Six teams will take to the ice in Ostersund, Sweden, from 15-21 March for the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool, including Austria, Great Britain, Poland, Slovakia, South Korea and Sweden.
Here are three of the top players to watch at the tournament, as picked by Slovakia’s sledge hockey star, Peter Stit.
Seung-Hwan Jung (South Korea): Known as the speed king of sledge hockey, the 29-year-old has been the leading force in South Korea’s rise in the sport since joining the team in 2008. The agile forward loves to shoot the puck and was named Best Forward at the 2013 Paralympic Qualification Tournament after helping his team to a first-place finish. He was also chosen as South Korea’s flag bearer at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, where his team placed seventh. Stit said he’s played against Jung once, in September last year, and “it was practically impossible to defend him.”
Per Kasperi (Sweden): At just 21 years old, Kasperi has already competed in two Paralympic Winter Games, having played the sport since he was six. Kasperi, who likes to model his game after NHL star Sidney Crosby, is electric with the puck, taking more shots on net than any other Swedish player, and deservedly so. Heading into the World Championships on his home ice, he has been addressing his biggest weakness – his small size – head on. Lately, you can find Kasperi posting photos and videos on Instagram of himself in the weights room, bulking up. Stit said of Kasperi: “I’ve never played against him before, but he’s a killer on the sledge, and I cannot wait to meet him on the ice.”
Sylwester Flis (Poland): Perhaps no player embodies the word “veteran” more than Flis, who earned a Paralympic gold playing with the USA at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games and later switched to play for his birth country of Poland. The dual citizen took a break from sledge hockey in January 2013 to undergo surgery on both of his legs to reduce muscle tension, and has since returned to the ice. Stit, who is close friends with Flis, joked: “He is not too old to still be considered a star. But I hope he’s not a star in his match against Slovakia.”
The top two finishers from the B-Pool Championships will advance to the A-Pool for the 2017 World Championships, bettering their chances of qualifying for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
In 2017, the top five finishers from the World Championships A-Pool will directly qualify for PyeongChang 2018. The bottom three teams from the A-Pool event and the top three teams from the B-Pool event will compete at the Qualification Tournament for PyeongChang 2018 that same year.
Live action from Ostersund 2015 can be found at sports.livearena.com