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Boasting a roster with two North American’s on the club (former ECHL goalie Jerry Kuhn and recent AHLer Philip-Michael Devos), HC Val Pusteria was the first successful team of the Italian league thanks to their Supercoppa Italiana victory this weekend.

The Supercoppa Italiana is an Italian hockey challenge that pits off two teams in a winner takes all event. Pusteria’s opponents, SV Renon, was close to forcing overtime in the contest, by Devos’ goal in the final seconds of the third period gave Val Pusteria the eventual victory in the contest.

Sv Renon, who feature two former New York Rangers prospects in Chris Holt and Patrick Rissmiller, were the most recent champions of the Italian Serie A hockey league last year, beating their Pusterian rivals in the sixth and final game of the championship series.

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swiss-image.ch/Photo Andy Mettler
swiss-image.ch/Photo Andy Mettler

Ten teams have been added to the Champions Hockey League pool, bringing the total up to 4o teams.

According to the IIHF, the new clubs were brought in as wild cards after league play in their respective countries. The new clubs consist of VSV Villach and the Bolzano Foxes from Austria’s EBEL, Lukko Rauma and SaiPa Lappeenranta from Finland, Geneve-Servette and the Kloten Flyers from the Swiss NLA, Skelleftea AIK and Vaxjo Lakers from Sweden, Ocelari Trincec and either PSG Zlin or Kometa Brno from the Czech Extraliga and the Hamburg Freezers as well as Kölner Haie or Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams from Germany.

The first and only edition of the CHL was played with only 12 teams from the top seven leagues in Europe, with the Swiss club ZSC Lions taking home the championship. Following their win, the team took on the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in the Victoria Cup, and surprisingly, the NHL superstars were defeated in the final. The Champions League was cancelled shortly after, with hope that the NHL would participate in the future, but that never was the case.

Current team list (IIHF):

  • Austria (EBEL): Red Bull Salzburg, Vienna Capitals.
  • Czech Republic (Extraliga): Bili Tygri Liberec, HC Pardubice, Sparta Prague, Vitkovice Ostrava.
  • Finland (Liiga): IFK Helsinki, JYP Jyvaskyla, KalPa Kuopio, Karpat Oulu, Tappara Tampere, TPS Turku.
  • Germany (DEL): Adler Mannheim, Eisbaren Berlin, ERC Ingolstadt, Krefeld Pinguine.
  • Switzerland (NLA): SC Bern, Fribourg-Gotteron, ZSC Lions Zurich, EV Zug.
  • Sweden (SHL): Djurgarden Stockholm, Frolunda Gothenburg, Farjestad Karlstad, HV71 Jonkoping, Linkopings HC, Lulea Hockey.

According to the IIHF:

The Champions Hockey League will commence its inaugural season on 21 August 2014 and will play a 149-game schedule culminating with the final game on 3 February 2015. The draw for the group stage is planned on 21st May in Minsk, Belarus, where the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will be held.

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The Italian National U20 continued their rise to glory this past weekend, securing a promotion to Division I Group A following  a 4-2 victory over Ukraine.

In this year’s edition of the tournament, the key was battling back after giving up early leads in the first four contests against Great Britain, Japan and Kazakhstan. In the first game against Team GB, the Italians scored two goals late to win 4-3 in overtime, creating the first memorable comeback in their impressive run. They then trailed Japan 3-1 early in the second period but came back to win 4-3 after a strong performance late in the contest, and would see the exact same results in the third game against Kazakhstan.

As it seemed to be the trend in the tournament for the Azzurri, the Italians would see themselves having to claw back after giving up three goals to the number one seeded France in the second last game, but they still managed to rally back to win their fourth straight 4-3 victory. In the final game against Ukraine, the blue, red, white and green once again found themselves behind 2-1 against the challengers from Ukraine, however three unanswered goals from Peter Hochkofler, Joachim Ramoser and Tommaso Trezago sealed the deal for the Italians.

Italy haven’t felt what it was like to gain promotion in some time now, earning a promotion from Division II Group A in 2008. On the flip-side, Japan turned a one-goal deficit into a 2-1 lead in the relegation game against Great Britain, but the Brits continued the trend started by Italy to take home the win and send Japan off to Division II Group A. Despite a good start by the UK against Italy, the win doesn’t do much to change the fact that the team was competing in Division I, Group A just last year, yet almost experienced a complete collapse.

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Following impressive wins in their own respective tournaments, the Stavanger Oilers and HC Asiago have been promoted to the IIHF’s Continental Cup Super Finals.

In the Group D tournament, the EIHL’s Nottingham Panthers needed a regulation victory to spring from third to first in the group, but unfortunately it didn’t work out to their liking. Asiago’s Stefano Marchetti helped get his team on the board with two identical blasts (both on the power-play) from the point in the early going, however David Clarke cut the lead in half when he got one for the Panthers shortly after. Just like Marchetti on the opposing side, Clarke would also jam home his second of the game but Layne Ulmer got Asiago’s third PP goal of the contest and would take home the victory. The win gave Asiago an undefeated record, capping off an incredible 2013 calender year for the team who took home the Italian league championship a few months prior.

