Teams play last tournaments before Kyiv
Except of Kazakhstan, which will be busy this month at the Asian Winter Games, all teams competing in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in April participated in three tournaments of the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge during the February international break where also teams from the top division were entered.
Austria won its tournament in the new arena in Graz on home ice. Raphael Herburger scored the 2-1 overtime winner against Slovakia’s B-team to open the tournament before beating eventual runner-up Norway 2-1 in overtime as well. Lukas Haudum tied the game for Austria with 4:46 left in regulation time and Manuel Ganahl scored the game-winner in a shootout. The Austrians sealed the tournament win after beating France 3-1 on the last day. Both goalies played outstanding with Bernhard Starkbaum having a 95.6 save percentage in two games and Lukas Herzog reaching 97.0 in his game.
The wins against the top-tier nations was a nice success for the Austrian team after only finishing in fourth place last year and missing out on a ticket to the Olympics in the Final Olympic Qualification last September.
The event in Poland included two countries that were promoted to the top division just one year ago in the same city, Katowice, and two Division I teams. Slovenia did its job right winning all three games against Poland, Italy and Ukraine with 16-5 goals. Jan Urbas was most successful with four goals and nine points followed by his teammate Miha Verlic scored three goals and notched five points.
Poland finished the event in second place. After starting with a 4-1 loss to Slovenia, the host team bounced back with two wins. In a neighbouring clash with Ukraine the Poles went up 2-0 in the first period but Ukraine tied the game in the last period. Eventually Patryk Wronka scored the game-winner in a shootout. Ukraine finished in third place thanks to its 4-3 win against Italy on the opening day after Dmytro Ignatenko’s overtime winner.
Korea hosted its EIHC tournament in Goyang in the Seoul region where it hosted a Division I tournament three years ago. It was a tight race between Denmark, Hungary and Korea each winning two games and earning six points while Japan was winless. In the end it was the Danes, the only top-division country of the tournament, who won.
The Danes started with a 4-2 loss to host Korea in front of a full house with 2,207 fans but bounced back with wins against Japan (6-1) and Hungary (5-1). Denmark needed to beat Hungary with a margin of at least three goals to win the tournament on the last day and did so. Julian Jacobsen scored the 4-1 goal on a two-man advantage in the third period that won his team the tournament, the fifth goal went into the empty net.
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Austria|
|9 Feb.||Graz (AUT)||France||Norway||1-4|
|9 Feb.||Graz (AUT)||Austria||Slovakia B||2-1 OT|
|10 Feb.||Graz (AUT)||Slovakia B||France||1-3|
|10 Feb.||Graz (AUT)||Austria||Norway||2-1 SO|
|11 Feb.||Graz (AUT)||Norway||Slovakia B||2-1|
|11 Feb.||Graz (AUT)||Austria||France||3-1|
|Standings: 1. Austria 7, 2. Norway 7, 3. France 3, 4. Slovakia B 1|
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Korea|
|5 Feb.||Goyang (KOR)||Hungary||Japan||2-1|
|5 Feb.||Goyang (KOR)||Korea||Denmark||4-2|
|6 Feb.||Goyang (KOR)||Japan||Denmark||1-6|
|6 Feb.||Goyang (KOR)||Korea||Hungary||2-5|
|7 Feb.||Goyang (KOR)||Denmark||Hungary||5-1|
|7 Feb.||Goyang (KOR)||Korea||Japan||3-0|
|Standings: 1. Denmark 6, 2. Hungary 6, 3. Korea 6, 4. Japan 0|
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Poland|
|6 Feb.||Katowice (POL)||Italy||Ukraine||3-4 OT|
|6 Feb.||Katowice (POL)||Poland||Slovenia||1-4|
|7 Feb.||Katowice (POL)||Poland||Ukraine||3-2 SO|
|7 Feb.||Katowice (POL)||Slovenia||Italy||6-2|
|8 Feb.||Katowice (POL)||Ukraine||Slovenia||2-6|
|8 Feb.||Katowice (POL)||Poland||Italy||4-1|
|Standings: 1. Slovenia 9, 2. Poland 5, 3. Ukraine 3, 4. Italy 1|
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