S. Korea to host four-nation men’s hockey tournament in prep for world championship

February 5, 2019

 South Korea will host a four-nation men’s hockey tournament starting this week, with an eye on earning a promotion back to the top-flight world championship.

Named the Legacy Cup, the tournament will feature host South Korea, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Japan, from Wednesday to Friday. All matches will be played at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul.

The Korea Ice Hockey Association (KIHA) organized the event in celebration of the first anniversary of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Gangneung Hockey Centre was one of two hockey venues during the Olympics and hosted the men’s and women’s gold medal games.

In this file photo from Feb. 20, 2018, players of the South Korean men's hockey team salute the crowd at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, after losing to Finland 5-2 in the qualification playoff match in the men's hockey tournament of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)
This undated file photo provided by the Korea Ice Hockey Association shows Jim Paek, head coach of the South Korean men's national team. (Yonhap)

In this file photo from Feb. 20, 2018, players of the South Korean men’s hockey team salute the crowd at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, after losing to Finland 5-2 in the qualification playoff match in the men’s hockey tournament of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

But it won’t just be a commemorative event for world No. 16 South Korea, which is gearing up for the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Division I Group A tournament starting in April in Kazakhstan.

It’s the second-highest level of the IIHF world championships. South Korea was relegated to Division I Group A after finishing last at the top-tier World Championship in Denmark last year.

Coached by former National Hockey League (NHL) defenseman Jim Paek, South Korea can return to the elite division by finishing in the top two in Division I Group A.

The first match of the Legacy Cup against world No. 11 Latvia at 6 p.m. Wednesday will be a good litmus test.

Latvia shut out South Korea 5-0 at last year’s World Championship. With former Stanley Cup-winning coach Bob Hartley behind the bench, Latvia also pushed the star-studded teams of Canada and the United States, before losing by just 2-1 and 3-2 in overtime, respectively.

South Korea will then take on the 18th-ranked Kazakhstan at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

The two are familiar foes. South Korea defeated Kazakhstan 5-2 at the 2017 Division I Group A World Championship, en route to earning a promotion to the top division. Just before the PyeongChang Olympics, the two split their two exhibition matches.

Then at the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge tournament last November in Hungary, Kazakhstan prevailed 5-3. These two rivals will meet again at this year’s Division I Group A World Championship in April.

South Korea will close out the tournament against Japan at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Japan used to have South Korea’s number, but the tables have turned in recent years. Japan now sits seven spots below South Korea in the world rankings, and South Korea has won the last three meetings by a combined score of 10-1.

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