Links for Part One, Two, Three, 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!