The 16 nations that would have played in the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will play each other with esports teams and the video game NHL 20 with the Round of 16 on Friday and Saturday according to the brackets above.
Friday, 29 May:
Russia vs. Kazakhstan 15:00 CET / 16:00 MSK / 19:00 Kazakh time
Switzerland vs. Norway 18:00 CET
Finland vs. Great Britain 18:00 CET / 17:00 BST / 19:00 EET
Slovakia vs. Latvia 21:00 CET / 22:00 EET
Saturday, 30 May:
Sweden vs. Italy 12:00 CET
Czech Republic vs. Belarus 15:00 CET / 16:00 MSK
Germany vs. Denmark 18:00 CET
Canada vs. USA 21:00 CET / 3pm ET / noon PT
One day before the start we had a Facebook Live with three of the participants: Sven Julmi from Switzerland, Sandra Demitrova from Slovakia and John Wayne from the United States:
Neighbours Russia and Kazakhstan meet in the playoffsIn the knockout phase of the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship, Kazakh representatives Askar 'Evgeniy Gavrilov' Yedgebayev and Dias 'Dias' Imanshapikh will have the chance to unseat their Russian neighbours on the virtual ice this Friday.
It's a tough task, as Russia has always had the upper hand in their last World Championship encounters. Since 2006, the two nations have played each other five times, with Russia claiming five wins and 28:6 goals. And for the virtual Sbornaja, two EA SPORTS™' NHL™ 20 players will be competing for the Red Machine, who already showed outstanding performances against 206 competitors in the national qualifier.
The Russian tournament was a tough one: PlayStation 4 winner Sergei 'Serg1vratar_vH' Filippov had to win seven games. The 21-year-old St. Petersburg native showed all his talent and shone with his previous experience in digital ice hockey. The Xbox One tournament with Maksim 'mahoney88' Krinitsyn as the winner was similarly tough. He had to eliminate six opponents and had to master some hard-fought games. The fact that NHL™ 03 is the 25-year-old's favourite title according to his own statements, speaks for the fact that he also has a wealth of experience. "My goals are always highest, of course the target is being number one country in the world, but I am kinda realist, so for me being top four would be awful result," says Filippov.
At the time of NHL™ 03, Kazakh Xbox representative 'Dias' was not yet involved in ice hockey - at 16 years of age, he is by far the youngest player in this playoff duel. Instead he has a 38-year-old player in Askar 'Evgeniy Gavrilov' Yedgebayev. What the two representatives of the hockey-mad nation can really achieve is difficult to assess at the moment. However, the chance to finally annoy their big Russian neighbour should be motivation enough for the two. "I never thought that I would get to such a big tournament and would represent a huge country, of course, I am very happy and incredibly worried," says Yedgebayev.
Norway takes on SwitzerlandOn Friday the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship playoffs begin, as Norwegian representatives Lars Petter 'Larsto50' Sto and Daniel 'Bacon' Baekken look to match their skills on the sticks against Switzerland.
The Scandinavian duo will have the opportunity to avenge a series of bitter defeats for the national ice hockey team against Marco 'A IM N3 S Y A' Giamboni and Sven 'OriginaL-SnuS' Julmi. 'Larsto50' and 'Baekken' should not be lacking in motivation. But with the experienced Swiss duo, there is a chip on their shoulder after their country missed out on a chance to host the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
The 27-year-old 'OriginaL-SnuS' is currently playing for the ZSC Lions Esport team and already has a wealth of experience in international comparisons. 'A IM N3 S Y A' is also no newcomer to EA SPORTS™ hockey simulation and claims that NHL™ 99 is his favourite title of the series. "We want at least to get to the quarterfinals. After that everything could be possible," says the duo. On the other hand, the Norwegians impressed with their offensive skills in the qualifier: 'Larsto50' scored 39 goals in six games on the PlayStation 4, 'Bacon' scored 16 in just two games. Especially the two PS4 games between 'OrginaL-SnuS' and 'Larsto50' from the Esport department of Storhamar IL promise a true NHL™ spectacle. "There are some fantastic players in this tournament, and to be a part of that is very cool," says Sto.
Great Britain to challenge the reigning world champsFinland's top two gamers will open their playoff hunt with a matchup Team GBR at the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship.
The last significant meeting between the two nations took place on real ice last year: At the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, with Finland winning by a commanding 5:0 score. While Finland subsequently rose to become the champions of the hockey world, Great Britain had a victory of its own by avoiding the relegation round in an overtime win against France on their final day. In the virtual version of EA SPORTS™' NHL™ 20, the British are aiming to achieve better results at the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship.
