IHLC 2021 In Review – Men’s


With the international hockey calendar returning (relatively) to normal in 2021, the IHLC saw a flurry of activity throughout the year, bookended with stops on the Euro Hockey Tour, and a relocated World Championship in between.

The third phase of the 2019-20 Euro Hockey Tour kicked off the 2021 calendar year with the Beijer Hockey Games, with defending champions Russia running the table. However, it was the Euro Hockey Challenge that would see them eventually lose their title, as a pair of wins over Belarus were followed by a pair of losses to Switzerland, guaranteeing the IHLC would not make it to the Czech Hockey Games. Switzerland followed this with a pair of wins over Latvia, ensuring they would hold the IHLC into the 2021 World Championships, which changed from being hosted in both Rīga, Latvia and Minsk, Belarus to just the former, due to political and health concerns arising in Minsk.

Switzerland would hold the title for just two games to start the Worlds before dropping the title to Sweden in a 7-0 thrashing, who in turn would lose their next game to Czechia, who would take the title to the medal rounds after wins over Great Britain (playing in their first IHLC contest in nearly 30 years), Denmark and Slovakia. Finland would capture the title in the Quarterfinals, defeating Germany in a narrow Semifinal win to take on Canada in the Gold Medal Game. Canada, who lacked the star power they would normally carry at the World Championships, saw a rag-tag team of emerging young stars mount a third period comeback and stun the Leijonat in overtime to capture their 27th world title.

The title was seemingly set to stay with Canada until the 2022 Olympics in Beijing began, but Canada was added as a late fifth competitor to December’s Channel One Cup, giving non-NHL players a look in the event the NHL would withdraw from the Games (which they ultimately would). Russia would capture the title back from Canada, and have successful defences against Sweden and Czechia, but would drop the title to Finland in the tournament finale, losing in overtime on a bazaar penalty shot called on an empty net breakaway for Sakari Manninen, resulting in an automatic game winning goal.

The following games were contested over the men’s IHLC in 2021 (click for game recaps and boxscores):
1732. 🇷🇺 RUS 3-2 FIN 🇫🇮 – 11 Feb 2021 – BHG – Malmö 🇸🇪
1733. 🇷🇺 RUS 2-1 SWE 🇸🇪 (SO) – 13 Feb 2021 – BHG – Malmö 🇸🇪
1734. 🇷🇺 RUS 7-4 CZE 🇨🇿 – 14 Feb 2021 – BHG – Malmö 🇸🇪
1735. 🇷🇺 RUS 6-3 BLR 🇧🇾 – 23 Apr 2021 – EHC – Moscow 🇷🇺
1736. 🇷🇺 RUS 2-0 BLR 🇧🇾 – 24 Apr 2021 – EHC – Moscow 🇷🇺
1737. 🇨🇭 SUI 3-1 RUS 🇷🇺 – 30 Apr 2021 – EHC – Biel 🇨🇭
1738. 🇨🇭 SUI 1-0 RUS 🇷🇺 – 01 May 2021 – EHC – Biel 🇨🇭
1739. 🇨🇭 SUI 3-0 LAT 🇱🇻 – 14 May 2021 – EHC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1740. 🇨🇭 SUI 2-1 LAT 🇱🇻 – 15 May 2021 – EHC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1741. 🇨🇭 SUI 5-2 CZE 🇨🇿 – 22 May 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1742. 🇨🇭 SUI 1-0 DEN 🇩🇰 – 23 May 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1743. 🇸🇪 SWE 7-0 SUI 🇨🇭 – 25 May 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1744. 🇨🇿 CZE 4-2 SWE 🇸🇪 – 27 May 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1745. 🇨🇿 CZE 6-1 GBR 🇬🇧 – 29 May 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1746. 🇨🇿 CZE 2-1 DEN 🇩🇰 (SO) – 31 May 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1747. 🇨🇿 CZE 7-3 SVK 🇸🇰 – 01 Jun 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1748. 🇫🇮 FIN 1-0 CZE 🇨🇿 – 03 Jun 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1749. 🇫🇮 FIN 2-1 GER 🇩🇪 – 05 Jun 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
1750. 🇨🇦 CAN 3-2 FIN 🇫🇮 (OT) – 06 Jun 2021 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻 🏅
1751. 🇷🇺 RUS 4-3 CAN 🇨🇦 – 15 Dec 2021 – COC – Moscow 🇷🇺
1752. 🇷🇺 RUS 1-0 SWE 🇸🇪 – 16 Dec 2021 – COC – Moscow 🇷🇺
1753. 🇷🇺 RUS 5-2 CZE 🇨🇿 – 18 Dec 2021 – COC – Moscow 🇷🇺
1754. 🇫🇮 FIN 3-2 RUS 🇷🇺 (OT) – 19 Dec 2021 – COC – Moscow 🇷🇺

The IHLC Rankings for 2021 were as follows (total all-time wins and rankings in parentheses):
01. 🇷🇺 RUSSIA – 8 wins (475, 1st)
02. 🇨🇭 SWITZERLAND – 6 wins (65, 6th)
03. 🇨🇿 CZECHIA – 4 wins (203, 4th)
04. 🇫🇮 FINLAND – 3 wins (124, 5th)
T5. 🇨🇦 CANADA – 1 win (321, 2nd)
T5. 🇸🇪 SWEDEN – 1 win (204, 3rd)

Finland will now start 2022 with the IHLC, carrying the title to China to start February’s Olympics, and depending on any potential exhibition games, may enter the Olympics with the title in-hand, starting in Group C against Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden. With NHL players now not competing in Beijing, the Russian Olympic Committee is the favourite to repeat as champions, but squads like the Finns will look to play spoiler, with Finland in particular looking to win Olympic Gold for the first time ever, and bring IHLC and Olympic Gold to the 2022 Worlds, hosted on home ice in Tampere and Helsinki.

Photo Credit: IIHF Worlds 2021 – IIHFHHOFIOC

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