Ostrava 2019: Battle for world title begins

Top eight teams face off for Championship glory 26 Apr 2019
By Stuart Lieberman | For World Para Ice Hockey

The 2019 World Para Ice Hockey Championships will take place in Ostrava, Czech Republic beginning on Saturday and concluding with the bronze and gold medal games on 4 May. The world’s top eight ranked teams will face off in the first major international tournament since last year’s Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Here is what you need to know.

What is new?

This year’s World Championships will fall under a new format that follows the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) advisor-recommended schedule.

The world’s top four-ranked teams will be playing Group A and the next four in Group B. The top two finishers from Group A will advance directly to the semi-finals.

A new quarter final round will pit the third-place finisher from Group A with the second-place finisher from Group B, while the other quarter final game will pit Group A’s fourth-place team against Group B’s top finisher. The winners will advance to the semi-final round.

The new format gives the best six teams an equal chance to compete in the quarter finals and groups teams by strength to lessen the discrepancy in goals scored.

How can you watch?

All games at the World Championships will be streamed live on the World Para Ice Hockey website www.worldparaicehockey.com and Facebook page www.facebook.com/paraicehockey.

Viewers in Czech Republic can catch the host nation’s matches on Czech TV, while viewers in Canada can stream their team’s games on CBC Sports.

US viewers can watch all of their team’s games on the Olympic Channel; the gold-medal game will also be aired in the USA by NBCSN on tape replay on 4 May.

What are the top storylines?

The North American rivalry is expected to take centre stage once again in the sport, with Canada entering the tournament as the defending world champions and USA coming into the event as the reigning Paralympic champions. The USA have won three of the last five world titles, with Canada having won the other two.

Host nation Czech Republic are on a high after winning the last B-Pool World Championships and starting off their 2019 campaign with victories at the Ostersund Open and Slovakia Cup. They will be in search of their first medal at the A-Pool Worlds.

South Korea and Italy have also been riding a wave of momentum on the ice recently, having finished third and fourth, respectively, at PyeongChang 2018. Those were the best Paralympic finishes to date for both teams. It is now time to see how they will build off that for the next Paralympic cycle.

Who should you look out for?

Declan Farmer (USA): The Princeton University student was the hero at PyeongChang 2018, scoring with 37 seconds left in regulation of the gold medal game against Canada to force overtime. He scored again in overtime to give his team the win, finishing the Games with 11 goals, tying for the most by one player at a single Winter Paralympics.

Tyler McGregor (Canada): As one of the world’s top forwards, the cancer survivor was the leading scorer at the last World Championships in 2017. He netted a hat-trick, including two goals in 17 seconds, in the last gold medal game.

Seung-Hwan Jung (South Korea): Just when you thought this flashy speedy forward was leaving the sport, he came back. After a brief hiatus in cross-country skiing, he quickly returned to the ice and South Korea’s success in Ostrava will highly depend on how often he finds the net.

Sandro Kalegaris (Italy): The backbone of Italy’s offense can be quiet and very humble, but do not underestimate the 28-year-old’s ability to go up against the very best. Every World Championships he has been getting better and better.

Michal Geier (Czech Republic): He will look to be the host nation’s leading scorer after being sidelined for part of last year with a bone fracture. He had four goals at the last B-Pool World Championships, is a three-time Paralympian and has led the team in their first two tournaments of 2019.

Why does the host city sound familiar?

Back in 2009, Ostrava hosted the World Championships at the same venue, The Ostravar Arena. Thirteen teams participated in that event, which was divided into an A-Pool tournament and B-Pool tournament. The USA, Norway and Canada won gold, silver and bronze, respectively.

For this year’s event, the organisers have planned a massive media campaign as well as educational campaign. Para sports school days have taken place in more than 40 schools in the region with the support of two local universities.