In Group E action, the Stavanger Oilers from Norway had high hopes going into the final match-up of the tournament following a dominant 9-1 victory over Dunaújvárosi Acélbikák the night before. Their competition for Sunday, SønderjyskE, had nothing more to lose after losing both of their two prior games, but they weren’t ready to just roll over and let the Oilers take home the easy win. Petter Røste Fossen got the scoring going for Stravanger 13 minutes into the game but would have his goal matched by Pauli Levokari at the start of the second. Unfortunately for SønderjyskE, they would see their underdog effort fall short when Dan Kissel and Christian Dahl Andersen both got markers of their own in the final ten minutes of the third to give the Oilers their third and final victory, edging out Neman Grodno in the final standings.

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Following a season in Italy, former NHL prospect David Liffiton has signed a tryout contract with Swedish team Färjestad.

Signing an entry level contract with the Rangers on July 29, 2004, Liffiton  began his professional career with Rangers ECHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, before moving up to American Hockey League affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack for the majority of the 2004–05 season. On November 4, 2008, Liffiton signed as a free agent to a one-year contract with Esbjerg fB of the Danish League, Oddset Ligaen.Upon Completing the season, he ended his European stint on July 13, 2009, and came back to North America initially signing a one-year deal with Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League. David was invited to Syracuse’s NHL affiliate, the Columbus Blue Jackets, training camp for the 2009–10 season and was signed to a one-year contract with the Blue Jackets before he was re-assigned to the Crunch on September 29, 2009.

As a free agent, David returned to his original draft team in the Colorado Avalanche, signing a one-year contract on July 2, 2010. He was then re-assigned during the 2010–11 pre-season to the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, on September 23, 2010. His first NHL goal was scored on October 30, 2010 against Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets. With the return to health of Adam Foote, Liffiton was returned to the Monsters after 4 games with the Avalanche before suffering a season-ending injury.

Last season, Milano Rossoblu signed Liffiton for the season, where he would record six goals and ten points in 44 games.

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Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

Following a short, but well traveled career,  goaltender Shawn Hunwick will join his agent Alec Schall as part of Legacy Global Sports, retiring from hockey.

If you were wondering what Hunwick was up to this year, all you had to do was pay attention to our transaction page. Hunwick was  released from his contract with EC Red Bull Salzburg after playing three European Trophy games and only one in its entirety in September. Afterward, it was believed that he was to sign with Bolzano in Italy, however the deal fell through. Just a few days after being let go, however, Hunwick signed a tryout with the ECHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, the Las Vegas Wranglers, and was later signed to a tryout by the Providence Bruins of the AHL. He didn’t get a contract once his tryout was completed, and was sent to the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. After 9 miserable games in a Stingray uniform, Hunwick was traded to the Utah Grizzlies, where his stats didn’t do justice. In 11 games this season, the former college star has 4 wins, 5 losses in 9 games this year, with a not so pleasant 4.38 GAA  and .830 SP in his two outings with Utah. Hunwick had a 2.92 GAA while facing about 30 shots per game with the South Carolina Stingrays this season. Before 2012 even came to a close, he signed a contract for the remainder of the season with the Iserlohn Roosters of the DEL in Germany. With Sebastion Caron, as well as young goalies Lukas Schaffrath and Raphael Leibfried, Hunwick’s play didn’t warrant him a contract renewal, resulting in the end of his career.

During the 2011-2012 campaign, Hunwick was signed to an amateur try-out on March 28th, 2012 just days after his college career ended. The Columbus Blue Jackets gave him this opportunity when Steve Mason went down to injury in a practice. -Hunwick made his NHL debut on April 7th in a game against the Islanders after replacing Steve Mason in the last few minutes in a 7-3 victory.

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Milano Rossoblu, a team competing in Italy, have signed Springfield Falcons goaltender Paul Dainton, Abbotsford Heat forward Adam Estoclet, Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Jamie Fritsch and Lillehammer forward Brad Schell.

Dainton has spent the past three seasons split between the AHL’s Falcons and Chicago Express, Reading Royals and Evansville Icemen of the ECHL. During his first season in 2010-2011, he played five games with the Falcons and had an impressive 2.63 goals against average to go along with a 2-2-0 record. The following season, he had a 3.11 goals against average and a 12-11-1 record in 28 games with the squad, and followed it up with a 3-5-1 record last season as Curtis McElhinney and Allen York stole the lions share of the work.

Estoclet played four seasons of NCAA college hockey with Dartmouth College scoring 103 points in 127 games. On September 13, 2011, the Grand Rapids Griffins signed Estoclet to a standard American Hockey League contract, but after 12 games, he was traded to the Abbotsford Heat. During his second professional season last year, he split time with the Heat, as well as the Utah Grizzlies, recording two points in the AHL and 39 in the ECHL.

Undrafted, he was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers on an amateur try-out contract on April 12, 2009, but would only get one game of action with the squad. Fritsch signed with the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL for the 2009–10 season and played in 48 games posting 5 points. On February 5, 2010, he was signed to a try-out with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL and appeared in 2 games. Following the season, he was traded to the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL on August 12, 2010, and played there for three years.

