For the fourth straight World Championship in which they are participating, Austria and Slovenia have been relegated back to Division IA for 2016, failing to clinch spots at next year’s World Championship in Russia.
Austria, who only managed shootout wins over Switzerland and Germany, is relegated for their fifth consecutive World Championship, dating back to when they last hosted in 2005, after a late France comeback win in a shootout over Latvia left the Eagles in a three-way tie with those two nations, losing the tiebreaker due to losses against both countries. With limited Austrians in the NHL to begin with, the absence of playoff-bound countrymen like Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner was too great to recover from.
Avoiding relegation ahead of Austria were two squads with a lot on the line for next year’s tournament, as Latvia is playing in neighbouring Russia, and can surely depend on fans to flood across the border for support. As for France, they are a co-host of the 2017 World Championship with Germany, and having to fight for promotion a year before hosting the big dance is not the scenario Les Bleus wanted to face.
As for Slovenia, they too fall to Division IA for their third consecutive World Championship, after going winless in six straight games, only winning their final game against Denmark, a meaningless game in regards to standing or relegation. The Risi, anchored by NHL superstar Anže Kopitar due to his Los Angeles Kings missing the playoffs for the first time in five years, only managed nine goals in seven games, and will be in a rebuilding mode next season after longtime coach (and father of Anže) Matjaž Kopitar resigned following their final game.
In Austria and Slovenia’s place next season will be Kazakhstan, on their own pattern of biannual relegation over their past four tournaments, and a surprising Hungarian squad, who squeaked past Italy to gain the second spot for their first World Championship promotion since 2008. While Austria and Slovenia remain the favourites to gain promotion back to the 2017 Championship, Italy and Poland were closer than ever to being promoted, and Korea will surely want to make a splash in advance of their hosting the 2018 Olympics. It will surely be an exciting April of next year in the fight for promotion!