IHLC 2016 In Review – Men’s

m-2016inreview
The International Hockey Lineal Championship doubled up on champions in 2016, with six different nations taking hold of the IHLC over a span of 23 games, leaving an unlikely country the incumbent champion heading into 2017.

As Canada did not participate in any tournaments before the 2016 Worlds, they cruised into Russia with the title, winning seven straight before dropping their Group finale to a surprising Finnish squad. Finland would then carry the IHLC  through the knockout round, eliminating Denmark and Russia before Canada wrenched the title back with a 2-0 win in the Gold Medal Game, capturing their 26th Gold Medal (and second straight).

Thanks to the revived World Cup of Hockey, however, Canada did not have all year to sit on the title, as they were back in action by September, dropping their first exhibition tilt to their American rivals. Canada would regain the IHLC in their next matchup with the U.S., and cruise through the tournament undefeated, with wins over Russia, Czechia and the Americans. The IHLC, however, came to a sudden halt in Toronto after the Canadians’ win over Russia in the Semifinals, as the other semifinal saw Team Europe (not an official international team) upset Sweden, meaning the IHLC would be shelved for the Finals.

Canada’s return to the Deutschland Cup after a year’s absence meant the IHLC would be headed back to Europe, with Canada winning an exhibition match over Hungary and their opening Cup game over Switzerland with a drastically different roster. However, Canada’s lack of star power gave Slovakia the chance to win their first IHLC in four years, which they would bring to the Swiss Challenge the following month. The Slovaks fell to a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Belarus to open the tournament, who then were similarly thrashed 6-1 by their Swiss hosts, marking the final IHLC meeting of 2016.

The following games were contested over the men’s IHLC in 2016 (click for game recaps and boxscores):
1616. canada1965-11 CAN 3-0 CZE czech-11 – 05/03/2016 – EX – Prague czech-11
1617. canada1965-11 CAN 5-1 USA usa-11 – 05/06/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1618. canada1965-11 CAN 7-1 HUN hungary-11 – 05/08/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1619. canada1965-11 CAN 8-0 BLR belarus-11 – 05/09/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1620. canada1965-11 CAN 5-2 GER germany1920to33and49-11 – 05/12/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1621. canada1965-11 CAN 5-0 SVK slovakia-11 – 05/14/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1622. canada1965-11 CAN 4-0 FRA france-11 – 05/16/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1623. finland-11 FIN 4-0 CAN canada1965-11 – 05/17/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1624. finland-11 FIN 5-1 DEN denmark-11 – 05/19/2016 – WC – Saint Petersburg russia-11
1625. finland-11 FIN 3-1 RUS russia-11 – 05/21/2016 – WC – Moscow russia-11
1626. canada1965-11 CAN 2-0 FIN finland-11 – 05/22/2016 – WC – Moscow russia-11 goldmedal
1627. usa-11 USA 4-2 CAN canada1965-11 – 09/09/2016 – EX – Columbus usa-11
1628. canada1965-11 CAN 5-2 USA usa-11 – 09/10/2016 – EX – Ottawa canada1965-11
1629. canada1965-11 CAN 3-2 RUS russia-11 (OT) – 09/14/2016 – EX – Pittsburgh usa-11
1630. canada1965-11 CAN 6-0 CZE czech-11 – 09/17/2016 – WCH – Toronto canada1965-11
1631. canada1965-11 CAN 4-2 USA usa-11 – 09/20/2016 – WCH – Toronto canada1965-11
1632. canada1965-11 CAN 5-3 RUS russia-11 – 09/24/2016 – WCH – Toronto canada1965-11
1633. canada1965-11 CAN 5-1 HUN hungary-11 – 11/01/2016 – EX – Budapest hungary-11
1634. canada1965-11 CAN 3-0 SUI switzerland-11 – 11/04/2016 – DC – Augsburg germany1920to33and49-11
1635. slovakia-11 SVK 4-3 CAN canada1965-11 (SO) – 11/05/2016 – DC – Augsburg germany1920to33and49-11
1636. slovakia-11 SVK 4-1 SUI switzerland-11 – 11/06/2016 – DC – Augsburg germany1920to33and49-11
1637. belarus-11 BLR 7-1 SVK slovakia-11 – 12/16/2016 – SWC – Biel switzerland-11
1638. switzerland-11 SUI 6-1 BLR belarus-11 – 12/17/2016 – SWC – Biel switzerland-11

The IHLC Rankings for 2016 were as follows (total all-time wins and rankings in parentheses):
01. canada1965-11 CANADA – 15 wins (313, 2nd)
02. finland-11 FINLAND – 3 wins (106, 5th)
03. slovakia-11 SLOVAKIA – 2 wins (45, 8th)
T4. switzerland-11 SWITZERLAND – 1 win (52, 7th)
T4. usa-11 UNITED STATES – 1 win (61, 6th)
T4. belarus-11 BELARUS – 1 win (6, 13th)

Switzerland now begins 2017 as the IHLC champions, guaranteeing that unlike 2016, the title will partake in the Euro Hockey Challenge – however, which path that takes is set to be determined at February’s Slovakia Cup, where Switzerland faces Belarus in a rematch of the last IHLC game of 2016. The possible pathways for the IHLC to take from there are numerous, with multiple potential contenders between April and the start of the 2017 Worlds in Paris and Cologne. Whether a European club can maintain, or if Canada will manage to three-peat (and pull themselves closer to Russia in the all-time IHLC Rankings) remains to be seen.

Photo Credit: IIHF Worlds 2016 – IIHFHHOFIOC

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