We move on to tiers five and six as we conclude our look at men’s international hockey with our recap of the 2019 IIHF Division III and Division III Qualification tournaments. The Division III tournament was held in Sofia, Bulgaria while the Division III Q tournament took place in exotic locale of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The UAE is about as non-traditional market as it gets.
Bulgaria cruised to promotion to Division IIB, winning all five games and finishing with a robust goal differential of +32. At this level, many of the teams don’t get consistent goaltending. Even though Bulgaria dominated Chinese Taipei on the scoreboard, the game was actually much closer than indicated. Turkmenistan benefits from having several ethnic Russians on the team who likely grew up playing in Russia. After Bulgaria, the tournament was pretty wide open with competitive games played between the four teams who will remain at this level next year.
Bulgarian Miroslav Vasilev was the scoring leader with ten goals and 16 points. His teammate Ivan Hodulov also scored ten times. Chinese Taipei’s Weng To dished out a tournament-high eight assists and finished with 15 points.
The tournament’s directorate named Bulgaria’s Dimitar Dimitrov (1.40 GAA) as the best goaltender, Chinese Taipei’s Shen Yen-Lin as the best defenseman and Vasilev as best forward.
Division III Qualification
Yes, some of these tiny nations play hockey. The United Arab Emirates is really trying to showcase hockey and it has “exploded” there over the last decade. They have a lot of foreign workers (Canadians especially) living there which probably helps. Anyway, Kyrgyzstan rolled through this tournament with ease. Well, they would have had they not played an ineligible player – Aleksandr Titov. I’m honestly not sure why he was ineligible, but I’m guessing it had something to do with his nationality. Kyrgyzstan being a former Soviet Republic has several ethnic Russians on the team. The only game that they didn’t have to forfeit was the final one against UAE, the team that benefited from the mishap and advanced to IIIA. which they won with relative ease. . On another note, this was both Thailand’s and Kyrgyzstan’s first appearance at a World Championship.
All statistics from Kyrgyzstan’s first four games were not counted by the IIHF, including their opponents scoring and goaltending details. Having mentioned that, Artur Zainutdinov was the unofficial scoring leader with 13 goals and 18 points.
Next year, this will become the Division IIIB tournament and it will be played in South Africa.