004 (Czechia) and 2009 (Switzerland).

From puck drop, the vibe was jacked up with 11,033 spectators going wild.

As the Latvian fans chanted thunderously and pounded drums, the Americans came out hard and physical. The diminutive Grimaldi nearly knocked Rodrigo Abols into the U.S. bench and Conor Garland laid a glancing hit on Rihards Bukarts that left the veteran forward clutching his face in pain.

On the first power play, Latvia opened the scoring at 7:49 with magic from the Bukarts brothers. Rihards, who’d finish with three assists, slipped the puck cross-crease from the goal line and Roberts roofed it past a helpless DeSmith.

Less than two minutes later, Grimaldi struck back with the equalizer. Flying in to take a pass from Scott Perunovich, he got Silovs moving laterally and then fired the puck from the right faceoff circle inside the far post.

At 16:08, Janis Jaks put Latvia up 2-1, following up on a flashy solo drive by Rihards Bukarts to poke a loose puck past DeSmith’s right skate.

Grimaldi tied it up again with a power play one-timer from the left side with 0:57 left in the first period. It tied him with 19-year-old Cutter Gauthier for the U.S. goals lead (seven).

The Latvians brought in the tournament’s best penalty kill (96.5 percent efficiency), and this was the first power play goal they’d conceded since falling 6-0 to Canada on Day One.

In the second period, Silovs held down the fort as shots favoured the U.S. 10-3. It remained loud and crazy, including an ovation for Latvian president Egils Levits, who was in attendance.

“Obviously it’s something special when the president flies in just to watch the game and we can show him this,” said Daugavins.

At 6:19 of the third period, after a faceoff in the Latvian zone and a Dylan Samberg point shot, Matt Coronato snared a loose puck at the side of the net and fired it home for a 3-2 U.S. lead.

The Latvians kept battling, and Kristians Rubins fooled DeSmith with a shot that slipped through Garland’s attempted shot-block at 14:21 to make it 3-3, sending the arena into a frenzy. Abols nearly ended it with an exciting rush off right wing in the dying moments of the third.

“We just had to push to score, you know,” said Dans Locmelis. “We were down but we still believed in each other and that’s the biggest part of our team.”

The Americans will resume their quest for their first Ice Hockey World Championship gold medal since 1933 at the 2024 tournament in Czechia (Prague and Ostrava).

For Latvia, 2023 will always be cherished as a year where they beat the odds on home ice and then in Finland, making their loyal supporters rapturously happy. Their hunger for more medals is sure to rise now too.

“I don’t think we’re going to be coming in aiming for the medals every year,” said Abols. “Small steps are our goal, but I hope this inspires the people who play hockey. And also, the people who have the 9-to-5 jobs who come out and cheer for us. Hopefully, it inspires them to be better every day.”

Big Plans in Armenia

armenia ice hockey

By George Da SIlva  – National Teams of Ice Hockey

Armenian Ice Hockey League has big plans for the future of the national team and the league.

1. October 2023 Friendly match of the Armenian national ice hockey team after 13 years hiatus.

2. December 2023 Formation of the final composition of the National Ice Hockey Team of Armenia for the 2025 IIHF World Championships.

3. March 2024 Test match will be set up for the Armenian National Ice Hockey Team.

4. May 2024 The Armenian Championship Playoff Cup 2023-2024 season.
September 2024 The start of the Armenian Ice Hockey Championship. 2024-2025 season.

5. May 2025 Participation of the National Team of Armenia at IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships.

Top sports authority issues formal reprimand to ice hockey body

the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China said Thursday it will issue a “written reprimand” to the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association over a national anthem blunder.

Source: The Standard

The Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China said Thursday it will issue a “written reprimand” to the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association over a national anthem blunder.

The association was also urged to submit supplementary info within 14 days on how it would improve its corporate governance, integrity management, and membership system.

