Pyeongchang 2018

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The 7 teams to look out for in the Ice Hockey World Championships 2018

Anticipation rising for IIHF Worlds 2018

The talk stops and the puck drops on May 4th in Herning Denmark for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships 2018, and what about this for an opening ceremony: USA vs Canada is the tournament opener. Fireworks guaranteed.

The world’s 16 best ice hockey teams will play 64 matches during the tournament with some mouthwatering match-ups on the cards: In Group A Russia will face holders Sweden and the Czech Republic, while Canada and the U.S. will have to contend with PyeongChang surprise package Germany, U-18 winners Finland and hosts Denmark.

USA out to restore pride on international stage

Knocked out in a shootout against the Czech Republic at the Winter Olympics quarter finals stage in Korea, the U.S. will want to restore some pride in Denmark.

 

Team USA captain will be Patrick Kane who has both NHL and international calibre. Kane has a silver medal from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, a winner’s medal from the 2006 U18 World Championship, and the small matter of those three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat and defencemen Connor Murphy and Jordan Oesterle will also suit up for Team USA

The States has only won the Worlds tournament twice in 1933 and 1960, but judging by the roster, look like making a serious tilt at the title in Denmark.  NHL All-Stars Johnny GaudreauDylan Larkin and Cam Atkinson are also in what is a packed roster full of NHL heavies and up-and-coming stars.

Jeff Blashill is in as head coach,  he’s been directing the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings for the past three years and guided the U.S. Men’s National Team through the 2017 tournament where they lost by 2-0 to Finalnd in the quarter finals.

The fuse will be lit on the first day of the competition as the Americans face Canada in their 4 May opener in Herning.

Shock departure rocks Russian hockey

Oleg Znarok resigned as Russian ice hockey coach right before the World Championships in Denmark as teams assemble in pre-tournament camps for the final preparations.

Znarok led the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) to gold and glory in PyeongChang beating tournament revelation Germany in the final.

Relive the dramatic overtime goal that gave the OAR gold:


You can watch the entire final here:

In a move shrouded in mystery, Znarok stepped down without an explanation and has been replaced by interim head coach Ilya Vorobyov who seemed as surprised as everyone else:

For me the appointment came unexpectedly. Yesterday I didn’t know anything about it – Vorobyov to Sport-Express

Znarok walks away after four years at the helm during which time he led the hockey team to first place at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships in 2014, second in 2015, third for the past two years and his crowning achievement taking OAR to the top of the podium in PyeongChang 2018.

Vorobyov has been one of the assistant coaches since the 2016 worlds.

President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation Vladislav Tretiak did give a possible explanation of the shock departure when he told championat.com:

We are preparing for Denmark. Znarok has done a lot for us, became Olympic Champion, World Champion. Now he’s psychologically tired. He had heavy workload both at [his club team] SKA and at the national team. For this tournament Vorobyov will be temporary the head coach and Znarok will be consultant.

Russia is set to face Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus, Slovakia, France and Austria in World Championship Group A which will be played in Copenhagen.

One hit wunder?

The German ice hockey team caused a ‘Wunder Von PyeongChang‘ by beating holders Canada in the semi final to reach the gold medal game for the first time in hockey history. The Germans took home a silver medal and are looking to rediscover that giant-killing form in Denmark.

Buoyed by that Olympic experience and bolstered by the arrival of Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl and New York Islanders defenceman Dennis Seidenberg, Germany are dreaming big again.

PyeongChang goalie of the tournament Danny Aus Den Birken will have a big part to play if Germany are to go one better than the Olympics.

Aus Den Birken makes a save against Canada’s Maxim Lapierre during the men’s semifinals at PyeongChang 2018.

Need motivation Germany? Here’s that PyeongChang semi-final v Canada in full:

Sweden to keep their crown?

Holders Sweden have a strong lineup heading into their title defence in next-door-neighbour Denmark, the 2017 champions will show up with a host of household NHL names making them favourites in many eyes.

The fact that Sweden only have to travel across the Oresund Strait to play in Copenhagen means they’ll travel with a yellow army of support too.

John Klingberg was one of the highest-scoring defencemen this NHL season and lifted the title last year with Sweden, he leads a list of 10 NHL players out to keep Sweden top of the world:

Erik Karlsson, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Edler, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, are all in and Sweden’s defence is also strong, boasting names like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, John Klingberg, Jonny Oduya, and the Mr. dependable Niklas Hjalmarsson.

The Swedes will miss 18-year-old prodigy Rasmus Dahlin who didn’t get much of a chance to set the ice on fire at PyeongChang and now needs to rest after a long season.

Dahlin is likely to be the first NHL draft pick in a couple of months for the Buffalo Sabres.

No strangers to success in big tournaments, the Swedes were Olympic champs in Lillehammer 94′ and Torino 2006, winning silver at Sochi 2014. The 10-time world champs will be keen to add a second World Championships in a row, a feat they’ve never managed before.

Check out some of the greatest players in Swedish history in this video:

 

Canada out to retake throne

Canada have won two of three last worlds but last year’s beaten finalists will be more motivated than ever to go one better in Denmark.

After suffering a shock defeat to Germany in the Olympic semi-finals, the Canadians have brought back Bill Peters as head coach, he won this tournament with Canada in 2016.

With a powerful roster full of players who have won this tournament before and others gunning for their first taste of international success, look out for Jordan Eberle, Aaron Ekblad, and Brayden Schenn who were world champs in 2015, and Connor McDavid, Ryan O’Reilly who won the competition in 2016.

The 20-time world champion will face off against arch-rivals USA on the opening day of the tournament, have a look back at a historic encounter between the two old ice-enemies in a time before helmets:

Czech Republic

Twenty years after the greatest moment in Czech ice hockey history when Jaromir Jagr and Dominik Hasek lit up the Winter Olympics and brought home gold, another golden age looked possible at PyeongChang when the Czechs eliminated the United States in the quarter finals.

That anniversary miracle was body-checked by OAR in the semi finals but winning the World Championships would still make 2018 a very memorable year.

Look back at this brilliant documentary from Nagano 1998 when an entire country was out on to the streets to celebrate the national team’s exploits:

Denmark

Hosts Denmark have never finished higher than 8th at the worlds, but with the home crowd behind them the Danes will be hoping to punch above their weight.

 

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