Hungary’s U18 move up
by Andrew Podnieks|02 MAY 2022
The Hungarian U18 national team players celebrate after winning all games to claim Division IB gold and promotion.
photo: Vito De Romeo
Hungary earned promotion to the Division I Group A for next year’s IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship program after defeating Italy 5-0 on Sunday to complete a perfect round robin in Asiago, Italy. The winners of the Division I Group B had a spotless 5-0 record and outscored their opponents 19-3. This marks the team’s first return to the Division IA since 2017 when coach Glen Williamson was behind the bench.

“The players deserve all the credit,” said Hungary’s current head coach Bence Svasznek. “They were unbelievable. They worked as a team, and we had amazing goaltending. He was the star. Our special teams were also great, both the penalty killing and the PP, and we knew we could score goals. It was a team effort.”

Indeed, key to their success was goaltender Levente Hegedus. He played in four of the five games and recorded three shutouts, allowing only one goal, against Ukraine. The team’s offence came from a balanced attack in which ten players scored at least one goal. Nevertheless, Bendeguz Dobos led the Hungarians with four goals and five assists. 

Although the promotion was sealed with the win over the hosts, an equally important result was last Friday when they defeated Ukraine 2-1. Ukraine dominated that game, outshooting Hungary, 34-20, and leading 1-0 after two periods. But while Hegedus held the fort in the defensive end, Dobos and linemate and team captain Bence Horvath scored in the third for the comeback victory. 

Horvath’s winning goal came early in the third on a penalty shot. 

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Horvath enthused Sunday night. “We worked so hard for this. We deserve it 100 per cent. We worked as a team and believed we could do it. And our fans were great. Their cheers were a fantastic incentive for us to do well.”

That 2-1 loss was a major disappointment for the Ukraine players who were trying to turn incomprehensible horror into something positive. The players have been without a home since the nation was invaded by Russia, training first in Czechia and later in Switzerland before travelling to Asiago for the tournament. But under coach Olexander Bobkin, the team worked hard and had ambitions of glory, even as they tried to follow the safety of family and friends in their war-torn homeland. 

Ukraine last played in the Division IA in 2019 and was last in the top pool back in 2002. They won their other four games but needed Italy to beat Hungary in regulation time on Sunday to win the round robin this year. That didn’t happen. After a scoreless first period, Hungary scored twice in the second to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Csanad Ravasz got the first goal at 1:33 off a faceoff in the Italy end, taking a pass from Barnabas Balasits and slipping the puck past hulking 198 cm (6’6”) goalie Damian Clara.

Then, just before the end of the period, Farkas came out of the corner and tucked the puck in the far side before being checked, and that 2-0 lead was all Hungary needed. They added three more in the third to clinch their promotion, and then the celebrations were on.

Five players of the top-10 scoring leaders were from Ukraine, including Mykyta Sydorenko, who led all players with eight goals and ten points. Ukraine also had the youngest player in the tournament, 15-year-old Ihnat Pazi, who was sensational. He was second among all scorers with nine points and led the tournament with seven assists. 

Italy, too, had a chance to earn promotion, but for that to have happened they had to beat Hungary by at least five goals. The win would have created a three-way tie for first between them and Hungary and Ukraine, and the resulting three-team mini-standings would have favoured Italy on goals difference. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Slovenia finished fourth win two wins, Austria fifth with one win, and Poland in last with five losses. Poland will now drop to Division IIA for 2023 while Korea, winners of the Division IIA this year, will move up to IB next year.
2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B