The SF&OC’s decision follows fierce exchanges between them and the ice hockey association since the association submitted an 11-page report to the top sports authority on the February incident in which the organizers of an international ice hockey tournament in Bosnia played a protest song rather than the national anthem at the event.

Speaking to the media today, SF&OC’s honorary secretary-general Edgar Yang Joe-tsi said the board has found the team leader of the ice hockey team not following relevant guidelines in the Bosnia game after reviewing the report, in which it decided to issue a “written reprimand” – a very stern warning instead of a general warning.

Yang said the SF&OC will also refine the guidelines to provide solutions for sports teams when they run into extraordinary circumstances.

He said the sports team will be requested to collect a tool kit from the committee before setting off for games, with the organizers of the events required to acknowledge receiving the kit with a written receipt.

Should the organizers refuse to acknowledge or confirm the national anthem and the national flag, team leaders must not let athletes attend the ceremonies, he added.

Lebanon dominates Arab Cup of Ice Hockey, triumphing in the final

Source: LBC

Lebanon won the Arab Cup of Ice Hockey after defeating the hosts Kuwaiti by a score of 9-4 in the final game

Eight teams participated in the tournament, divided into two groups. The first included Kuwait, Tunisia, Algeria, and Bahrain, and the second included Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Oman.

The Lebanese national team outperform its competitors, defeating Saudi Arabia 7-1, Egypt 7-0, then Oman 15-5 to reach the semi-finals and topping its group. 

Additionally, it found no difficulty playing against Bahrain (8-1) before defeating the host Kuwait in the final.

The national team includes players from the diaspora, including 16 from Canada, and received tremendous support from the Lebanese expatriates in Kuwait.

Kuwait and Lebanon to Compete in First Arab Ice Hockey Championship Final

Source: Arab Times

The Kuwait and Lebanon men’s ice hockey teams have advanced to the final of the first Arab Ice Hockey Championship, currently taking place in Kuwait, after defeating Oman and Bahrain, respectively, in the semi-finals on Thursday evening. The Hockey Blue team secured a well-deserved victory over Oman with a score of 13/3, while Lebanon dominated its match against Bahrain with a score of 8/1.

The two teams will face each other in the tournament’s final on Saturday, while Bahrain and Oman will compete for third place. In placement matches from fifth to eighth place, Tunisia defeated Saudi Arabia 14/3, and Algeria beat Egypt 8/3. The Vice-President of the Kuwaiti Winter Games Club, Khaled Al-Mutairi, expressed his admiration for Al-Azraq’s qualification to the final and praised the tournament’s technical and organizational success.

The Chairman of the Omani Ski Sports Committee, Saeed Al Zaabi, was proud of Oman’s progress to the semi-finals, while Kuwait national team player Jassem Al-Awadi expressed the team’s determination to win the championship and dedicate it to their fans. The final match promises to be a competitive and exciting event as it brings together the tournament’s top teams.

Gender no bar: Iranian women prove their mettle in international sports

By Maryam QarehgozlouPress TV

Azam Sanaei, the 34-year-old captain of the Iranian women’s ice hockey team, has just returned from Thailand where her team ended up as the runner-up in the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship.

After impressive performances against formidable opponents throughout the tournament, the Iranian team went down fighting in the summit clash against reigning champion and hosts Thailand 3-1.

On the road to finals, Sanei’s girls defeated India 17-1, Kuwait 20-0, Kyrgyzstan 26-0, United Arab Emirates 14-0 and Singapore 3-0, conceding only one goal in five exciting games.

It was the IIHF debut for Team Melli, and they managed to create history in their first foray. 

Speaking to the Press TV website, the proud skipper said the impressive result shows the women’s ice hockey team “holds enormous potential”.

“Undoubtedly, the Iranian women’s ice hockey team holds great potential, and if we keep on doing a good job, we will definitely get a gold medal in the next tournament,” she said, oozing confidence. 

