After Slovenia edged out Austria 2-1 and Italy defeated an upstart Korean squad by the same score on the last day of competition, the qualifiers for the 2017 World Championships in Cologne and Paris became more clear, although Slovenia is the only one with a guarantee of playing for now.
As they have done the last three tournaments under the current qualification format, Slovenia again clinched a spot in the Top Division, this time running finishing 4-1, only losing to Poland. That loss, however, had all teams except Japan in contention for promotion, but it was Ken Ograjenšek’s second period tally that held up as the winner against Austria, who Slovenia was demoted with at last year’s Worlds in Prague.
Italy ended their tournament at 3-2, dropping contests to Slovenia and Austria. But they managed to eke out a narrow victory against a motivated Korean squad on the backs of a solid performance in net from Andreas Bernhard, booking their first ticket to the Worlds since 2014.
However, there is a minor kink in the promotion status for 2017 – as the tournament is being co-hosted by France and Germany, the IIHF decided that if either of these teams (who both play in Group B this year) finish at the bottom of their group at this year’s Worlds, only the Group A last place team will be relegated for 2017, to avoid having a host team not play in front of their fans. If this situation, as unlikely as it may be, is to occur, only Slovenia would qualify for 2017, while Italy would remain in Division IA.
Thus next year’s Division IA tournament is up in the air until the end of the Group Round at this year’s Top Division in Russia – however, Austria, Poland and Korea will remain next year, while Ukraine was promoted from Division IB. The picture will be more clear very soon, but our congratulations go out to the Risi (and our initial congratulations to the Azzuri) for their victories!