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(2nd LD) S. Korea promoted to top championship in men's hockey

2017/04/29 09:37

(ATTN: ADDS comments in paras 10-11, 23-24)

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has earned a promotion to the top-flight competition in men's international hockey for the first time.

South Korea beat host Ukraine 2-1 in the shoot-out to finish in second place at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Kiev on Friday (local time).

The Division I Group A event is the second-highest level of men's international hockey, and the top two nations from the six-team competition get promoted to the IIHF World Championship, the top-tier competition featuring 16 teams, the following year. The worst team is relegated to Division I Group B.

Coached by former National Hockey League (NHL) defenseman Jim Paek, South Korea, No. 23 in the world, finished the tournament in Ukraine with 11 points on three wins in regulation, one shoot-out victory and a loss. Austria won the competition with 12 points.

In this photo provided by Hockey Photo, South Korean players pose for pictures after finishing second at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 28, 2017. (Yonhap) In this photo provided by Hockey Photo, South Korean players pose for pictures after finishing second at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

South Korea and Kazakhstan were tied in points, but South Korea held the tiebreak edge thanks to its 5-2 win over the Central Asian country Sunday.

South Korea and Ukraine, ranked 22nd, were tied at 1-1 after regulation. South Korea was all over Ukraine in the five-minute overtime, but goalie Eduard Zakharchenko stood tall in the net.

The South Koreans then got the better of him in the shoot-out. Michael Swift scored on the glove side as the first South Korean shooter, and Matt Dalton stoned Nikita Butsenko at the other end.

Zakharchenko denied Cho Min-ho in the next turn, but Dalton responded with a save of his own on Vitali Lyalka.

Then Shin Sang-hoon stepped up and beat Zakharchenko to the top shelf, clinching the historic victory for South Korea.

Coach Paek said getting the promotion to the upper-level competition was important for his players' development.

"We get to play against top-division teams and get this experience," he told IIHF.com. "For many years we haven't been able to play against such countries so it's important to get this experience."

   South Korea outshot Ukraine 11-6 in the scoreless first period, but failed to put any sustained pressure on defense.

The South Koreans created some open ice with their speed early on, but most of their shots were from the perimeter easily turned aside by Zakharchenko.

Ukraine actually had more dangerous chances in the first period. Artem Gnidenko got a shot off right after a draw, forcing Dalton to make a quick-reaction save about 7:30 into the game. Dmytro Nimenko was denied on a rebound in the next minute.

In this photo provided by Hockey Photo, South Korean players celebrate their 2-1 shoot-out victory over Ukraine at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 28, 2017. (Yonhap) In this photo provided by Hockey Photo, South Korean players celebrate their 2-1 shoot-out victory over Ukraine at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

During Ukraine's first power play of the game, Roman Blagy had a couple of cracks at Dalton. At 11:20, he walked in on Dalton and fired a wrist shot from the left face-off dot right at the goalie. Dalton then stoned the forward from close range again the next minute.

At the other end, South Korean forward Kim Ki-sung couldn't bury a big rebound on a breakaway with about five minutes left in the period. South Korea had its second power play later in the frame, and Michael Swift couldn't beat Zakharchenko from the slot.

South Korea finally got on the board at 4:59 in the second period, as Ahn Jin-hui took advantage of Ukraine's poor change.

Park Woo-sang, team captain playing with an injured shoulder, chipped the puck off the boards to sprung Shin Sang-woo on a breakaway, and Shin fed wide-open Ahn for a one-timer.

Ukraine withstood some pressure and tied the score at 13:24 with a heads-up play by Sergi Babynets.

After Ukraine's dump-in, Dalton came out of the net to play the puck behind the net. Babynets then snuck up from behind to pick Dalton's pocket before scoring into the open net.

The teams traded few chances in the tight third period, though Lee Young-jun got a shot off on a two-on-one break while shorthanded.

South Korea dominated the three-on-three overtime, and the momentum carried into the shoot-out, as two of its three shooters found the back of the net.

Swift, who opened the shoot-out with a deft goal, said the real work begins now.

"The next 12 months that are coming up will be something very special for Korean ice hockey," he told IIHF.com "They've never been to the top (division). We're there now and we want to stay there. We've got a lot of work to do."

   At the world championship, 16 teams will be divided into two groups of eight. The last-place teams from each group will be relegated to Division I Group A. The top four from each group will reach the playoff round.

This year's championship will be co-hosted by France and Germany from May 5 to 21. The 2018 event will be in Denmark, and South Korea will be the only Asian participant.

In this photo provided by Hockey Photo, South Korean men's hockey head coach Jim Paek (R) and his assistant Richard Park pose for pictures after South Korea finished in second place at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 28, 2017. (Yonhap) In this photo provided by Hockey Photo, South Korean men's hockey head coach Jim Paek (R) and his assistant Richard Park pose for pictures after South Korea finished in second place at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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