Friday, May 23, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part Five)

Welcome to the fifth post of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal.

Links for Part One, TwoThree, and Four are right here, where I painstakingly checked out Division III, Division II B, Division II A, and Division I B respectively.

Yesterday's post covered the triumph of Poland in Division I B. Congrats to the Poles for moving one step closer to joining the championship tournament. Next year, they'll compete in today's subject, Division I A, and attempt the leap into the top tier. While one team rises, one must fall, so Romania will sink into Division II A and attempt to move back up next year.

Speaking of Division I A, that would be our subject today. The second tier of the IIHF tournament ladder features six teams similarly to the preceding Division II, but there's more at stake than any other tournament. Winning in this tier means a shot at the gold medal in the IIHF World Championship tournament, the ultimate goal of the annual series of tournaments. Even more interesting is how two teams are promoted to the Top Division, while only one moves down. It's a tougher division to try to move up but plenty of the teams in the division now have bobbed up and down the bottom tiers in the last decade. The rising teams must compete against the likes of Canada, Russia, United States, Sweden, Finland, and all the other mainstays in the upper tier, which is quite the tall task. For this year, the Division I A tournament took place in Goyang, South Korea from April 20th to 26. Here are the final standings:

All charts courtesy of Wikipedia

Slovenia and Austria rise from the absolute dogfight that took place in this tier, while host South Korea were throttled in all five of their games and see demotion after being shut out of points. The difference-making games in this tier were Austria's overtime wins over Ukraine (3-2) and Hungary (5-4). Notable players in this tier's roster list were Austria's Michael Grabner (New York Islanders), Michael Raffl (Philadelphia Flyers), former Detroit Red Wing and the world's second most successful Slovenian player Jan Mursak, and his superior Anze Kopitar. Wait a minute...you must be asking yourself how Kopitar can be in two places at once. Great question! The NHLers I mentioned didn't actually play a single shift in the tournament. I can't say for sure what Grabner and Raffl were doing but Kopitar is a little busy winning playoff games in the NHL to play for his country. So this all begs the question.

Why the hell were these guys named to the team when there was no G-D way they were going to play?!?

Perhaps they thought the threat of Kopitar and Grabner was enough to have the other teams roll over. Looks like it all worked out anyway.

Here's the tournament's top scorers:


Good job, Thomas Koch, for winning the scoring race without scoring. Austria obviously dominated the scoring in this tournament, but kudos to seeing Kim Ki-sung of lowly South Korea get seven points in five brutal losses.

Here the top goaltenders:



Not exactly a goaltending duel in any of these games. Oh well, here's some actual footage via YouTube:





The Hungarian jerseys are awesome, and at one point a lot of Hungarians were reading this blog so here's a little something for them.

Tournament directorate named goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji of Japan (the first Japanese player to make the NHL), Austrian defenseman Dominique Heinrich, and forward Jan Muršak of Slovenia the best positional players. How does three points in five games get you the tournament's best forward? Maybe he killed every penalty or something. I don't know, I'm running out of steam for this tier.

Starting Monday I dig into the big tournament. You know, the one you all probably thought all these posts was about but I tricked you into reading five other posts first. See you then!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part Four)

Welcome to the fourth post of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal.

Links for Part One, Two, and Three are right here, where I painstakingly checked out Division III, Division II B, and Division II A respectively.

Yesterday's post described Division II A in all its glory. Congratulations to the Estonian national team for clobbering Division II A and moving up into Division I B for next year's tournament. I-B is the subject of today's post, as it is the third tier of the IIHF tournament. This year's iteration took place in beautiful Vilnius, Lithuania from April 20th to 26th and THANK GOD SOME NHLERS ARE IN THIS TOURNAMENT. All due respect to other leagues in Europe, I know nothing about their players unless they played at some point in North America. It's been a struggle reporting on these lower tiers but finally I have a chance to talk about players I am familiar with. Here are the tournament standings:

All standings are courtesy of Wikipedia.
Poland advances in to Division I A and moves one step closer to getting a chance to play in the top tier. Poland's win is all the more impressive because they were able to defeat a Lithuania team led by this man.

Image courtesy of Lisa Gansky via Wikipedia.

