You know the best, now let’s meet the rest! The purpose of this article is to provide a brief summary and scores of the IIHF Men’s U18 tournaments for this year. As the first sentence indicates, I will not be including the Top Divisions as Litter Box Cats provided scores/updates as they were current. That being said, I will remind you that Sweden won gold at the top level Men’s U18 tournament (with Russia taking silver and the U.S. bronze) whilst Slovakia was shockingly relegated (they were also relegated in 2011).
I will start with the U18 tournaments, then move on to the U20s, and then the Men’s divisions. I will also recap the Women’s tournaments, but they only have the U18s and the Women’s tournaments and will therefore not take as long.
*** In the scores table, please note that the score of the left team is always listed first. GWS stands for Game Winning Shots (aka shootout).
Germany stormed through this tournament. They were the better team in every game and were only mildly challenged at times. In the world of ice hockey, Germany had a strong 2018 and are off to a good start in 2019. I spoke to a guy at an EHC Red Bulls München game and he told me that hockey is probably the second most popular sport in Germany, but lags far behind football (soccer). He did say that because of the silver medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics, hockey is getting much more attention. It was good to see Ukraine at a higher level once again. In case you didn’t know, it wasn’t uncommon to see Ukraine compete in the Top Division in the 1990s and 2000s. Although Germany thrashed them, they only out-shot them 46-17. That’s a wide margin, but a team shouldn’t be scoring 13 goals on that many shots. And hey, at least Ukraine got one back.
This was an incredibly close tournament. As you can see, Japan beat some notable European countries like Italy, Austria, and Slovenia. They played their backup goaltender against Hungary as they had already secured promotion. I watched the game against Austria, and Japan dominated most of the game – especially the third period. It was an incredible come-from-behind victory that essentially secured their promotion. They were down 2-0 going into the final frame, just so you know. The rest of the games were close despite some of the scorelines. They were more the outcome of poor goaltending than anything else. If Japan can bring this same team to IA next year, they won’t look entirely out of place (perhaps even do better than Ukraine). The games took place in Székesfehérvár which is a fairly hockey mad city in Hungary. That being said, their hockey rink is one of the weirdest rinks I’ve ever seen. See if you can find some pictures of the inside. Oh, and their team plays in the Austrian league.
As you can see, Spain was completely outclassed. South Korea was on the end of some bad goaltending as they frequently out-shot teams and controlled games, but only ended up with one win. Poland was the class of the group as they won all of their games with relative ease. Romania continues to be a scrappy team as a couple of their losses were closer than the scores indicated.
Here’s where the teams start getting better. Serbia shows that its hockey is improving by capturing their program’s second gold medal of the season (they weren’t done yet!). They were clearly the better team throughout. Even though the Dutch beat them in overtime, they were out-shot 36-19 in doing so. The Serbs thrashed Belgium, but Belgium’s goaltending continues to be an issue at every level (they do have a draftee in Wouter Peeters, taken by Chicago in the third round in 2016). They were, however, only out-shot 45-19. Therefore, the score is a little flattering.
Most of these games were pretty close. Even taking shots on goal into account, nobody actually got dominated that badly. This tournament shows the continued growth of Icelandic and Turkish hockey. Bulgaria has a history of ice hockey and they are starting to put some money back into it. Many youngsters travel to nearby countries (the Czech Republic is a favorite) to develop their skills. For those wondering, the three teams that finished with 9 points were ranked according to their goal differentials against each other. Mexico edged New Zealand via its head-to-head shootout win, sending the Kiwis down a rung.
Nothing much to say about this one. Chinese Taipei dominated to move up to IIIA and continue to show that they are putting some effort into growing hockey while Hong Kong, South Africa and Luxembourg have a way to go.