The 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship was held in Bangkok, Thailand, from April 30 to May 7, organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

According to Sanaei, all seven teams that took part in the tournament were much stronger and more experienced than Iran. The Iranian side went into the competition with only three years of training. 

“Our team trained day and night because we knew other teams were more experienced,” the captain told the Press TV website. “We only trained for three years and had to make up for the gap.”

Sanaei has accompanied the female inline hockey team since it was first formed in 2012. 

In the last more than a decade, the team participated in only three Asian championships and came third every time, Sanaei said, which prompted her girls to work harder this time. 

In 2018, after Asian Roller Sports Championship in South Korea, Iran’s inline hockey team decided to replicate the success in ice hockey.  

The first standard-sized ice hockey rink measuring around 1,800 meters was built only three years ago in Tehran’s northwestern outskirts.

“It was a dream come true for inline hockey players who wanted to play on the ice,” she said.

Since then, the captain said, young players began training hard to secure a spot in the first Iranian women’s national ice hockey squad.

As the ice hockey team’s training coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, international tournaments were postponed indefinitely. The tournament in Thailand presented the first opportunity for Sanaei and her team to prove their mettle at the international level.

“In the final match, our players played beyond their abilities. Our rival was the host country and a title holder, their professional experience led to our defeat,” she said.

“It was nonetheless a close fight, until the end of the second half we were tied 1-1. However, in the third and last period, we were left behind and settled for the second place.”

Fatemeh Esmaili, a 25-year-old striker of the Iranian women’s national ice hockey team, said she and her teammates “did a great job” to make it to the final, even though they had bigger expectations.

“We cried hard after finishing in second place, but we still pulled off an amazing feat,” the leading goal-scorer of the tournament told the Press TV website. 

“When we lost to Thailand, we thought we blew it all, but in all fairness, it was the first time we participated in an official IIHF tournament, and we defeated teams with more professional experience,” she hastened to add.

Their impressive performance didn’t go unnoticed in Iran and across the world. Social media has been flooded with messages of congratulations for the “winner” team since the final.

Iranian government spokesman Bahadori Jahromi, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani and sports minister Hamid Sajjadi in separate messages lauded their incredible achievement. 

On Tuesday, it was announced that all expenses incurred by the members of the team would be paid by the sports ministry, acknowledging their contribution to women’s sports in the country and bringing laurels to the country on the international stage. 

Due to some changes at Iran’s Ski Federation and budget-related issues, the female ice hockey squad had to pay for the visa fee and other expenses, which according to the sports minister will now be covered and the players will be also getting a win bonus for their epic feat.

“While Skating Federation was previously responsible for ice hockey, the discipline was merged with the Ski Federation six months ago and due to the changes, no budget was allocated to ice hockey in last year’s budget plan, so the private sector sponsored the team,” Kaveh Sadeqi, Ice Hockey Society chief said.

“But while we were in Bangkok, the (sports) minister announced they will pay for the expenses.”

Iranian women’s national ice hockey squad, however, is not alone in making history and bringing laurels to the country. Other female national teams, including the women’s futsal team, are also on song. 

In January, the Iranian women’s team was crowned champions of the 2023 CAFA Women’s Futsal Championship.

More recently, in April, young Iranian girls confirmed their spot in the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup Indonesia 2024.

Massoud Hussain, a Tehran-based veteran sports journalist, told the Press TV website that Iranian women’s futsal and football teams have raised the bar in the past years.

“In past two editions, women’s national futsal team defeated Japan, a formidable side, which shows they possess great potential for further progress.”

He added that in addition to team sports, women have done brilliant job in individual sports as well, such as shooting, karate, weightlifting, track and field, and Taekwondo.

Zahra Nemati is one of the most successful Iranian Paralympic and Olympic archers who has won several medals for the country in international competitions.

At the 2012 London Paralympic Games, Nemati won an individual gold and a team bronze. 

