After five of the six games of the round robin tournament, North Korea and Turkey were tied atop the standings with perfect 5-0 records, setting up a winner take all final. The Turks opened the scoring four minutes into the game but with one second remaining in the first period the North Koreans got their second goal of the game to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
A scoreless second period only ramped up the tension entering the third period, which saw Turkey strike just 49 seconds in to tie the game at 2-2. The North Koreans retook the leas at the 15:38 mark with a shorthanded goal, but just a shade over two minutes later Turkey responded at 17:45. Neither team could find the game winner during the final 2:15 of regulation so the contest then moved to overtime.
At 4:22, Yusuf Halil was called for tripping, setting up a power play for the North Koreans. It would only take 27 seconds for assistant captain Chun Rim Hong to score his second goal of the game to give the North Koreans the win, the championship and the promotion to the IIHF Division II Group B tournament for 2016 despite Turkey outshooting their opponents 41-28.
North Korea finished with 5 wins and an overtime win for 17 points, Turkey was next with 5 wins and an overtime loss for 16, Luxembourg went 4-2 for 12 points, Hong Kong 3-3 for 9, Georgia had 1 win, 1 OT win and 4 losses for 5 points, the United Arab Emirates were 1 win, 1 OT loss and 4 losses for 4 points while Bosnia and Herzegovina was 0-6 brining up the rear.
Speaking of Division II Group B, they, and Division II Group A and Division I Group B all start play today.
Division II Group B is being held in Cape Town, South Africa from today through Sunday, April 19th. Teams competing are again a delightful collection of far-flung entires from Bulgaria (39), China (38), Israel (32), Mexico (33), New Zealand (37) and the host South Africa (40) facing off in a single round robin format of five games with the champion being promoted to Division II Group A, while the last place team will be relegated to Division III for 2016. Diehards can watch live streaming of games here.
Division II Group A takes place over 7,000 miles to the north in Reykjavik, Iceland, an 18 hour flight for those interested in taking in action in both! This tournament follows a similar schedule, with games starting today and finishing on Sunday April, 19th.
Teams competing are Australia (34), Belgium (36), Spain (30), host Iceland (35), Romania (27) and Serbia (31) who also will utilize the standard five game, round robin format with the champion promoted to Division I Group B and the last place team relegated to Division II Group B for 2016.
Also taking place this week in Eindhoven in the Netherlands will be Division II Group B with the same Monday through Sunday schedule this week. The participating clubs are nearly all European at this level, with Croatia (28), Estonia (29), Great Britain (22), Lithuania (26), host Netherlands (25) and the lone Asian entry, South Korea (23). The winner of this tournament will join Division I Group A and the bottom team will drop down to Division II Group A for 2016.
The South Koreans in particular will be worth tracking, as they controversially have been guaranteed a place in the 2018 Winter Olympic hockey tournament, which they will be hosting. They are under pressure to increase the competitiveness of their program in time for the Games, where they will be competing in a 12 team tournament against the heavy hitters of international hockey despite their current world ranking of just 23rd.
At the conclusion of the three World Championship tournaments this week, next week sees the Division I Group A competition in Krakow, Poland from April 19 -25. The competition gets more intense as the field includes Top 25 ranked Hungary (19), Italy (18), Japan (21), Kazakhstan (17), host Poland (24) and Ukraine (20). Unlike the lower levels which promote only the first place finsher, on the line are promotions to the Top Division for the top two teams, while, again, the last place team will be relegated to Division I Group B for 2016.
Six days after the conclusion of the Division I Group A tournament, the 2015 IIHF World Championship will get underway on Friday, May 1 in Prague and Ostrava in the Czech Republic. Play will conclude when the new world champion is crowned on Sunday, May 17th from the survivor of a 16 team field which consists of Austria (16), Denmark (15), Slovenia (14), Germany (13), France (12), Belarus (11), Norway (10), Latvia (9), Slovakia (8), Switzerland (7), the United States (6), the Czech Republic (5), Canada (4), Russia (3), Finland (2) and Sweden (1).
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the third period and the overtime of the deciding game in the Division III tournament between North Korea and Turkey. At the very least, go to the 46:00 mark and watch the overtime and see when the winning goal how much it matters to those players when the deciding goal is scored (starting at 50:30) no matter how far down the rankings these lower level teams might be.