When the Division I Group B International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships begin later this week, no team is likely hungrier to win than the Hungarian squad, which was relegated from Group A after going winless in five games last year, scoring only 11 goals and allowing a group-high 25.
The teams of Group B in Division I begin play Saturday in Tychy, Poland. Hungary will open against Japan, which was promoted from Division II Group A after ripping through Group B with four regulation wins and one overtime victory.
This year’s team would probably like to lean on 1999 forward Zsolt Szalma, who scored three of the team’s 11 goals in 2018, and finished with four goals and two assists combined in nine international junior games last year. But he’s been less effective in international play this year, with only a pair of assists in seven games.
Hungary’s top offensive threat in international junior play leading up the WJC has been right wing Natan Vertes, a 2000 who has eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games. Forward Akos Mihaly, a 1999, has three goals and two assists in seven international games while 1999 forward Hunor Csaszar has recorded five points, all of them assists.
Four players have totaled four points in international junior play. 1999 center Balint Horvath was able to reach four points (three goals, one assist) in just three games. 1999 forward Bruno Kreisz needed five games to reach four points, scoring a pair and helping on two more. Marcell Revesz, a tall (6’4”) forward, has three goals and an assist in eight games. Nandor Fejes, a 1999, leads all Hungarian defenseman with a goal and three assists in six games. Mate Seregely has only two points, both assists, but the 2000 blueliner recorded those points in just three games.
Hungary should probably be expected to play well in the WJC, if its performance in the Friendly International tournament is any gauge. The U20 team beat France, a Division I Group A squad, 4-3 on Nov. 10. Horvath had a pair of goals in that game, including the game winner in overtime. Three days earlier, the Hungarians beat Italy, which will be in Group B, 6-2, with two goals from Revesz and one from Horvath. The team’s only loss was a one-goal defeat to Slovenia, also in Group B. Vertes netted a pair in that one.