Following her performance at the 2015 Asian Archery Championships in Bangkok, Thailand she secured Iran a qualification slot for the Rio 2016 Paralympics as well as the Olympics. 

At the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, she made history by taking home her second gold.

In 2019, Poupak Basami became the first Iranian woman to compete in International Weightlifting Federation World Championships.

She finished sixth in the D session after managing a total of 158kg – 72 kg in the snatch and 86kg in the clean and jerk – breaking her own national record.

Elham Hosseini also made history in the 2022 Asian Weightlifting Championships by winning a gold medal in the women’s 81kg weight class.

In the 2023 Asian Weightlifting Championships, five female Iranian weightlifters are expected to show up for the second qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“Iranian sportswomen are highly motivated, and they can be great representatives and ambassadors for their country,” Sanaei said. “All they need is the support and encouragement they deserve.”


IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship 2023: Preview


Co-hosts Finland will look to retain their men’s world title when the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship begins in Tampere and Riga, Latvia, from 12–28 May.

The Leijonat (Lions) did the rare Olympic Games–World Championship double last season, and the reigning world and Olympic champions will seek to hold off challenges from all sides once again.

National Hockey League (NHL) players are eligible to play in the World Championship as long as their NHL franchise is no longer involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and those players could well make the difference again this year.

Teams and players to watch at the 2023 Men’s IIHF World Championship

Group A will play at the Nokia Arena in Tampere, which was only opened in November 2021 and also served as a host venue for last year’s World Championships. That indoor stadium holds over 13,000 people and is the main arena for the championships, also holding two quarter-finals, both semi-finals, and both medal games. In Group A are Austria, Denmark, hosts Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and the United States.

Group B, meanwhile, will be based in Riga at the Arena Riga, a stadium well used to hosting the IIHF World Championships having done so in 2006 and again in 2021. Some 14,500 spectators can fit in the arena, which will host Group B games along with two quarter-finals. The teams in Group B are Canada, Czechia, Kazakhstan, hosts Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

Group A

FinlandSweden, and the United States are the front-runners to qualify from Group A, with Germany and Denmark likely contesting the fourth spot between them.

While the Finns are defending champions, they will be without Patrik Laine, the Columbus Blue Jackets forward who suffered an injury towards the end of the NHL season and has opted out of the world championships to focus on recovery. Meanwhile, veteran forward Valtteri Filppula, who captained Finland to double gold last year, has not been selected for this year’s team. They will instead rely on the Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen as one of the side’s strongest players this year.

On Team Sweden, the Anaheim Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg – a Sochi 2014 Olympic silver medallist – is the most experienced head with an NHL background on the team’s extended 27-man preliminary list. Other NHLers include Rasmus Sandin and 21-year-old hotshot winger Lucas Raymond.

The United States have named a team mostly centred on players in the minor American Hockey League as well as college teams, with two-time Stanley Cup winner Nick Bonino the most experienced name on the squad. With yet another inexperienced and experimental squad, the Americans’ gold-medal drought might continue. They haven’t won World gold since clinching Olympic gold in 1960 that doubled as the world title. Indeed, they haven’t even reached the gold-medal game at a Worlds since then, although they did win bronze in 1996, 2004, 2013, 2015, 2018, and 2021.

Group B

Over in Group B, Canada are the favourites to win the group, even with a relatively young squad. An exception to that is the 34-year-old Milan Lucic, in line to make his World Championship debut for the Canadians.

Tyler Toffoli, who scored a personal-best 34 goals in the NHL this season, will help lead the front three. The 31-year-old Calgary Flames winger should help provide some experience, having won World gold in 2015. Additionally, World Junior Championship gold medallist Adam Fantilli – projected to be drafted second overall in this year’s NHL Draft – is in the squad and could raise his own stock even higher. In defence, Canada will rely on 34-year-old Brad Hunt to bring his know-how to the ice.

