The Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament are being streamed live on World Para Ice Hockey’s website, beginning Monday (9 October) in Ostersund, Sweden.
Livestream commentator Jonathan Bell – who previously covered this year’s World Championships A-Pool - gives his predictions for Ostersund 2017, where three of the five teams will advance to PyeongChang 2018.
Para ice hockey’s yo-yo team appear to be very strong contenders to board the plane to PyeongChang next year following their dominance of the World Championships B-Pool in Tomakomai, Japan. They won gold without conceding a goal along the way and their defensive resilience alongside their offensive potency makes me believe they will be competing at a third consecutive Paralympic Winter Games.
After missing out on the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Andreas Pokorny and company will be hoping third time’s a charm. An underwhelming World Championships A-Pool showing earlier this year makes me question the Germans’ ability to successfully overcome the other outfits at this tournament that have momentum on their side.
The Japanese have had to make by far the longest trek in order to be here in Ostersund, and they are determined to make sure the heavy mileage was worth it. Unfortunate not to win gold at their home Worlds B-Pool last year, Japan are very familiar with the likes of the Czech Republic and Slovakia and will no doubt be fancying another silver placing (at least) which will secure a much kinder trip across to South Korea.
Tomakomai 2016 provided great encouragement for a Slovakian squad that is still in its relatively early stages –especially compared to the more established set-ups present this week in Osrtersund. Radoslav Bielecka’s team are more than capable of being the dark horses of this tournament and will be hoping to replicate their top-three finish from the B-Pool. The achievement of securing a first Paralympic Winter Games slot would be huge for the Slovakians, however I feel they will be edged out.
I think Sweden will make the cut for PyeongChang 2018 due to a couple of factors: firstly, Erik Vikstrom’s men will use the support of the home crowd as an incentive to finish in the top three; also there appears to be a great sense of morale in the Swedish camp after their commendable sixth-place finish at the World Championships despite some difficult circumstances. A change of coaches also offers a new freshness around a predominately experienced team, and that mix coupled with home advantage should put them in good standing.
A thoroughly tight and entertaining tournament is on the cards this week at the Ostersund Arena. Anyone of the five teams has the capacity to break into the top three and secure those all-important qualifying slots for PyeongChang 2018. There is no doubt that those who make the top trio this week will have had to have earned their ticket to next year’s Games.
Jonathan Bell can be followed on Twitter
The Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament are taking place from 9-14 October in Ostersund, Sweden. The Tournament is the last opportunity for teams to qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Games, in which the top three finishers will advance.
All games from Ostersund 2017 are being streamed live on the official event website and live statistics and results are also available.
Photos will be made available for media to download throughout the tournament on the IPC’s Flickr account.