Schell was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 9th round (167th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After 23 total games split between the Chicago Wolves and the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL, he didn’t play anywhere during the 2010-2011 campaign, but did sign with Dornbirner EC in Austria2 the next season, dominating the scoring with 50 points in 27 games. Midway through the year, he got a chance in Austria’s top division, playing four games with the Graz 99ers before the season was over. This past year, Schell went on to rip up Norway, recording 64 points while spending the season with Lillehammer.

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Layne Ulmer has signed a one year extension with Italian club Asiago HC following a 58 point season last year.

Ulmer was drafted 209th overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators. After going unsigned by the club, the Saskatchewan native was signed as a free agent by the New York Rangers in June of 2011. He played one game with the Rangers in the NHL during the 2003–04 season, however Ulmer spent the majority of his contract with the Rangers affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.

After spending the 2005–06 season with the San Antonio Rampage, he left for TPS Turku of the SM-liiga and in 2007, Ulmer played for the DEL’s Frankfurt Lions. Following a one year stay with Austria during the 2008-2009 season, Ulmer began his time with Asiago, playing four seasons with the club to date. His best offensive year was achieved this season, where he was good for 29 goals and 58 points in 44 games.

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Former Nashville Predators goaltender Chris Mason has been signed by Ritten/Renon of the Elite.A league in Italy.

Mason ended up with a 3.73 GAA and .873 save percentage in 11 games in 2013 sitting as a backup to Pekka Rinne. During the 2003–04 season, Mason joined the Predators full-time as the backup to starter Vokoun. In 17 appearances that season, Mason finished with a 4–4–1 record, with a 2.18 GAA and .926 save percentage. During the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Mason played for Vålerenga Ishockey in the Norwegian league with fellow Predator Scott Hartnell. Being hailed as the best goalie in the league ever, he played a big part in Vålerenga securing their 25th league championship and their 24th Norwegian Championship by winning the playoffs.

During the off-season in 2007, Vokoun was traded to the Florida Panthers for a few draft picks, leaving Mason as the starter for Nashville, alone with backup goaltender Dan Ellis. Mason quickly won the first two games, the collective scores of which were 9–1 in favor of the Predators, but then dropped a startling seven straight games. Dan Ellis, however, was able to step up for the Predators and win four straight. Mason returned to play against theDetroit Red Wings in a 43-save loss. The loss was no surprise, but Mason did show that he could effectively remain the Nashville starter, and continued to start for the remainder of his time with the Predators. He later signed with the Atlanta Thrashers and would act as a backup to Ondrej Pavelec up until re-signing with the Predators last season. 

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Former NHL defenseman Andy Delmore has retired and will be an assistant coach with the Sarnia Sting after splitting the past season in Austria and Italy.

Delmore went undrafted in 1997 and signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Flyers, making his NHL debut during the 1998–99 season. Delmore was traded twice on March 9, 2004; the Sabres first traded him to the Boston Bruins for future considerations and he was then traded to the San Jose Sharks (along with Curtis Brown) for Jeff Jillson and a ninth-round draft pick. He did not play for either team.

After a few seasons patrolling the Detroit and Tampa blue lines, Delmore went back to Germany (where he played in the 2004-2005 lockout) and signed a two-year contract with the Hamburg Freezers, of the DEL on July 17, 2007.  After a two-year absence, Delmore returned to North America for the 2009–10 season when the Detroit Red Wings again signed Delmore to a one-year contract on July 28, 2009. Delmore was then assigned to AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. On March 3, 2010, he was traded to the Calgary Flames for Riley Armstrong. He was then assigned to Flames affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat. On October 24, 2010, Delmore left again for Europe signing a one-year contract with Norwegian team, Lørenskog IK, and stayed overseas for the remainder of his career.

A veteran of more than 600 games combined at the National Hockey League and American Hockey League level, Delmore was an AHL All-Star in 2005-06 and won the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award (Defenseman of the Year) in that same season.

 

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Matt Ryan, who has NHL and AHL experience, has signed a one year deal with the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL in the UK.

Undrafted, Ryan played Junior hockey with the Wexford Raiders of the OPJHL before committing to a collegiate career at Niagara University of the CHA. Seeking a higher level of hockey, Ryan joined the Guelph Storm, and in 2003–04, Ryan scored a career high 77 points on the way to reaching the Memorial Cup. On August 2, 2004, Matt was signed by the Los Angeles Kings to a three-year entry level contract. In 2004–05, his first professional season, Ryan scored 24 points with the Kings AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. The following season, he made his NHL debut with the Kings on December 31, 2005 against the Dallas Stars, finishing 2005–06 with 12 games played and recorded an assist.

Ryan played the next two seasons strictly with Manchester before signing a one-year contract with German team, Augsburger Panther of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. During the 2008–09 season, Matt’s contract with the Panthers was suspended after he returned home to Canada for personal reasons on November 11, 2008. Ryan returned later in the season and became the Panthers most dependable role player and was re-signed for a further year on June 10, 2009. On June 15, 2010, Ryan signed a one-year contract with Austrian league team, Villacher SV, and last season, Ryan posted 24 points in 38 games with Italian team Milano Rossoblu.

