The two teams that narrowly missed promotion to the 2017 World Championships today both punched their tickets to the 2018 tournament in Denmark, with Austria and Korea locking up their spots at the World Championship Division IA finals in Kiev, Ukraine.
Entering the final day of competition, Austria and Korea needed just a win to secure their spots, while both Kazakhstan and Poland remained alive, in need of both wins and some outside help. While Kazakhstan dumped Hungary 3-1 in the opening match to stay alive, Austria stomped Poland with an 11-0 victory to clinch their return to the Top Division for the first time since 2015, looking to stay in the Top Division for consecutive years for the first time since 2005.
The bigger story, however, was the Korean squad, who after a narrow 2-1 shootout victory over the winless Ukrainian squad, locked up their first berth ever in the Top Division tournament, with a Sanghoon Shin dangle sending the Korean team into a frenzy. Korea, who began playing in the Worlds consistently since 1986, and only became a permanent fixture in Division IA in 2010, finishes their highest in team history, and will debut at the World Championships just three months after hosting the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The two relegated teams from 2016, Hungary and Kazakhstan, will both miss out on the tournament and stay in Division IA for 2018, marking the first two-year cycle where neither previously relegated team was promoted back to the top level since 2005, when both France and Japan failed to be promoted to the Top Division. The failure to clinch by Kazakhstan also means they will remain in Division IA for consecutive years for the first time since 2009.
The final positions for the 2018 Top Division, IA and IB will be cleared up in the coming weeks, but one thing is for sure – Austria is making their return, and Korea is making their debut, and our huge congratulations go out to both sides for their historic victories!