But the challenge of facing Finland on the digital ice will not be smaller than in reality. With Erik 'Tilantekija' Tammenpää, the Finns have no one less than the winner of the 2018 NHL™ Gaming World Championship in their ranks. The 20-year-old from Team SAMPI definitely has the necessary quality, and the form is also right: In the qualifiers he beat his six opponents on Xbox One with a goal ratio of 47:7. His counterpart on the PlayStation 4, Joel 'rottadee' Myllymäki, is no stranger to the game either having attracted national attention.
Connor 'MartindalexC' Martindale and Sean 'Sean' McIntosh are not quite as popular as the Finns. However, both presented themselves very convincingly in the qualification and dominated on their consoles. 'MartindalexC' plays on the PS4 for the Swedish team Lulea Hockey Esport, on the real ice he cheers with the Chicago Blackhawks. 'Sean' could become the Achilles heel due to his lack of experience, but the 24-year-old can tackle the task with the ease of the underdog. "I'm just looking to enjoy this experience, and use it as a learning opportunity against some of the finest 1v1 players around," says 'MartindalexC'.
Slovakia and Latvia go face-to-faceWho reaches the quarterfinals? Slovakia and Latvia will meet at the start of the playoffs in the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship on Friday.
Three wins for Slovakia, three wins for Latvia, one draw - a look at the historical statistics on the real ice gives no indication as to which team could be ahead at the start of the main round of the IIHF Esports Fan Championship next Friday. At the start of the playoffs, Slovakia and Latvia will meet and fight for a place in the next round.
In contrast to the real world championship, the 16 participating nations of the IIHF Esports Fan Championship will start the tournament immediately in knockout mode. While the national team of the respective country had to be chosen during the qualification, the final round is free to choose the country they wish to compete with. However, there is one restriction: Each nation may only select each country once during the course of the tournament, so it is likely to be very busy from the first round onwards.
In the qualifying round for Slovakia, Anton 'Fenomen036363' Mesko, a virtual ice hockey veteran since NHL 2002, on PlayStation 4 and Sandra 'Lady Brunette' Demitrová on Xbox One won the tournament as the best players, beating out a field of 144 opponents.
"It is the biggest honour to represent my own country. I am absolutely excited about it," says Demitrová. More than twice as many players had started in Latvia's qualifying tournament, with 19-year-old Kristers 'chibra' Bauers on PlayStation 4 and 22-year-old Juris 'snipencelly8' Lopatko on Xbox One, two youngsters who secured their place in the main round of the IIHF Esports Fan Championship. "Hopefully we will get past a couple of rounds, but it also depends on which opponents we will have," says Lopatko.
Tre Kronor versus TricoloreFor the Swedish EA Sports™ NHL™ community, nothing but a championship will do. But to get to the finals of the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship, Tre Kronor will first need to get past Italy on the virtual ice.
At the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, if you take a look at matchup history between Italy and Sweden, the balance of power could hardly be clearer: in their last five games Sweden has won 8:0, 8:1, 5:1, 4:0 and 7:1. But on the Esports scene, anything can happen.
The two Swedish qualifiers are Henrik 'eken45jr' Eklund and Sebastian 'SebbeLarsen86' Larsen have the potential to meet these expectations.
'eken45jr' from Swedish champion Vesa Pompa HC, who also reached the Grand Final at NHL™ Gaming World Championship 2020 as the second best European on Xbox One, prevailed in the national qualifier. 'SebbeLarsen86' also has a wealth of Esports experience: The 20-year-old is competing for the reigning European champion Linköping HC Esport and left 84 competitors behind him on his way through the PlayStation 4 qualifier - a highly dangerous duo. "It’s always a huge honor to represent your own country and to do it in this tournament is really cool," says Eklund.
But also the Italian Mirco 'Tron1x90' Salvi has been active for the Swiss club ZSC Lions in Esports for quite some time. He represents his home country after a dominant performance in the PlayStation 4 qualifiers. The southern European duo is completed by Xbox expert Riccardo 'Tombrick 091' Tombolato, who scored 20 goals in three games in a national comparison. "As an outsider, it will be very hard to compete with other world-class teams like Finland, USA or Canada. My personal goal is to pass at least the first round," says Salvi.
Belarus hopes for surprise against CzechsIn the clash between Belarus and the Czech Republic, one of eight quarter-finalists of the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship will be determined next Saturday.
From the Belarusian point of view, an upset on the virtual ice triumph against No.5 ice hockey country of the IIHF World Ranking is something to shoot for. The Czechs, for their part, will try their best to confirm their role as favourites and earn the right to move on.
Both nations can rely on experienced representatives. The Czechs will be joined by 26-year-old Josef 'Pepcastachurcik1' Stachura and 33-year-old Jaroslav 'J4rincze' Rehor. 'Pepcastachurcik1' scored 61 goals in seven qualifying matches, and the San Jose Sharks' fan showed a great deal of attacking power. Stachura regularly proves his qualities on Playstation 4 for HC Kometa Brno, in early May he and his team finished third in the Czech Esports Hockey League. His counterpart Rehor drew attention in the Xbox One qualifier with his 4:0 final victory over 'Svicko', but 'J4rincze' had also celebrated clear successes in the previous rounds. "The semi-finals would be a great success," says Rehor.