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After spending the past campaign with Milano Rossoblu in Italy, Andrew Raycroft has signed a one year deal with Björklöven in the Swedish league Allsvenskan.

Raycroft, remember him? The Leafs traded Tuukka Rask to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Raycroft back in 2006. To this day, many people in the hockey world still make fun of this trade because the Leafs could have had a good goalie on their hands for years. Well, Raycroft has played for the Avalanche, Canucks and most recently, the Stars since his Leafs days.

Raycroft was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 5th round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. This past season, he split time between the NHL and AHL with Dallas’ system. For Dallas, Raycroft had a record of 2-8-0 in 10 games with a GAA of 3.51 and a .897 save percentage. Down in the minors, he played in 21 games where he had a record of  9-10-1 with a GAA of 3.16 and a .891 save percentage. Over his career, Raycroft has gone up and down in his performances but lately, he has mostly been down in the dumps. In addition, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy for the 2003-2004 season, beating out players like Michael Ryder, Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal and more.

Leafs fans, this trade is never going to go away.

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After a season with Timrå in Elitserien over in Sweden, h has signed a two year pact with Luleå, also of the Swedish league.

Bellissimo is an athletic goaltender with quick reflexes and done well wherever he has played in his career. Originally from Toronto, Ontario, he began his career in the OPJHL for Vaughan Vipers, before moving to Italian team HC Asiago in 2006, where he also played with his brother Vince. He won two championships while playing with the club, which generated interest around other European hockey leagues after four seasons there. In 2011-2012, he signed a deal with BIK Karlskoga in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league, where he posted seven shutouts to go along with a  2.23 GAA and a .923 SP in 49 games played. That prompted Timrå to sign him to a one year deal in the top league over in Sweden, where, while despite a losing 10-20-0 record in 30 games, he put up a .919 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average.

Being a dual citizen, Bellissimo has played in multiple IIHF tournaments as a member of the Italian men’s national team over the years. During the 2009-2010 season, where he was named the top player in the entire Italian Hockey League, he was named as one of Italy’s top three players at the World Championships. The next year, along with Thomas Tragust, Italy won the Division 1 Group A World Championships, and the next year he was once again named as one of the top three players.

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Photo: Laszlo Mudra

Italy 4, Japan 1

Photo: Laszlo Mudra

Italy started their second game of the tournament just as strong as their first matchup against South Korea yesterday. The pressure against Japanese goaltender pressure Yukata Fukufuji was prevalent from the start, taking only 83 seconds before the Italians put their first one home. David Borrelli, who looked sharp against the other Asian squad yesterday, put the puck past the former LA Kings goaltender via a great pass from Trevor Johnson to put them up 1-0 early. The Azzurri put Japan under constant pressure throughout the frame, outshooting the red, black and white 20-5 after only one period. Nine minutes into the second, Italy doubled their lead, as Armin Hofer found the back of the net after a good play from linemates Anton Bernard and Christian Borgatello, ringing the shot home over the glove of Fukufuji. Despite the Japanese’s strong penalty kill just prior, Patrick Iannone couldn’t be stopped, and would light the lamp with a wicked wrist shot that went top corner on the Japanese netminder. Japan did their best to penetrate the Italian defense in the third after a semi-decent second period showing, and would later get their first goal of the match late in the game. With four minutes on the board, Italy scored their fourth of the game, with Patrick Iannone securing  the rubber disk after a slick passing play which caught the Japanese off guard, good enough to give themselves the fourth and final Italian goal. Adam Dennis, the star goaltender for Italy against the Koreans, saw his shutout streak come to an end after 109:07, as Japan finally broke their duck with a shortside shot by Go Tanaka that squeezed between the post and the pad of the former Buffalo Sabres prospect. Italy would hold on to a 4-1 win, giving them all six points that could have been earned up to this point. Their next matchup is with Great Britain on Wednesday, white Japan will take on South Korea next.

Kazakhstan 5, Great Britain 0

Photo: Laszlo Mudra

Great Britain didn’t come out to play with the big dogs today, as Kazakhstan rolled over the English team 5-0 to remain undefeated. The last time the two national teams faced off at the Worlds, Kazakhstan went into the game against Great Britain as favourites but they just defeated the British in a 2-1 victory. The first period was a decent one for both goalies, Stephen Murphy for the Brits and Vitali Kolesnik for the Asians, but Kolesnik came out of the frame with the last laugh as his team took a 2-0 lead into the first break in action. First, Konstantin Romanov, the star from their game against Japan, scored after a great forward pass through the British defence from Andrei Spiridonov. Only 19 seconds later, Ilya Solarev got stopped on a breakaway before ripping a shot from the faceoff dot and between the legs of the British goaltender. The British went on to control the shot clock the next two periods, however they had a tough time getting past  Kolesnik. Daniel Meyers had one of the best scoring chances in the first five minutes of the middle frame when he shot the puck up close, only to get stopped by the Kazakhstan puckstopper’s shoulder. With two men in the box for the Brits, Roman Savchenko fired a slap shot with only 8.4 seconds left in the period to end the period with a three-goal margin. The British continued to take penalties, a trait that has plauged them in many tournaments recently, and Vadim Krasnoslobotsev took advantage, sending the puck over Murphy’s shoulder for the 4-0 goal. A tic-tac-toe passing play late in the period allowed Yevgeni Blokhin to score the 5-0 goal on yet another power play, resulting in an easy victory for the Kazakhs.  If the Brits are to win a game against the tougher competition, they will need to stay out of the penalty box and provide more offense, maybe lightening the load forced on Murphy between the pipes.