CzechiaSlovakia, and Switzerland all pose significant threats to the Canadians in this group. The Czechs have both Filip Chytil (22 goals for the New York Rangers) and Dominik Kubalik (20 goals for the Detroit Red Wings) among their forward group to provide the firepower. There is bad news for Slovakia however, as the breakout star from Beijing 2022 Juraj Slafkovsky has been excluded from the side after failing to recover from an injury sustained in January while playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Switzerland’s Nino Niederreiter is perhaps the most recognizable NHL name on a roster full of experience, mostly playing in the Swiss league.

Thailand wins women’s 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship gold

By Andrew

Backed by the near-perfect goaltending of Thamida Kunthadapakorn, Thailand won the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Asia and Oceania Championship (IIHF WAOC) with a 3-1 win over Iran in the gold-medal game Sunday in Bangkok. The eight-team tournament saw Kunthadapakorn surrender just one goal in 260 minutes of playing time while her teammates outscored the opposition by a whopping 51-3 margin. The final game was the only one in which the Thais didn’t score at least 11 goals.
Other countries competing in what was formerly known as the Challenge Cup of Asia included Singapore, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, India, Kyrgyzstan, and Kuwait. Singapore won the bronze earlier in the day with a 3-1 win over India.
For Iran and Kyrgyzstan these were historic games, their first women’s participation under the IIHF umbrella. The tournament is particularly valuable to these nations which are not competing in an IIHF World Championship event but nonetheless gives them international experience and also helps prepare them for the Asia Winter Games which will next be played in Trojena, Saudi Arabia, in 2029.
The IIHF WAOC tournament started in 2010, and was won by China in that inaugural season. This year marked the second time Thailand won, the first coming in 2019, the last time the event was played before covid-19 forced the cancellation of hockey worldwide. It also marked the second time Thailand had hosted the event, and all 20 games were played at the Thailand International Ice Hockey Arena in Bangkok, which has the standard international dimensions of 60m x 30m. The explosion of hockey in Asia, and Thailand in particular, is further evident by the imminent opening of another rink, in Chiang Mai, about 700km north of Bangkok, this summer.
In the case of India, the team was coached by Canadian Darrin Harrold, and some 18 of the 20 players came from Ladakh, a region in the far north that is making a major push to develop hockey.
The winning Thais were also coached by a Canadian, Rory Rawlyk, while the players came from a national women’s league that has also made a push to promote hockey. And in Iran, their first rink opened four years ago, and the following year a women’s team was formed, mostly from Inline players. The Tehran Times covered the 2023 IIHF WAOC, an important symbol of respect for the emerging popularity of the game. In the United Arab Emirates, the team held a two-week training camp prior to the tournament, an event they hosted in 2019.
The tournament was played with two groups in vertical structure, the top four in Group A (Thailand, Singapore, Macau, UAE) and the lower-ranked four in Group B. The last two teams in Group B—Kyrgyzstan and Kuwait—didn’t qualify for the playoffs while the top two in A—Thailand and Singapore—automatically advanced to the semi-finals.
Key to Thailand’s win in the final game was holding tournament scoring leader, Fatemeh Esmaeili, in check. Although she led all players with a whopping 17 goals and 26 points in just five games, she was held pointless in the game for gold. At the other end, it was captain Thipwarintorn Yannakornthanapunt who led the way, scoring two goals in the third period to break a 1-1 tie and carry her team to victory. Incredibly, she also took 34 of the team’s 38 total faceoffs in the game, winning 19 (64 per cent).
Supitsara Thamma had given the Thais the early lead, but Zahra Rezaei Jafari tied the game for Iran midway through the second, setting the stage for Yannakornthanapunt’s heroics in the final period.
All in all, the Thai win was impressive and important, but the tournament was, in the bigger picture, indicative of an ever-growing development of the women’s game in the Far East and the evident sense that this growth is only just beginning.

