JACA, Spain – After four out of five games, Spain is already known as winner of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group B on home ice in Jaca.
The upward trend of the last few years was drastically stopped last year when Spain got relegated from the Division II Group A but next year the red-and-yellow team will be back after a 4-0 record before the last game in Jaca.
Spain is known as the winner because no team will be able to overtake the first-ranked Spaniards when the tournament closes on Friday.
The probably deciding win came last Saturday when Spain opened the tournament by edging second-ranked Mexico 5-3. Before 2,250 spectators at the Pabellon de Hielo, Spain scored four unanswered goals until midway through the game but made it a thriller in the end when they allowed Mexico to come back. Brian Arroyo made it one-goal game with his 4-3 marker with 40 seconds left in regulation time but Juan Munoz scored his second marker of the day into the empty net to seal the win.
The Spanish team learned the lesson and had less trouble in the other games and blanked China (4-0), Turkey (8-0) and South Africa (6-0) to seal the tournament win.
Another reason for Spain’s speedy success is that second-seeded New Zealand didn’t perform well enough to make their last game against Spain a final for gold. The “Ice Blacks” lost 5-0 to Mexico and lost another point in a 3-2 shootout win against China and will likely go home with bronze on Friday unless second-placed Mexico loses to South Africa and New Zealand beats Spain.
It was Spain’s top players who scored often in the tournament. Behind New Zealand’s Andrew Cox (8+1=9), an Auckland native who played in Australia and Finland in recent years, Spain has the scorers ranked second to fifth with Oriol Boronat (6+3=9), defenceman Juan Jose Palacin (2+6=8), Munoz (3+4=7) and Carlos Quevedo (2+5=7). The Spaniards were leading in most team and individual stats including goaltending with Ander Alcaine’s 93.88 save percentage.
Also the battle against last place and relegation to Division III is decided after four rounds with four losses for Turkey. Fourth-placed China as well as South Africa, which was promoted from Division III, performed well enough to be out of the danger zone and will remain in this tier for 2015. Click here for scores, stats and photos.