The Division IA World Championship tournament saw the return of two powerhouses to the Top Division in 2020, with Belarus and hosts Kazakhstan clinching spots for next year in Switzerland at the 2019 tournament in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Both teams clinched, ironically, when playing each other, as pushing the game to overtime, regardless of the result, punched both teams their tickets. Kazakhstan returns to the Top Division after a four year absence, following consecutive third-place finishes in Division IA. They will aim to stay in the Top Division in consecutive years for the first time since 2004-06, after ping-ponging back and forth between the Top and IA, only returning to the top in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.
The Bisons also return to the Top Division for the first time since 2017, after their shocking relegation at the 2018 Worlds saw an active streak of 14 years (2005-18) come to an end at the highest level. Belarus has not spent consecutive seasons away from the Top Division since their entry on the international stage as an independent nation, spending 1994-97 climbing up from Division C1 before making the big show in 1998.
Division IA next season will see South Korea, Slovenia and Hungary, who all failed to return to the Top Division after disappointing falls back into Division IA, along with a surprising Romania, who won Division IB in dominating fashion and return to IA for the first time since 2002. They will be joined by the two last-place teams from the 2019 Top Division tournament that starts next week in Slovakia, with recently-promoted Italy and Great Britain hoping to avoid relegation after only one season back at the top.
Our congratulations to both the Belarusian and Kazakh teams for returning to the top of the mountain in 2020!