South Korea 5, Hungary 4

 

Photo: Laszlo Mudra

What should have been an easy 4-1 victory for the Hungarians turned into a nightmare collapse, resulting in the underdog South Koreans getting the 5-4 overtime stunner. Hungary began to set the tone in the beginning and it looked to become an easy game for Hungarians, who gave up the first goal yesterday against Britain before coming away with the win. At only 2:06 into the first, Ladislav Sikorcin one-timed the puck into the net from the right face-off dot to take the early one goal advantage. Just over a minute later, Istvan Bartalis doubled the gap after a centering pass from Istvan Sofron, making it 2-0 quite early on. At the thirteen minute mark of the match, the game look all but decided, Janos Hari skated into the Korean zone and sent off a perfect shot to the top-left corner to make it 3-0. With Korea not generating many scoring chances, the game looked like it had come to an end…or did it? In the second period, both teams had 10 shots on net as South Korea started to improve their on ice product. This would eventually pay off as five minutes into the middle frame, Jiman Yoon found An Tae Kwon with a perfect pass, and Kwon one timed the puck in off the quick rush. The glory was short lived for the Koreans, as Hungary’s Janos Vas bagged a powerplay marker only minutes after to give the men in green the 4-1 lead. This would result in Sungje Park replaced Hyunseung Eum in the Korea net, and Park would go on to not let in a single marker once he hit the blue paint. South Korea continued their rebirth at the start of the third period, starting with a 4 on 3 powerplay when  Brock Radunske fired from the right wing circle, and Kisung Kim was the first to the rebound, putting the puck past Miklos Rajna. With the lead already cut in half, Won Jung Kimmade it a one-goal game with more than 14 minutes left in regulation thanks to a nifty pass from linemate Sangwoo Sin. Minutes later, a scary incident happened as Korean defenceman Seungyup Lee had to be transported from the ice on a stretcher after an open-ice hit. The Koreans were now more hungry than ever to get the win, and minutes later Sangwoo Sin fed Wonjung Kim, who lifted the puck over the diving Rajna to tie the game at 4 with 10 minutes remaining. A Tamas Pozsgai’s blunder at the Hungary blueline gave South Korea a 2 on 1 chance in the dying minutes of the match, but Rajna was able to get his right pad on the play to keep the game tied before overtime. After no goals were scored in the extra frame, the team’s went to shootout. Brock Radunske scoredfor South Korea, and Marton Vas scored for Hungary. In round three, Kisung Kim seemed to lose the handle, but managed to somehow get back control of the puck and then slip a backhand past Rajna, giving the Koreans the spectacular come from behind victory.

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Former Florida Panthers goaltender Tyler Plante wasn’t able to stick over in North America after a couple of seasons floating between the AHL and ECHL. However, mid-season this year, he found a home with Asiago in Italy, which turned out to be a great career move for both him and the team, as they were able to take home the championship today after capturing a 6-5 win during overtime in the fifth and final game against Valpellice.

After winning the Italian Cup in January, the first championship of any kind for the club, Valpellice came in hoping to cap on their success. Unfortuanely for them, Layne Ulmer scored the decisive goal after 22 seconds in the overtime, his goal number 19 in the playoffs, to give the championships to their competitors, Asiago. Asiago’s first line was devastating and decisive in playoffs, after the team played through a mediocre regular season. Ulmer, Chris DiDomenico, a former Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick,  Italy’s Series A regular season top scorer Sean Bentivoglio amassed a total of 42 goals and 68 assists in 15 playoff games, a very impressive feat in any league.

After defeating Valpellice 4-1 in the overall series, Asiago captured their third title in the last four years. Founded in 1935 thanks to the initiative of Edoardo Carli, AS Asiago made its debuts in the Serie B, where it played some good seasons before World War II interrupted play for several seasons (excluding 1940-41). Following the War, it took only one season 1946-47) to Asiago to be promoted to the Serie A. The club maintained itself there for seven years before falling back to the Serie B in 1955. They would be promoted back to Serie A shortly after and haven’t looked back. Notable Asiago alumni include Stanley Cup champion Fernando Pisani, longtime NHLer Cliff Ronning, former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Dandenault and the first overall selection in the 1980 NHL entry draft, the late Doug Wickenheiser.

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Italian goaltender Thomas Tragust, who competed in the Olympic Qualifiers for Italy earlier this month, has been released by Austrian club HC Innsbruck after 15 games played.