Great Britain deliver World Championship gold and fairytale farewell for Sheffield Steelers’ Jonathan Phillips

Brett Perlini celebrates scoring Great Britain’s opener against Italy

By Phil Harrison – Yorkshire Post

But over the past seven days in Nottingham, Great Britain managed to do that. And then some.

The fairytale ending that everyone connected with the national team wanted for captain Jonathan Phillips was delivered, the Sheffield Steelers’ skipper bowing out of his international career on the ultimate high of leading his team back to the elite group of powerhouse hockey nations such as Canada, Sweden and Finland.

Five games, five wins. The only blemish – if it could be called that – was not putting Poland away in 60 minutes on the second day of the Division 1A tournament at the Motorpoint Arena.

But they got the job done in overtime, the same as they got the job done overall – the party atmosphere that followed Friday night’s deserved 5-3 win over Italy a stark contrast to the tears that were shed when they came down from the top pool after three years just under 12 months ago in Finland.

With Poland having taken care of business earlier in the day against Romania – as expected – it meant the hosts and their Italian opponents went into the final game knowing only one of them would be returning at the first attempt.

Home ice is clearly an advantage at such events but, by the same token, it can also bring with it added pressures, greater expectations.

GB had dealt with that situation well all week but, with everything on the line it was always going to be the toughest examination of their top-tier credentials so far.

The chanting from the sellout home crowd started before the first puck was dropped and it hardly relented all night.

The crowd got their reward just over five minutes in when the hosts went on the power play for the first time following a hooking call on Italy’s Phil Pietroniro.

The man advantage was only 13 seconds old when Mike Hammong took the puck from Evan Mosey and picked out Brett Perlini to poke it home at the back post.

Johnny Curran almost doubled the lead when firing from the right circle following a break by Josh Waller but the next goal came at the other end.

A delayed penalty call gave Italy the extra skater and they used it well, creating space for captain Thomas Larkin to fire through traffic from centre ice just inside the blue line, his effort taking at least one deflection on its way past Ben Bowns and into the net at 11.21.

Ben O’Connor and then Mike Hammond saw shots blocked shortly after as GB tried to hit back quickly when Liam Kirk showed his agility to drive behind the back of the Italy net.

It wasn’t too long into the second period, however, before the GB crowd were on their feet again, only 59 seconds having elapsed before Cade Neilson deceived Fazio by looking to pass across the front of net before steering the puck through the Italian netminder to make it 2-1.

But the Italians refused to go away and were level again just over three minutes later, Alex Petan driving the puck through Bowns from 10 yards out as he fell to the ice off-balance at 24.34.

The scoring pattern continued for the rest of the period, but it was a special goal which put the hosts ahead for a third time when Hammond received the puck at the bottom of the left circle from Ollie Betteridge before proceeding to deceive Fazio by sending him the wrong way and backhanding home into the exposed net from a tight angle to make it 3-2 at 28.43.

But, like a bad smell, Italy came back once more, Daniel Perli showing great composure to fire past Bowns’s left shoulder to drag his team level for a third time at 34.29.

It seemed as if GB were simply unable to press home their advantage any further when forging ahead each time, something they did for a fourth time when – on a delayed penalty – Kirk found Hammond in the left circle again and, in an almost carbon copy of the opening goal, he picked our Perlin at the back post to tap home again at 35.57.

Now the challenge was building on that lead and making it tougher for their opponents to get back in the game.

But they couldn’t pull clear, although they were able to keep the Italians at bay, with Bowns hardly tested at all during the third period.

Mike Keenan’s team huffed and puffed but failed to create any meaningful clear-cut chances.

In the end, the only goal in the final 20 minutes came at the other end, good hassling by Kirk turning the puck over behind the Italy goal, before he laid it back into the path of Neilson who, with Fazio having been pulled with over two minutes remaining, stroked it home to finally give GB the two-goal cushion they had craved all night.

It was a cushion they were not going to let go of.

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