JACA, Spain – After just missing out on promotion last year, the Korean U20 national team left nothing to chance this time around, going undefeated in five round robin games a the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B.
2,500 spectators turned out to Jaca's for the final game between Korea and Spain, won 4-2 by the Koreans. The game closed out a succesful championship in the northeastern Spanish city of Jaca, which saw over 14,000 hockey fans attend the tournament. The closing ceremony in the city's Pabellon de Hielo saw a touch of royalty this year, as Prince Felipe was on hand to give out the silver medals to the Spanish team.
Following a 6-4 opening day victory over Iceland, Team Korea cruised through most of the remaining field, posting big wins over Serbia (6-2), China (17-2), and Australia (8-2). The Korean offence was humming throughout the championship, with the tournament’s top four scorers coming from the nation that will play host to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
But matching them in the victory column every step of the way was tournament host Spain, a team that had competed at the Division II Group A level before being relegated. With both teams tied in points going into the final day of competition on Friday to set up a winner-take-all showdown, Spain and Korea traded goals in the first period before Jaehun Yoon broke the 2-2 deadlock with a score late in the second, after his team managed to successfully kill off four straight penalties.
Then in the third period it was the Spaniards who fell into penalty trouble, the key play coming from defenceman Andre Palacios when he drew drew a boarding call giving the the Koreans a two-man advantage. Just six second into the power play it was defenceman Yeongjun Seo, having a fantastic tournament for Korea, who potted his second goal of the game and eleventh of the tournament, putting Korea up for good as the team played the game out to a 4-2 win and the 2014 Division II Group B title.
Seo, who finished the tournament with an impressive 16 points in just five games, was the clear choice as the Directorate Top Defenceman. Alejandro Carbonell of Spain, who had a goal had five goal and four assists in five games, was selected Top Forward while his teammate Ignacio Garcia earned Top Goaltender honours.
Seo’s scoring heroics were matched by a dominant Korean top line led by captain Dounggun Lee, Seunghyuk Lee, and Hyungkyeum Kim. Along with Seo this trio of forwards combined for 25 goals and 26 assists in five games. With the 2018 Olympic Games coming up, Korean hockey development is looking up with talented players like these moving through the program.
The end of the championship thus saw two Asian teams headed in opposite directions. The Koreans will be promoted to the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A, while newcomers China are relegated back to Division III after going winless in the tournament.
NOTE: Spanish Prince Felipe was on-site on the final day and handed the silver medals to the Spanish team and joined the players for a team photo. The last game was attended by 2,200 fans. Total attendance during the tournament was 14,079.
Click here for scores, stats and photos.