Seoul, South Korea - After profiling 10 countries on our trip around the 2013 IIHF World U20 Junior Ice Hockey Championships, we finally come across our first team with a winning record in international junior play. While 2012 could be described as being "so close" for South Korea, some may say it went the way it was supposed to go as they didn't work their way up to Division II Group A to begin with. After the 2011 WJHC, South Korea finished DIIB play in third place but traded positions with Estonia for the 2012 contest. With that said, the Koreans had two chances to score one goal and they would have remained in DIIA. Before we go further into the birthplace of taekwondo, check out some specifics first.
Team South Korea:
IIHF Record: 34-28-3
2012 Final Results: Division II Group A Sixth Place with 0-3-2 record (Relegated to Division II Group B)
Head Coach: Cho Hyung-jun (KOR)
Despite South Korea playing in DIIA in 2012, the exciting news regarding hockey in the south peninsula of the East China Sea is that they will be hosting the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in 2018; this in turn will give them a chance to compete in Olympic hockey for the first time in the history of the Korea Ice Hockey Association. Pyeongchang will be the host city and it is the first time since 1994 that the Winter Games will be hosted at a mountain resort.
What's more intriguing is that even though those games are still six years down the road, chances are the players we see representing South Korea at the 2013 WJHC will be some of the ones hosting the men's hockey tourney down the road. Therefore, we could be witnessing history in the making. Until then, let's just hope the quality of hockey improves for the South Koreans.
Last year, despite being completely outmatched in all of their games, South Korea put themselves in a position to control their own destiny (if such a thing were possible) twice. The first occasion was in game one against Ukraine. After taking an early lead 1-0, the Koreans let Ukraine score twice in the third period to bridge the gap and control the game themselves. If not for a late period goal by Sung Jun Lee, Korea would've lost in regulation. Instead, they pushed overtime and lost in a shootout.
South Korea then dropped the next three games (Spain 4-3, Lithuania 2-0, and Hungary 6-2) before facing off against the Netherlands to see who would stay in the Group and who would drop to B. After allowing the Dutch to kick-start the scoring in the first period, South Korea came back strong with back-to-back goals by Yeo Sang Yoon and Hyeon Kuk Cho. That lead would only last about five minutes as Deniz Mete scored for the Netherlands to tie it up. The third period would go relatively silent and in a shocking move with 39 seconds remaining, South Korea pulled the goalie for the extra attacker. The extremely aggressive move was neither rewarded nor punished and the Koreans found themselves fighting for their DIIA lives in an extra period. After nothing happened in overtime, South Korea finished the tournament the same way they began it: with a shootout loss. This essentially bumped them back down to DIIB.
The question this year is will the experience South Korea had at DIIA improve their play and raise their expectations? Honestly it could be a crap shoot as Estonia is still a very good team as well. Unfortunately for them though, they will be returning to the WJHC without stud goaltender Kye Hoon Park and that could be the difference in the end.
For previous team articles, click the links below
Division III: http://www.juniorhockey.com/news/news_detail.php?news_id=75142
New Zealand: http://www.juniorhockey.com/news/news_detail.php?news_id=75122
Intro to 2013 WJHC: http://www.juniorhockey.com/news/news_detail.php?news_id=75064
Matt Prosser, Featured Writer for JuniorHockey.com. Owner of Fifty8 Productions and freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU1580 Sacramento. For comments and writing ventures e-mail Matt@Fifty8productions.com. Follow on Twitter @MattProsser58 or visit www.kssusportsycle.com.