That's right, it's New Jersey Devils forward Danius Zubrus! He had a great tournament with 9 points in 5 games, but the Lithuanians fells short of rising to the top in a very competitive division. The top four teams finished within three points of each other and there were several one goal games that were key in setting up sight a tight contest. Great Britain had a great showing this year, winning a 4-2 contest against the eventual champion, Poland.

Here are the tournament's top scorers:


Zubrus and his linemates were the toast of the tournament. Shoutout to Colin Shields of Great Britain, who netted a hatrick against the Poles. Most impressive. I predict next tournament Great Britain pushes up the standings and contends to move up to Division I A.

Here are the tournament goaltenders:


Polish goaltender Przemyslaw Odrobny was arguably the MVP of the Division I B tournament, winning four games and only conceding four goals with a .955 save percentage. This division, more-so than the previous ones, was very tight series of contests that turned into goaltending duels. Those are some impressive stat lines for the goaltenders. The tournament directive selected Zubrus as top forward, Odrobny as goaltender, and Alan Letang from Canada...er, Croatia for defenseman. Letang had a cup of coffee in the NHL, playing in 14 games with only 2 PIM to show for it. He has been a mainstay in the German and Austrian leagues for the vast majority of his career.

Tomorrow we visit Division I A, the second highest tier on the IIHF tournament. Thanks for taking the time to check out these surveys of the tournaments, it's been a pleasure writing them. See you again tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Results (Part Three)

Welcome to the third of a miniseries of posts I am going to make about the 2014 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship tournament. Most people don't realize that this tournament isn't just sixteen teams competing to win the gold medal. There are dozens of countries in various divisions competing to rise up the ladder of international ice hockey. In this, the 78th edition of the IIHF tournament, there are actually 46 teams trying to improve their international ranking and someday grab the gold medal.

Click here and here for parts one and two, respectively, where we had a look at Division III and Division II B.

As I mentioned in Part Two of the mega-post, Division II is sliced into group A and B. Group A is the upper tier of the division, and represents the fourth tier of the IIHF tournament. This year's edition was hosted in beautiful Belgrade, Serbia, from April 9th to April 15th. Here are the standings:

All charts courtesy of Wikipedia.

Estonia dominated this division, going 5-0 and only giving up 8 goals in five games. They were last year's losing team in Division I B and sank into the lower tier. It's a recurring trend for relegated teams to bounce between divisions until they can improve just enough to hold on to a slot in the division. Host Serbia improved on its fifth place finish last year, finishing 3rd. Israel just misses holding on to a spot in the division, losing a 4-3 decision in overtime to Belgium as well as a 4-3 contest to Iceland in a shootout. The 16-3 thumping to Estonia didn't help matters, and now Israel will have to claw its way back up into a division group that had four teams finish within three points of one another.

Here are the tournament's top scorers:



And the top goaltenders:



Directorate selected all-stars were Estonia's Robert Rooba for forward, Iceland's Ingvar Thor Jönsson for defenseman, and Serbia's Arsenije Ranković for goaltender. Yes, that guy's middle name is Thor. Iceland's players always have the best names. Remember Gunnar Stahl from D2: The Mighty Ducks?

This tournament finally featured players that were possible to find in European leagues across the continent. Rooba's an SM-liiga player for the Espoo Blues, and this season had four points in 36 games. Eliezer Sherbatov is an Israeli hockey player who had notable time with The Montreal Junior Hockey Club from 2009 to 2011, later with with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. He's currently trying out for teams in France. Oren Eizenman is an Israeli-Canadian centre who had two brothers who played hockey as well, but he most recently played in the Asia League with the Nippon Paper Cranes before playing for Israel last year and this year in the IIHF tournament. He had a cup of coffee in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and Connecticut Whale in 2010-11, but never got a whiff of the NHL. The year before hit pit stop in the AHL he scored 19 points in 15 games with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. If you like weird random facts about hockey players, Oren's father, Brett, helped to found the Israel Baseball League. Hey, I thought it was cool.

Next up for this mega-series is Division I A and finally we see some NHLers in the lower tiers of the tournament. Stay tuned for the inevitable Dainius Zubrus love-fest. Go Lithuania!