Bulgaria steps up

Wins Division III “final” vs. DPR Korea


The Bulgarian players celebrate after winning Division III gold and earning promotion back to the Division II Group B. Photo: Valentin Wagner

LUXEMBOURG – What a final showdown it was at the Kockelscheuer Ice Rink. In a dramatic fight Bulgaria earned promotion in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III and Luxembourg retained bronze in their very last game.

Until the very last day the Division III was open. The favourites Bulgaria and DPR Korea had won all their games before. DPR Korea got the lead and won the first period but they missed out on scoring the 2-0 marker in a two-man advantage early in the middle frame.

Bulgaria, which was relegated to Division III one year ago, came out with a much-needed reaction. At the end of the second period, Ivan Hodulov and Alexei Yotov turned the game. In the minutes after the game, the DPR Korea players congratulated their opponents with sad faces. For the third straight time they just earned silver.

“No more relegation!”

Bulgarians captain Stanislav Muhachev was much luckier after winning the game. “But we want to try now to stop the up and down. Next year we will be better prepared and stay in the higher division,” he said. The results from his team in Luxembourg he declared as good. “But now we don’t want to get relegated again. We have done some changes but more has to be done.”

Talking to IIHF.com he mentioned changes that need to be done in domestic play. “We have now only three teams and just a few players. We need more competition to develop the players,” he said. A multinational-league with Romania – to have more games – is not something that will take place. “Because we are not professional players.” The travel-distance would be too big because the Romanians also play against Hungarian teams.

Third bronze in a row

Luxembourg reached the bronze medals on the last game day for the third time in a row.

Championship host Monique Scheier was happy with the tournament. “Things went well from the organizational point of view. At the sport level Team Luxembourg could have been better,” she said. Each day 700 to 1,100 hockey fans visited the tournament.

Hong Kong surprised

The only the second time – the first time after 1987 – Hong Kong participated at a World Championship event. Already on Day 1 they started with a win and two points. In the end they had five. “We have only one ice rink and it’s NHL size, not international size,” said Barry Beck, head coach of the national team. Beck, the former Captain of the New York Rangers, has been living in Hong Kong for years and formed a team and hockey academy. One problem is the price for renting the ice in Hong Kong. “It’s 1,500 dollars each hour! The state does not support us. First you have to be successful, then the support will come,” he said. One can be curios what will happen now after the good start in Division III.

Emirates write history

“This is history,” commented Faisal al-Suwaidi after the United Arab Emirates had won a point against Hong Kong. It was the first time ever an Arab team earned a point in a World Championship tournament. But it should not be the last one. At the last day of the tournament the Emirates defeated Georgia 6-1 to also earn its first victory.

Georgia with courage

Zero points and 3-78 goals – Georgia was not able to gain the first point in the country’s young hockey history.

“It’s great that they have never given up. They are here with heart and soul,” noted Scheier from the Luxembourger organization.

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