He will be up against NHL™ veteran Dzmitry 'NEFINOR' Harbunou on the Microsoft console. The 37-year-old wants to follow in the footsteps of his favourite player Alex Ovechkin and dominate the ice. He succeeded in doing so in the qualifier when he put his four opponents in their place with a goal difference of 20:6. The most memorable thing is the 10:2 final against Yauheni 'Zhokaboka' Susko. 'NEFINOR' will be supported by Aliaksandr 'Sonic_BLR' Yalasheuski, who will ask 'Pepcastachurcik1' to dance. 'Sonic_BLR' had to defeat six opponents on his way to the main round, he had his nerves under control in the decisive moments - will he also have the necessary calm in the playoffs? "The composition of the playoffs is very strong, fortunately I watched a few regional finals and made conclusions about possible rivals, so need to be realistic," says Yalasheuski.
Danish dynamite vs. German firepowerWith Germany and Denmark in the first playoff round of the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship, two nations from the extended ice hockey world elite will face each other in the first round of the tournament.
Denmark and Germany are not only close geographically. There are also some parallels with regard to their national teams: Both have been part of the repertoire of the ice hockey elite for many years, but no significant successes at world championships have yet been achieved. Can this change at the IIHF Esports Fan Championship!
German ice hockey has been on the upswing at the latest since its second place at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The German fan community, represented by national champions Tim 'Timasy' Hess and Martin 'Venomenyce' Perenz, will be looking to reach similar heights on the virtual ice.
'Timasy' was crowned virtual German ice hockey champion at the eDEL CUP in March 2020. With 45 goals in six games he underlined his ambitions in the PlayStation 4 qualifier. His duo partner 'Venomenyce' had to go through five hard-fought rounds on the Xbox, in the final he defeated Kevin 'xKevinator' Würterle from ECDC Memmingen eSports with 3:2. "I dont really have a goal for the playoffs, but I think we have a chance against Denmark," says Hess.
The Danes are sending a much younger duo into the playoff season - Martin 'vibholm16' Vibholm shone in the PS4 qualifier with his defensive skills: The 23-year-old did not concede a single goal in four games and scored 16 goals.
Xbox representative Paw Fonnesbech 'Paw Fonnesbech Christensen' Christensen not only cuts a fine figure on the controller. He regularly represents the U20 team of Herning Blue Fox and the Danish U20 national team on the ice. Together they want to represent the red and white colours in the playoffs. "It means a lot to represent my country at the first IIHF Esports Fan Championship," says Christensen.
North American showdown on SaturdayIn the playoffs of the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship, two ice hockey giants USA and Canada will clash in what should be a highlight of the Round of 16 stage.
Over the past 100 years, both nations have combined for 69 World Championship medals and 27 medals at Winter Olympics. The rivalry began at the first Olympic ice hockey tournament in 1920, when "The Great White North" defeated its southern neighbour in the final. Since then the paths of the two hockey heavyweights have crossed again and again in important matches. In 1960, the Americans took revenge and won the gold medal in the final against Canada. The most recent duel dates back to the 2019 World Championship, with Canada winning 3:0 at the end of the group stage. And now, a new stage is set for this rivalry to continue with the first-ever IIHF Esports Fan Championship .
The USA and Canada will meet directly in the first playoff round after the respective national qualifying rounds. Both opponents are heavies in the world of EA SPORTS™' NHL™ 20: In the Canadian qualifiers Joshua 'Joshfearless13' D'Eri and Karl 'hswertha23' Caslib prevailed. 'Joshfearless13' has already caused a stir at NHL™ Gaming World Championship on several occasions, and in 2018 he won the 'Blackhawks' online tournament on the PlayStation 4. Caslib, on the other hand, won the 2019 Canadian Regional Final on his way to the Gaming World Championship, and in the first qualifying round of the Esports Fan Championship, he took out Carson 'CoreyPerry1' Bellaire 1:0 - the top-ranked player in the 2020 GWC Regional Qualifiers.
On the other side, the duo for the main round is John 'johnwayne90' Casagranda and Tyler 'Daddy Padre' Stewart. Casagranda is one of the world's top digital hockey players, having qualified for the finals of the NHL™ Gaming World Championship in 2020 as fourth of the US qualifiers. He also beat David 'JrPens' Roebuck in the IIHF qualifying finals, who had left him behind in the GWC qualifiers. 'Daddy Padre' was also up against 'JrPens', beating him 1:0 in the first qualifying round. In the final, Stewart was even up against Matthew 'TSCCookie' Gutkoski, the virtual world champion of 2019 - the 3:1 win should make the competition look respectable.