Year after year, the Hungarian national ice hockey team comes very close to be promoted to the Elite Division of the World Championships. However, the crucial matches are usually lost by the Hungarian team. This year, Hungary tried to reach the top flight on home ice, and although the tournament involved some twists, the result was the same: disappointed Hungarian ice hockey fans.
Since their one and so far only top flight-appearance, Hungary tried to regain their spot among the best 16 teams of the world three times before this year’s tournament and they always achieved the best place which already wasn’t enough for promotion. This year, the two main rivals for the two promotion places were expected to be those teams relegated from the Elite Division last year: Italy and Kazakhstan.
The tournament started off well from Hungarian point of view: they beat Great Britain 4-2 with an unspectacular yet solid performance. The next game against South Korea was another compulsory victory for the Hungarians, and there weren’t any problems until the third period. Hungary was leading the Asians 4-1 and everyone thought this victory was already in the bag; everyone, including the Hungarian players, sadly. Korea fought back to reach extra time and to win it later through game-winning shots leaving the Hungarians devastated.
A well needed rest day followed this sour loss. At this day’s training session, the Hungarian fans showed very loudly that they still believed in their team. This support gave extra power to the Hungarian players before the match against Kazakhstan. They had nothing to lose and it was common knowledge before the tournament that Hungary has to beat at least one of the two big rivals.
The match against Kazakhstan was very intense. Both teams missed great chances, and the teams were even after two periods scoring one goal each. In the final period, the Hungarian team was able to do something which they haven’t done for a very long time: turn a key game to their favour. The last occasion for the Hungarians to beat a main rival was in 2008 inJapan against Ukraine. That win was enough for promotion but the situation was different now.
As two years ago, a win against Italy would have secured a place in the Elite Division for next year for Hungary. After the last occasion’s Extra Time-thriller, it was a close game again but Italy managed to win in regulation time to kick off their celebration party. Unlike two years ago, Hungary wasn’t out of the contention for promotion just yet but their fate wasn’t in their own hands.
On Saturday, Hungarian fans went into the Sportarena to root for the Italians against Kazakhstan which would have given the chance for the Hungarians. It turned out to be in vain. The already promoted Italians couldn’t care about their final match, Kazakhstan won easily to reach promotion and leave the Hungarians disappointed in yet another year.
For their fans and for their pride, the Hungarians won their final game against Japan. Hungary showed great performance for the most of the tournament but a one period meltdown against Korea proved to be crucial as none of the other two promotion-seekers gave away any points against the weaker teams. Still, the win against Kazakhstan showed the improvement of the Hungarian team in key matches and with that confidence boost next year might be the year of promotion. Hopefully, Hungary will be able to keep their fate in their own hands then.
By: Dávid Koczó