South Korea fresh off a promotion

By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News

Fresh off a promotion to the world’s top competition, the South Korean men’s national hockey team will open its off-ice training camp next week.

The Korea Ice Hockey Association (KIHA) said Thursday the players will report to Jincheon Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul, on Sunday. They will start their 11-week program the following day, through July 27.

Coached by former National Hockey League defenseman Jim Paek, South Korea finished in second place at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A tournament late last month in Ukraine. It elevated South Korea to the IIHF World Championship, the top-flight competition in men’s hockey, for next May.

Before the worlds, South Korea will make its Olympic debut on home ice at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games in February.

In Paek’s regime, improved conditioning and team speed have been cited as keys to South Korea’s success. In Ukraine, South Korea relied on its superior quickness to apply effective forechecking and staged some third-period comebacks against exhausted opponents.

For the upcoming camp, South Korea has recruited the help of EXOS, a U.S.-based training company, and its Korean trainer Lee Chang-ho will be on hand.

The KIHA said the focus of the off-ice training will be to help minimize the risk of injuries and improve players’ overall strength and agility.

It added that 23 players will first report to Jincheon, but up to two more players could be added during the course of the camp.

Following the camp, South Korea will travel to Europe on July 28. It will split its time in Russia and the Czech Republic, and play professional teams from those countries in practice games.