With the medal rounds set at the 2016 World Championship in Russia, the two relegated squads are now determined as well, with newly promoted Kazakhstan and Hungary both falling back to Division IA in 2017 after failing to clinch their spots for the 2017 Top Division in France and Germany.
Kazakhstan finishes last in the tournament, with just a shootout win over Switzerland to their name, to mark the fourth straight tournament where Kazakhstan is relegated back to Division IA immediately after promotion, following relegation in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The Kazakhs, despite having three Canadian players (Brandon Bochenski, Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd) gain IIHF approval to play for them this year, were still mathematically relegated still with a game to play, finishing over a full game behind Latvia and Norway.
As for the Magyars, perhaps the most embraced team in Russia this year due to their raucous fans and “never say die” attitude, their hopes of consecutive Top Division play for the first time since 1938 were crushed thanks to a Belarus victory over France on the final day of competition that ensured last place for Hungary. The Hungarians, despite their increasing support in their first Top Division since 2009, only managed a single win over the Belarusians, with a nail-biter loss against Germany and spirited efforts against Canada and Finland.
In Kazakhstan and Hungary’s place next year will be Slovenia, returning from their own see-saw trips between the Top Division and Division IA, and Italy, who returns to the Top Division for the first time since 2014. Next year’s Division IA will be made up of Kazakhstan, Hungary, hosts Austria, Poland, Korea and the newly-promoted Ukraine, and while certainly Kazakhstan and Hungary will fight to regain their spots, look for hungrier squads, particularly the Korean team in advance of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, to gain momentum and be promoted in the lead-up to the 2018 Worlds in Denmark.
Photo Credit: IIHF Worlds 2016 – IIHF – HHOF – IOC