Tragust began play hockey in at the young age of five in Latsch, Italy.  In 2003, he debuted in the A1 series, the premier ice hockey league in Italy, where in his first game he recorded a 6-0 shutout, and would later lead the team to two national championships  In 2005, he played for Italy at the IIHF World U-20 Hockey Championship in Division I as a starter, and due to his strong play, he was the named backup to Jason Muzzatti at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. At the Olympics, Tragust got his break in the final game, when they were risking demotion to Group B. Italy was down 3-0 to Slovenia, when head coach Mickey Goulet pulled veteran Muzzatti, in favour of Tragust, who stood on his head while the Italians fought back to tie the game. After Tragust left Meran at the end of the 2005-06 season, the team dropped to the second division.

Tragust took a stab at the North American market, signing with the Texas Tornado in the North American Hockey League. The Buffalo Sabres liked what they saw out of Tragust, giving him a training camp tryout contract. Although he was unable to crack a spot within the Sabres organization, Tragust played great that season, taking the Tornado to the playoffs. He returned to his native Italy to play for HC Fassa for two years before signing in Germany. Before signing with Innsbruck this season, Tragust played net for Sterzing / Vipiteno, putting up decent numbers for a weak team.

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Group D (Germany):

 

Netherlands 1, Italy 4
http://en.rian.ru

Despite a solid tournament by the Italians, their loss to Austria in the first game of the tournament became costly as it was enough to knock them out of contention for 2014, but their game against the Netherlands was all for pride. Patrick Iannone opened the scoring at 5:16 into the first to give Italy a 1-0 lead. 54 seconds into the second frame, Vincent Rocco scored the second goal for the country known for its soccer and pizza. Robert Sirianni made it a 3-0 lead only 14 seconds after to put the game away with still more than half the game to go. With just under five minutes left in the period, Bjorn Willemse gave the Dutch some life, but that would be the only goal they were able to put past Italian netminder Daniel Bellissimo. Rocco scored his second goal with 68 seconds left with the Netherlands net empty to finish the game off with a 4-1 victory. Italy will take part in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Budapest, Hungary, while the Netherlands will play one tier below in the Division I Group B in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Germany 3, Austria 2 (OT)
goironpigs.com

Despite beating the Austrians 3-2 in overtime, the Germans will not be in the Olympics for men’s hockey for the first time in their history. Austria needed a win or at least one point from a loss in overtime or shootout to end the Final Olympic Qualification Group D on top of the standings, as they went undefeated while Germany lost to Italy on Friday. Germany brought the pressure early to the Austrians, getting some great scoring chances on Austrian goalkeeper Bernhard Starkbaum, but it wasn’t until the 18 minute mark of the first when a Constantin Braun slap-shot was deflected into the net by Benedikt Kohl. Austrian defenseman Andre Lakos would tie the game up for Austria midway through the game, but a barrage of penalties would result in a German go-ahead go by Michael Wolf at 6:54 of the third period. The Austrians didn’t give up their run as the top underdogs in the tournament, as veteran Markus Peintner tied the game up again at 2 apiece with 8 minutes left in the match. Time was running out for Germany, who came in as the favorites coming into the tournament, but even after pulling the goalie with a minute left in the game, the effort was not good enough. Patrick Reimer’s power-play goal in overtime became bittersweet for the Germans, as the one point gained by the Austrians was good enough to send them to the Olympics for the 16th time in the countries history.

Group E (Latvia):

 

Great Britain 0, Kazakhstan 6
Diane Davey

Going into the game against the Brits, Kazakhstan still had a chance to clinch a spot in Sochi, but today’s win wouldn’t prove big enough for the blue and yellow warriors. Roman Starchenko opened the scoring for the Kazakhs thirty seconds into the game in what turned out to be a close first period between both teams. However, the second period was much different, as a four-goal outburst in the second period made it 5-0 with still one more frame to go. Konstantin Romanov made it 2-0 early in the first, followed by goals from Talgat Zhailauov, Alexi Litvinenko, Ilya Solarev and Vikor Alexandrov in the second to make it 6-0 for Kazakhstan. A 1-0, 2-1, or 3-2 win by France against Latvia would have sent Kazakhstan to Sochi, however Latvia’s loss in overtime was good enough to let the Group E hosts clinch their fourth straight Olympic birth.

Latvia, France
File - Team Latvia's Juris Ziemins, right, celebrates his goal with teammates Vitalijs Hvorostinins, centre, and Arturs Kuzmenkovs during second period IIHF World Junior Championships hockey action against Team Slovakia in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Just like in the Austria/Germany match today, all the Latvians needed was a point to advance to the 2014 Olympics, and they did just that. France was attempting to reach its first Olympics Games since 2002, while hosts Latvia were trying to make it four Winter Games in a row in front of their loud fans. The game started out great for France, as French forward Damien Fleury got the puck in the corner of the Latvian zone and let off a shot that beat Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis below the glove. With just under five minutes left in the first period, Julien Desrosiers faked a shot in the Latvian zone and passed it off to captain Laurent Meunier for the one timer to put his team up 2-0. With 5:01 remaining in the second period Latvia got on the scoreboard thanks to a great end-to-end effort from Lauris Darzins that turned into a nice shot below former NHL goaltender Cristobal Huet’s glove to make it 2-1. Latvia came out very strong in the third and by far the most important  period of the tournament when Martins Karsums got the rebound off of an initial shot from Darzins to tie the game at two only twelve seconds into the period. With two minutes left, time was running out for France, who pulled Cristobal Huet in desperation. Unfortuanely, they were unable to pot a goal during regulation, making an overtime goal pointless for the dissapointed French players. Latvia will join the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Switzerland in Group C at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Group F (Denmark)

