After falling to Switzerland in a best-of-three relegation series, Czechia has been demoted to Division I Group A in 2018, while Japan, victors of 2017 Group IA in Graz, Austria, will be promoted for the 2019 Women’s World Championships, with no tournament being held in 2018 due to the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Japan locked up their spot back on the top stage after a 4-1 victory over Austria this evening on enemy ice, assuring them of the head-to-head tiebreaker victory; even in the event that Japan loses their final game to last-place France, Austria could only tie Japan’s potential 4-1 record with a win in their final game against Denmark. Japan returns to the Top Division after being relegated last season by Switzerland, after two consecutive years on top for the first time in team history.
The Czechs now return to Division IA after only being promoted in 2015, managing to stave off elimination for a year, in which they finished ahead of Japan and Switzerland in 2016 to avoid relegation. Czechia now will play in Division IA in 2018 against Austria, Norway, Hungary, Denmark and Division IB winner Slovakia, to hopefully return to the Top Division at the 2019 Worlds in Finland.
However, at the upcoming IIHF Congress in May, these promotions and relegations may be deemed moot, as the IIHF has been discussing the 2019 tournament being the first to feature ten teams instead of eight, meaning that Czechia would remain in the Top Division, along with Japan (winning Division IA in 2017) and the winner of Division IA in 2018, to round out the groups. We will provide a further update if this is confirmed by the IIHF next month.
It will be very interesting to see if these results end up being irrelevant, meaning that the Top Division will expand to more teams, and hopefully more intense competition, starting with the 2019 tournament. We will know very soon!