Six Para ice hockey teams will put everything on the line from 26 November to 1 December in Berlin at the Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament. Norway, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Sweden and Japan will play for the final two Beijing 2022 spots that remain up for grabs.
In advance of the tournament, in no particular order, here is a look at six players to keep your eyes on who could make or break the chances for their respective teams.
Robin Meng (Sweden)
The former wheelchair basketball player is on track for a better Paralympic build-up this time around, after having sustained a pair of broken ribs during the PyeongChang 2018 Qualification Tournament, in addition to a concussion and blood poisoning in his right foot leading up to those Games. At the World Championships B-Pool in September, he led host nation Sweden with nine points and five goals, converting on nearly 42 percent of his shots on goal.
Martin Joppa (Slovakia)
The 24-year-old forward has yet to even hit his prime but has already made a name for himself this season by leading Slovakia at its first ever World Championships A-Pool. He had a team-high three goals in Ostrava, and helped the squad pull off an upset of Italy in the preliminary round. He tries to model his two-way game after former Slovakian NHL star Marian Hossa.
Andrea Macri (Italy)
The three-time Paralympian has been a staple of Italy’s defensive line for more than a decade now. At the World Championships A-Pool in June he proved to play a pivotal role, leading the team with five points, including four assists. Macri, a former wheelchair fencer whose passions include gardening, mountain biking and visiting wineries, became a paraplegic in 2008 when the ceiling at his school building collapsed on him.
Ola Oiseth (Norway)
As one of Norway’s youngest national team players at age 22, Oiseth had a breakout performance at this year’s World Championships A-Pool. He scored a game-winning goal and recorded two assists, racking up eight shots total on net over the course of the tournament. Playing for a country looking to recruit newer, younger talent, he is bound to be one to watch for years to come.
Felix Schrader (Germany)
After leading Germany with 13 goals at each of the last two editions of the World Championships B-Pool, the 24-year-old forward has officially entered the spotlight. Defending teams will now have his number in their sights, as he had a plus-15 rating at the most recent World Championships B-Pool and will practically be playing on his home ice in Berlin, not far from his native Hannover.
Masaharu Kumagai (Japan)
The forward began playing Para ice hockey in 2010, the same year Japan last won a Paralympic medal in the sport. He scored eight of Japan’s 19 goals at September’s World Championships B-Pool, converting on a quarter of his 32 chances.