Slovenia 6, Ukraine 1
Jure Makovec/AFP/Getty Images

Thanks to two wins in two games in Group F, Slovenia’s third match-up was merely just a warm-up for the real challenge that faces them when they visit Sochi next year. Their domination of Ukraine today began very early, as Robert Sabolic scored twice and David Rodman scored once to give Slovenia a 3-0 lead before the game even hit the five minute mark. Ukrainian coach Olexander Kulikov knew that they weren’t going to have a fun time against their red, white and blue opponents, but in an attempt to shake things up, he replaced goalie Vadym Seliverstov, who was in his first game of the tournament, in favor of Yevgen Napnenko, who allowed 8 goals in his two previous starts. Rok Ticar made it 4-0 in the 10th minute of the game, while Jan Urbas managed to make it 5-0 during the second period in a completely one sided affair. Dmytro Nimenko was given a penalty shot with 31 seconds left in the second period, but Slovenian goaltender Luka Gracnar had no problem keeping the puck out of the net. Artem Gnidenko would record Ukraine’s only goal of the tournament in the third period, but Ziga Jeglic’s goal put the nail in the coffin for Ukraine as Slovenia pulled out with an easy 6-1 victory.

Denmark 2, Belarus 3
belarus.by

With both teams eliminated from Olympic contention, all that was on the line was bragging rights on who finished second in Group F.  All the action began in the second period, starting with Alexander Kitarov’s marker for Belarus at 5:12 into the frame to give Belarus the advantage. Just over a minute later, Danish forward Morten Poulsen received a feed from Kirill Starkov to equalize the score at 1. Belarus fought back though, as two minutes later, Mikhail Stefanovich, Toronto’s fourth round pick in 2008, got a nifty pass from Artyom Senkevich to make it 2-1 Belarus. Denmark wasn’t ready to give up the fight, when at 38:21 into the game, Julian Jakobsen was able to slip one in past Dimitri Milchakov to tie the game at two with only a period to go. Just two minutes into the third, Andrei Stepanov potted one in past Patrick Galbraith to give what would be the deciding goal in the game for Belarus. Denmark pulled Galbraith in the final minute of the game, however a comeback was not to be.

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Reuters

With the 2014 Winter Olympic games only a year away, the final three Olympic Qualification tournaments began today in what will be an important four days of hockey for twelve countries. During the six qualification games that took place today, all three host countries took home wins, as Germany rolled over the Netherlands, Denmark shutout the Ukrainians, and Latvia took out the highly-supported squad from Great Britain.

 

Group D (Germany):

Austria 3, Italy 2
AP Photo/Martin Meissner

In a battle between two underdogs, Austria opened Group D of the Men’s Final Olympic Qualification with a narrow 3-2 victory over Italy. Two early penalties opened the way to the Italian net for the Austrians, as Daniel Oberkofler recorded the first goal of the game thanks to a screen in front. With just a few minutes remaining in the first, Gregor Baumgartner doubled the lead for Austria to give them a 2-0 lead heading into the middle frame. Anton Bernard used a power play to get Italy on the scoreboard for the first time during the second but once again, Oberkofler got the puck past Italian goalie Daniel Bellissimo to give the Austrians their second two goal lead of the game.  Giulio Scandella had the biggest opportunity to score for the Italians in the third period when he missed on a breakaway, but Vincent Rocco picked up the puck and put in behind goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum 17 seconds later to make the game close once again. Italy wasn’t able to fight back, as Austria skated to a 3-2 score to grab three points (that’s how the IIHF operates) and the win with it.

Germany 5, Netherlands 1
Marco Leipold / City-Press

Germany came into the qualifiers expecting to blow out their competition in every, however their 5 goals on 57 shots may not come convincing enough for some. After a drop pass from Jerome Flaake, Alexander Barta scored his first of two goals at the 8:30 mark of the first. David Wolf would later give the Germans a two goal lead in the first, only to have Netherlands forward Marcel Kars cut the lead with a power play goal during the second period. Barta would score his second goal of the game with only 72 seconds in the second before Michael Wolf and Moritz Müller put the game away for the Germans, defeating the weaker Netherlands squad 5-1.

Group E (Latvia):

Kazakhstan 3, France 2
Reuters

Thanks to goals from Roman Starchenko and Konstantin Romanov, Kazakhstan escaped to a two goal lead early in the first twenty minutes in this match-up between the two teams in blue, Kazakhstan and France. Sacha Treille cut the lead for France in the second, but only two minutes later, Talgat Zhailauov scored the game winner to secure a vital opening game victory for the Kazakhs, while the rest of the team limited France to only a couple of scoring opportunities. with 2:18 left in the game France closed the deficit to 3-2 with a goal coming in front of the net from defenseman Baptiste Amar.  Kazakhstan controlled the pace through most of the first period, taking advantage of two miscues from French goaltender Cristobal Huet to go up 2-0, but for the rest of the game, the two time NHL All-Star Huet looked quite impressive between the pipes. The Kazakhs will take on tournament hosts Latvia on Friday, while France will challenge Great Britain.

