Three teams are ready to take their development to the next level when they face each other at the 2018 World Para Ice Hockey Championships C-Pool from Tuesday (6 November) in Vierumaki, Finland.
Australia, China and Finland will battle for the Championship title and try to prove why they deserve promotion to the 2019 B-Pool.
Hosts Finland are the strong favourites. The team took part in the 2016 C-Pool Championships in Novi Sad, Serbia, where they came close to advancing to the B-Pool but lost to Austria on penalties.
“I think it is possible for us to win the tournament,” said Finnish forward Markku Hirvela. “Of course it is important to do well as a host nation, but I think that winning is especially important for us to be able to keep up the positive development in Finnish Para ice hockey.”
Although the more experienced squad, Finland will face unfamiliar opponents in Australia and China, both of whom are making their international debuts in the sport.
Thanks to the PyeongChang 2018 Actualising The Dream project – a legacy of the Paralympic Winter Games – Australia benefited from new equipment. Fast forward 18 months, and the country has put together its first Para ice hockey squad.
China are also making history on ice and preparing a programme ahead of their home Winter Games at Beijing 2022.
“These will be [the] first meetings for every team,” Hirvela said. “We have been concentrating on developing our own game and tactics. Off the ice we have been practicing both stamina and strength.”
“The team will get some important experience from international tournaments,” Hirvela said. “We get some data on what we need to improve in the future. For the development as a sport this is a big milestone in Finnish Para ice hockey.”
Australia against Finland opens the competition on 6 November, followed by China vs. Australia the next day, and concluding with Finland taking on China on 8 November.
All matches will be streamed live on World Para Ice Hockey’s website and Facebook page.