Welcome to 2019: Para ice hockey02.01.2019
Top teams gearing up for World Championships in April
Canada, USA, South Korea, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Czech Republic and Japan (in world ranking order) aim to build off their Paralympic Winter Games performances.
The sport’s fiercest rivals Canada and the PyeongChang 2018 champions USA last met in December for the Canadian Tire Para Ice Hockey Cup. The US topped their North American counterparts for their fifth straight gold medal in the tournament; the US side has won at seven of the 12 editions of the tournament dating back to 2007.
Look for South Korea to continue their magical story from their home Games. After winning the nation’s first Paralympic medal in the sport, the PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallists already have momentum to make their programme stronger and see if they can better their bronze from the 2017 Worlds.
Expect the European nations to host friendly tournaments amongst themselves ahead of Ostrava 2019.
For Italy, PyeongChang 2018’s fourth place represented their best finish at a Paralympics, something they will be determined to better as they seek a first Worlds podium.
This year’s Worlds hosts Czech Republic needed to fight back to return to the A-Pool. Clearly playing above their league in the B-Pool, the national team had won the 2017 Qualification Tournament to re-join the top teams, along with Japan finding their way back into the A-Pool. Expect Japan to participate in some international friendly tournaments to prepare for Ostrava 2019.
Also on the 2018-19 season calendar is the World Championships B-Pool, with the host yet to be announced. China will be the team to watch for in the tournament after earning promotion from the Worlds C-Pool in November. The nation showed a quick growth in their Para ice hockey programme by dominating the three-team tournament and will test how they stack up before they take the ice in their home 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.