Korean hockey advances to Group A

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Korean hockey advances to Group A

Korea’s men’s ice hockey team will play in Group A of Division I at the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship after beating host Poland in its final game of the Division I Group B competition on Saturday.

At the Krynica Ice Stadium in Poland, 31st-ranked Korea beat the hosts 3-2 and left the group undefeated with five wins over the Netherlands, Romania, Lithuania and Australia, finishing with a total of 14 points.

If a team finishes first or second in the Group A competition, it moves on to the championship level, which features international powerhouses like Russia and Canada. Korea has thus moved one step closer to competing at the world’s highest level.

The current format of the IIHF World Championship features the top 16 teams based on world ranking in the main Championship Group, while 12 teams compete in both Division I and Division II. The rest compete in Division III.

Division I is split into two groups of six. Both Group A and B play in round-robin tournaments to determine promotions and relegations. Previously, winners from both Group A and B advanced to the top division, but starting this year, only the two top teams from Group A are promoted to play at the IIHF World Championship.

On Saturday, Korea, led by coach Byun Sun-wook, was expected to face its toughest test yet. With the zealous support from the home crowd, host Poland, on a four-game winning streak, was considered the favorite to win the group after amassing 29 goals and allowing only four - both Group B bests - heading into Saturday’s game.

Just seven minutes after the opening face-off, Jerzy Gabrys put Poland in front and six minutes later Piotr Sarnik doubled the lead. However, Kim Won-jung managed to squeeze in an important goal heading into the locker room after the first period.

In the second period, Sin Sang-woo netted the equalizer after receiving a pass from Lee Yong-jun and in the third, Korea pulled ahead thanks to a goal from Kim Hyung-joon, who slipped one past Poland goalie Przemyslaw Odrobny.

The victory will also boost Korea’s chances to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held on home ice in Pyeonchang, Gangwon.

During his visit to Korea last month, Rene Fasel, the president of IHHA, said that he will allow Korea to play in the Olympics if the nation’s world ranking is 18 or under.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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