Ex-Stanley Cup champ makes successful debut as national coach

November 10, 2014
Csaba Kovacs, left, falls as he exchanges blows with Ahn Junghyun of South Korea during their ice hockey Four Nations Tournament first round match in Budapest, Hungary, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/MTI, Tamas Kovacs)

Csaba Kovacs, left, falls as he exchanges blows with Ahn Junghyun of South Korea during their ice hockey Four Nations Tournament first round match in Budapest, Hungary, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/MTI, Tamas Kovacs)

By Nam Hyun-woo

Jim Paek effect? Maybe.

Korea’s national men’s ice hockey team under the two-time Stanley Cup champ’s leadership exceeded expectations in their Euro Ice Hockey Challenge (EIHC) tournament outing during the past weekend, winning against Italy and Poland.

After playing Hungary, Italy and Poland consecutively in Budapest, the Koreans took second place with two wins and one loss, following Poland.

The most impressive moment was when the Korean team defeated Poland 6-3, on Monday (Korea Standard Time). The Poles have been talked as the favorite of the tournament. They won the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division 1 of Group B to advance to top-tier Group A. Poland sent their best athletes to Budapest and consecutively beat Italy and Hungary.

“Our men have shown the best performances,” said Paek after the game Italy. “They are showing progress every day after I took this job.”

With Paek making an impressive debut at the EIHC tournament, expectation over the national team’s performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics at Korea’s PyeongChang is rising.

Korea’s captain Park Woo-sang led his side’s offense with two goals with Cho Min-ho backing up with one goal and two assists. Adding to the duo’s explosive performance, Canadian goaltender Matt Dalton, who was invited to play for Korea, successfully defended the goal mouth to help his side maintain the lead.

In the end of third period, Korea allowed two goals to the Poles following consecutive two-minute penalties given to Kim Hyung-joon and Kim Sang-wook, but Dalton, who seeks to represent Korea after acquiring dual-citizenship, made a crucial save to brush aside the Poles’ pursuit.

The victory came after a 4-3 shootout victory over Italy a day earlier. In the neck-and-neck match, Korea allowed two goals in the first period, but leveled the game with Kim Sang-wook’s goal and Kim Hyeok’s slap shot. The Koreans yielded another in the third period, but Bryan Young launched a powerful one timer to make both sides contend in the shootout.

In the shootout, goaltender Park Kye-hoon, who earned his first cap last month, successfully denied last shooter Daniel Peruzzo’s shot, confirming the his side’s first victory after Paek took the helm of the national team in this summer.

“We suffered in the first game against Hungary since there has been no time to adapt ourselves at Budapest,” captain Park Woo-sang said of the game Hungary, in which his side suffered a 6-1 loss to the host. “However, as we played, we started to implement Paek’s instructions and good results followed. I believe we have been upgraded through this tournament,,” he said.

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