A day before the group round came to a close at the 2022 World Championship, both relegation spots to Division IA in 2023 were clinched, with Italy and Great Britain gaining the dubious distinction of being sent down, at the hands of Kazakhstan and Austria, respectively.
In Group A, it was Italy, who had one point by virtue of an overtime loss to France, facing Kazakhstan, who was winless in six with zero points in group play, fighting to stay in the Top Division. In a complete team game, seeing five different goal scorers (including two on the power play) and a solid outing from goaltender Andrei Shutov, Kazakhstan rallied for a 5-2 victory, with Valeri Orekhov leading the way with a two-point game, to ensure Kazakhstan will stay in the Top Division for consecutive seasons (not accounting for COVID seasons with no relegation) since 2004-06. Italy returns to Division IA for the first time since 2018, ending a three year reign in the Top Division, partially thanks to COVID, avoiding relegation despite finishing in last place at last year’s Worlds in Rīga. France, who gained a promotion to the Top Division thanks to Russia and Belarus’ expulsion from the tournament, will stay for the 2023 tournament, clear of Kazakhstan by two points in sixth place with one game remaining.
In Group B, Great Britain entered the day in need of a regulation win over Austria, by virtue of their single point (in a shootout loss to Norway) versus Austria’s four points, by virtue of a win over Czechia and overtime loss to the United States. Needing to just get to overtime to remain in next year’s Top Division, Austria went on the defensive, but was in a 3-1 deficit to GB with 13 minutes remaining in regulation, meaning the chance for an upset was nigh. However, a pair of quick goals by Dominique Heinrich and Benjamin Nissner, and a shocking goal by Thomas Raffl with only 64 seconds remaining suddenly put Austria in the lead for the first time of the game, which they would keep, winning 5-3. Promoted along with France just two months ago, Austria will now stay in the Top Division for consecutive years for the first time since 2019, while Great Britain returns to Division IA for the first time since 2018.
In Italy and Great Britain’s place next year will be Hungary and Slovenia, returning to the Top Division for the first time since 2016 and 2017, respectively. Next year’s Division IA will be made up of Italy and Britain, newly-promoted Poland, Lithuania and South Korea, in a host nation to be named at the upcoming IIHF Congress. With Hungary and Slovenia now locked in for 2023, and a new unique group in Division IA fighting for those two coveted spots, next year’s tournaments should provide some unique surprises!
Photo Credit: IIHF Worlds 2022 – IIHF Worlds 2022 – IIHF – HHOF – IOC