Denmark, Latvia go to Alberta

U20 Division I & II tournaments ended on Sunday


The Danish U20 national team celebrates the tournament win in Bled. They, together with Latvia, will be promoted to the Top Division next year. Photo: Samo Vidic

Denmark and Latvia won the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Division I tournaments and are qualified for the Top Division of the 2012 IIHF World U20 Championship that will be played in Calgary and Edmonton, in the Canadian province of Alberta.

Denmark rushes to Top Division

BLED, Slovenia – Denmark was known as the tournament winner after only four game days after co-favourite Austria was defeated by host Slovenia.

Denmark defeated Kazakhstan (7-1), Croatia (12-3), Slovenia (2-1) and Lithuania (9-1) to quickly secure first place. It seemed destined to become a final between the Danes and last year’s top-division participant Austria, but the Austrians lost their good shape after the first two games when facing their southern neighbours. They needed the extra period to defeat underdog Croatia, 4-3, before they were stopped by Slovenia.

Gal Koren, Luka Skap and Gasper Kopitar – the younger brother of Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar – scored the goals in a 3-2 victory for Slovenia. Austria’s third-period goals by Konstantin Komarek came too late.

Slovenia was close to reach promotion after last year’s Division I bronze medal as the host team also outshot Denmark, 36-34, in the 2-1 loss on the third game day, but they had to make do with silver.

Tournament winner Denmark lost to Austria, 8-5, in the last game that was of little significance. Austria couldn’t overtake silver-medallist Slovenia and ended up with the bronze.

Kazakhstan finished in fourth place and Croatia was fifth. Lithuania lost all games and has to go back to Division II after one year.

Two of the individual awards went to Slovenia – to goalkeeper Luka Gracnar and forward Eric Pance, who collected 12 scoring points (7+5), same as Denmark’s Nicolai Meyer (8+4). Denmark’s Jesper Jensen was named Best Defenceman.

More information: Scores & Statistics, Photo Gallery

Latvia back after one year

BOBRUISK, Belarus – The Latvian national team couldn’t keep up with the top nations one year ago at the World U20s in Saskatchewan, but they reacted quickly after the relegation. Under new coach Leonids Beresnevs, who was once head coach of the men’s national team, the maroon-white squad won all games in Division I Group A in Bobruisk, Belarus.

The Latvians started with lopsided victories against Great Britain (6-1) and Ukraine (9-0) before facing a tougher challenge. They had some trouble against Japan despite 44-17 shots on goal. Takuto Gorai brought the Asians the lead after 57 seconds, but two goals from Maris Bicevskis turned the game into a 2-1 victory for Latvia. The Balts also had difficulties in capitalizing on their chances against Italy. Zemgus Girgensons scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory.

Host Belarus won its games against Ukraine (7-2), Japan (4-1), Italy (4-2) and Great Britain (2-1) to make the last game against Latvia a true final between the neighbouring countries on Sunday evening in front of 7,000 spectators.

The host nation had the better start as two Latvians had to sit out penalties after just two minutes. Blueliner Vadim Yerokho capitalized on the two-man advantage at 2:19, but also the Latvians made use of their first power-play opportunity when defenceman Edgars Dikis tied the game at 7:29.

Latvian played better and with more discipline in the second period. The reward was Bruno Zaibis’ marker at 2:07.

Belarus tried to come back and had several 5-on-4 situations in the last period, but when they pulled the goalkeeper, Latvia’s captain Juris Upitis scored the 3-1 goal into the empty net with 32 seconds left to play.

Latvia’s goalkeeper Janis Kalnins was outstanding with a 97.50 save percentage in four games, although the Best Goalkeeper Award went to Ben Bowns (95.19%) of underdog Great Britain. He faced by far the most shots on goal, 208 in five games, and led the Brits to a surprising bronze medal just one year after the promotion to Division I.

Latvia’s Ralfs Freibergs was named Best Defenceman and Belarus’ Nikolai Suslo Best Forward. He led the tournament in scoring with five goals and three assists.

Italy and Japan finished in fourth and fifth place respectively. Ukraine was sixth and will play in Division II next year.

More information: Scores & Statistics, Photo Gallery

Latvia will be back in the U20 Top Division next year. Photo: Alexander Antashkevich

French and Polish juniors back in Division I

TALLINN/MIERCUREA CIUC – The U20 national teams from France and Poland will be back in Division I after a one-year absence.

France outclassed its opponents in the Division II Group A in Tallinn, Estonia, winning against Spain (8-1), Belgium (15-0), Estonia (11-0), Iceland (9-3) and against silver-medal winner Netherlands (6-1). Spain won the bronze, again.

The last game day also decided a three-team battle against relegation. Belgium secured its Division II spot by defeating Estonia 8-4 in front of 751 spectators, but the host team was saved as well because Iceland lost to Spain, 1-0, and has to go back to Division III next year.

More information: Scores & Statistics, Photo Gallery

Also Group B in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, ended with an undefeated winner. Poland swept through the tournament against Romania (8-1), Korea (10-3), China (20-0) and Australia (14-0) before meeting also-undefeated Hungary to play for first place.

Poland seemed likely to have another easy win after a 4-0 lead at 15:06 thanks to three power-play goals, but there was lots of work to come before celebrating. Hungary had a two-man advantage in the last minutes of the first stanza and scored the 4-1 goal at 17:18 and the 4-2 marker 36 seconds into the middle period.

Poland reacted with goals and Aron Chmielewski scored a hat trick, but the Hungarians shortened the lead several times until Patryk Kogut scored into the empty net for the final result of 9-6 for Poland.

Korea improved one place compared to last year, winning the bronze behind Poland and Hungary, while China was relegated with zero points and a 10-66 goal difference.

The event ended with host Romania facing Australia in a game for fourth place. Unfortunately it became the lowlight of the event. The referee decided to terminate the game at 57:04 when Romania was leading 6-2. Fourteen players received either a match penalty or a game misconduct penalty in the last period due to fighting.

More information: Scores & Statistics, Photo Gallery


France goes back to Division I after five lopsided wins. Photo: Tõnu Stoltsen

Poland is qualified for next year's Division I after defeating Hungary 9-6 in the deciding game. Photo: Janos Kiss

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