Pope’s picks: 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships

Livestream commentator Brent Pope offers his insights into the most important competition of the season. 11 Apr 2017
US ice sledge hockey players celebrate after a goal

US ice sledge hockey players at the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge.

ⒸUSA Hockey
By By Brent Pope | For the IPC

The 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships are just hours away and will be shown live at Gangneung2017.com.

As well as the gold medal, teams from the USA, Canada, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Germany and South Korea will be hunting for a top five finish. That will mean they qualify directly for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

Seasoned commentator Brent Pope, who voiced Para ice hockey games at the Torino 2006 and Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics as well as the 2015 World Championships, offers his predictions on the tournament.


The Canadians have finished as runners up to the USA during the last Paralympic cycle since Sochi 2014 across all major events including the 2015 Worlds Championships. They are still highly regarded as the second best team in the world and still boast three of the best players in Greg Westlake, Billy Bridges and Brad Bowden.

These players have been the mainstay of the Canadian programme for a generation and remain the barometer for Canadian success internationally. The Canuck Para ice hockey legends are expected to shoulder the offensive load in the build up to PyeongChang 2018. The lineup is underpinned defensively by the offensive exploits and transitional ability of Adam Dixon and a balance of strength in the Canadian goal led by their emerging star netminder Corbin Watson. Back-up netminder Dominic Larocque is also a key face for the 2017 World Championships.

Pope’s pick – Canada will likely meet the USA in the gold medal game.


The Germans finished in the classification positions in Buffalo, USA, in 2015 and it is unlikely they will contend for a position on the medal podium in South Korea. They tend to play a rugged brand of ice hockey and their lack of depth throughout their lineup challenges their ability to compete with superpowers Canada and USA at the top of their sport.

The Germans will come to South Korea to compete for an automatic qualification position for PyeongChang 2018. Frank Rennhack is always a joy to watch with his speed, all or nothing approach towards puck possession and taking offensive chances to create opportunity.

Pope’s Pick – Germany will be challenged by the South Koreans, Italians, Norwegians and Swedes for automatic qualification to PyeongChang 2018.


The Italians combine elements of balance, thoughtful play with flairs of skill and a level of consistency in their performances on the global stage. Italian veterans Gianluca Cavaliere, Florian Planker and netminder Santino Stillitano will be relied upon heavily if the Italians are to compete for a medal in Gangneung.

Italy performed well and finished runners up to the Canadians when they hosted the recent Para Ice Hockey International Tournament in Torino. Competing against Norway, South Korea and the Canadians is a great warm-up for the current European silver medallists who will be challenging for a medal.

Pope’s Pick – Italy should gain automatic qualification for PyeongChang 2018. Anything less than fifth place is a massive disappointment as they should realistically be in the bronze medal game.


The team returned to the top echelons by qualifying back into the A-Pool after finishing as the 2015 runner up to South Korea in the World Championships B-Pool. The opportunity to compete at the Worlds A-Pool presents a realistic chance for Sweden to automatically qualify for PyeongChang 2018. Sweden have not won a medal on the world stage since 2004 and they will rely on fast, skillful forward Per Kasperi; and very capable defensive leaders Christian Hedberg and five-time Paralympian Niklas Ingvarsson.

Pope’s Pick - Sweden are an outsider to finish on the podium but should see a top five position.


The Norwegians are an institution in the sport and have a nucleus of players that provide them with consistency and sustainable high level performances. Rolf Einar Pederson is a member of the old guard but is still a world class player providing an offensive injection from his defensive position. Audun Bakke, Magnus Bogle, Morten Vaernes and veteran netminder Kjell Christian Hamar give Norway a real chance at a medal in Gangneung.

Pope’s Pick – Norway should compete with Sweden, Italy and outsiders South Korea for a place in the bronze medal game.

South Korea

The hosts are slightly an unknown quantity but they have enjoyed success during the current Paralympic cycle since participating in Sochi. Leading up to Gangneung, South Korea won the gold medal at the World Championships B-Pool over Sweden in 2015. Recently on the international stage they competed against Norway in Torino for the bronze medal during the Para Ice Hockey International Tournament. Seung-Hwan Jung scored the lone goal in their 2-1 loss and starting netminder Jae-Woong Lee will have to be impeccable to give the host nation a chance to compete for a medal this week.

Pope’s Pick - The A-Pool World Championships is a great benchmark to see where South Korea really fits on the World stage a year ahead of PyeongChang 2018.


The reigning Paralympic and world champions, and gold medal winners at the recent World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Canada, are the team to beat. Make no mistake, the US have taken the mantle from the Canadians as the best team in the world and this tournament is their opportunity to continue to impress.

Steve Cash the “Money Man” in goal for the United States is the best netminder in the tournament. Teenage sensations Brody Roybal and Declan Farmer have world class scoring ability and the North Americans have depth of quality up and down their lineup. They are fast, skillful, in great shape as a team and they play a relentless brand of ice hockey. Nikko Landeros and Josh Pauls provide incredible speed and puck control from the blueline helping the US play any style of hockey against their opponents with great success.

Pope’s Pick – There is every indication that the USA will come to these World Championships and dominate the weaker teams in South Korea. Realistically, only the Canadians could spoil their gold medal aspirations.

Live coverage and the game schedule of the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships is available at Gangneung2017.com.

The World Championships also doubles as the Test Event for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. All games will be played at the Gangneung Hockey Centre between 11-20 April.