The 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships A-Pool in Gangneung, South Korea, which also served as a Test Event for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics, were full of highs, lows, laughter and tears.
Canada took the gold against defending champions the USA, while South Korea claimed bronze. Norway finished fourth ahead of Italy with Sweden sixth and Germany seventh.
Here are seven things we learned about each of the teams:
1. McGregor is quick for Canada
Arguably nobody had a better tournament than 23-year-old Tyler McGregor, who finished tied for the tournament lead with 12 goals and played with the charisma of a veteran leader. He had games with a hat trick, but the icing on the cake came when he scored back-to-back goals in a matter of 17 seconds in the gold-medal game against the USA to solidify Canada’s record fourth world title.
2. Grove and Wallace can lead the USA into the future
The dynamic duo of young forwards Brody Roybal and Declan Farmer on Team USA is no longer a surprise; both are now expected to be seen among the scoring leaders in any tournament. However, a pair that did surprise were teenage rookies Noah Grove and Jack Wallace. Both future playmakers scored their first-ever international goals – Grove in USA’s 9-0 victory against Germany and Wallace in USA’s 5-0 win over South Korea.
3. South Korea proves its worth
En route to a bronze medal, its second-best finish in the history of the event, South Korea had two goals that proved to be absolute game-changers and gave its jubilant home fans something to cheer about. First, PyeongChang 2018 Ambassador Seung-Hwan Jung scored the game-winner with 3:17 left in South Korea’s 2-1 win against Germany and could not wipe the smile off his face afterward. Second, international wheelchair fencing medallist Dong-Shin Jang scored the winning goal in the team’s 3-2 victory over Norway with just 1:51 remaining in the contest; he was at a loss for words after the game, resting solidly on cloud nine.
4. Bakke on top for Norway
Two-time Paralympian Audun Bakke proved he is no longer just a role player for Norway; he is a star in the making. With 33 seconds remaining in overtime in Norway’s preliminary round game against Germany, he smacked the puck to the top right corner of the net to give his team a 2-1 victory. Without those crucial two points in the standings, Norway would not have made it to the bronze-medal game.
5. Kalegaris played the hero for Italy
Sandro Kalegaris led his team with seven of its 15 goals in the tournament. Perhaps no goal was more important than his game-winner in a 3-2 penalty-shootout victory against South Korea in the preliminary round. The win helped Italy remain in the top five in the standings and would eventually lead the squad to a Paralympic qualification spot at the end of the tournament.
6. Sweden’s Lundgren showed ability to impress
Despite losing to its long-time rivals Norway, two-time Paralympian Rasmus Lundgren had perhaps one of the most impressive goals of the tournament in the final period of that game. The 25-year-old powered the puck from nearly the neutral zone all the way into the top of the net, whizzing it right past Kjell Christian Hamar and showing Para ice hockey fans just how amazing the sport can be.
7. Youngster Kuhli-Lauenstein has confidence of German coach
Although Germany finished in seventh place, the team still had some impressive goals and bright spots throughout the event. Perhaps none more so than young forward Ingo Kuhli-Lauenstein, whom head coach Andreas Pokorny highly touted during his broadcast interview prior to the team’s final game in Gangneung. Although he averaged just 19 minutes of ice time, the future certainly looks bright for Germany with a potential star to come in the next Paralympic cycle.
With their top five finishes Canada, the USA, South Korea, Norway and Italy all advance directly to PyeongChang 2018. Sweden and Germany will play at the qualification tournament later in 2017.