Latvia 6, Great Britain 2
EPA

Great Britain may have had the support from UK hockey fans, however the hosts from Latvia proved to their opponents in Group E who the favorites to make the 2014 Olympics were. The Latvians got the early 1-0 advantage under five minutes thanks to a goal from Gints Meija, but it was short lived as just a minute later,  Robert Dowd shot the puck five-hole through goaltender Edgars Masalkis for the equalizer. Miks Indrasis received a cross-crease pass from Lauris Darzins and roofed it home to put the Latvians up by a goal once again. The game was over after that, as Oskars Bartulis used a power play to get the two-goal lead back for the Latvians before Ronalds Kenins and Georgijs Pujacs both got their own, giving Latvia a 5-1 lead. Craig Peacock would give GB their second goal during the third period, however it was too late for any comeback by the unfavoured Brits. Lauris Darzins scored a 5-on-3 powerplay goal for the Latvians to finish the game with a 6-2 win over the physical lads in blue, red and white. Great Britain’s bid to make the Olympics for the first time in 66 years isn’t over, but it is definetly dampened as Latvia may be too hard to defeat.

 

Group F (Denmark)

Slovenia 4, Belarus 2 
Belarus Hockey Pictures & Photos
AP Photo/Sergei Grits

Belarus came into the qualifiers as the top favored Group F club, however a 4-2 loss to Slovenia definetly gave them a scare. Just over 16 minutes in, Jan Urbas from the 18th ranked Slovenia team opened the score on the power-play, only to have Robert Sabolic score another PP goal at the beginning of the second to give Slovenia the early 2-0 lead. Alexander Kulakov and Andrei Stepanov tied the match for the 13th ranked Belarus team that clearly missed the help of Andrei Kostitsyn (kicked off due to not reporting to camp), Sergei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovski (both NHL). David Rodman, a veteran player for the Slovenia national team, restored the two-goal lead with 9.36 to go when a Jan Urbas shot bounced of Rodman’s body and past Vitali Koval, who had no chance to stop the puck. Rok Ticar made a beautiful cross-ice pass leading to a one timer by Robert Sabolic from the top of the faceoff circle to put the game away for the underdog Slovenian’s.

 

Denmark 2, Ukraine 0
thebreakaway.net

The Anaheim Ducks knew they had a quality NHL prospect when they drafted and later signed goalie Frederik Andersen, who lead his Danish teammates to a 2-0 shutout against Ukraine. It took the Danes almost 15 minutes to generate any substantial pressure, but with 4:45 left in the frame, Frederik Storm jumped on a rebound after Morten Madsen’s wrap around attempt to barely squeak the puck in the net. It was unclear to the referees whether or not the puck went into the net, but after checking some video footage during the first intermission, they were able to officially call it a goal. The Ukranians failed to take a penalty in the first period, however a call against them five minutes into the second proved to be costly, as Morten Green was able to give Denmark the 2-0 lead, and would later prove to be the final score. Ukraine will take on Belarus, both losers on Day 1, on Friday, while Denmark challenges Slovenia later in the day.

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Italy’s roster for the Group D Final Qualification Tournament played from February 7–10, 2013. They will be played in Bietigheim-Bissingen, Riga, and Vojens.

*Changes to Italy Roster: Daniel Tudin is out due to a knee strain and was replaced by Diego Iori. The team also added defender Andrea Ambrosi to the line-up.

NamePositionTeam
Adam DennisGoalieAlleghe
Thomas TragustGoalieHC Innsbruck
Armin HelferDefensemanVal Pusteria HC
Rolald HoferDefensemanHeKi
Trevor JohnsonDefensemanValpellice
Fabian HackhoferDefensemanRitten Renon
Andreas LutzDefensemanMilan
Enrico MiglioranziDefensemanAsiago HC
Federico BenettiForwardAsiago HC
David BorrelliForwardAsiago HC
Nathan Di CasmirroForwardValpellice
Edoardo CalettiForwardMilan
Lukas CrepazForwardVal Pusteria HC
Alexander EggerForwardBolzano
Luca FelicettiForwardCortina SG
Pat IannoneForwardVal Pusteria HC
Diego IoriForwardMilan
Diego KostnerForwardLugano
Patrick MairForwardVipiteno
Vincent RoccoForwardAlleghe HC
Giulio ScandellaForwardVal Pusteria HC
Matteo TessariForwardAsiago HC
Diego IoriForwardMilan Rossoblu
Andrea AmbrosiForwardBolzano

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The Lahti Pelicans from Sm-Liga announced today that they had released Angelo Esposito, who subsequently signed with Milano Rossoblu in Italy.

Impressing many in his major junior rookie season in the QMJHL, Esposito was touted early as a possible first-overall pick for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He had, in fact, already drawn comparisons to former Remparts star Guy Lafleur. However, declining offensive production at the junior level – his points total fell from 98 to 79 – led to him eventually being picked twentieth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

At the conclusion of his 2007–08 season with the Remparts, he made his professional debut with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League (AHL). In the off-season, he was traded in the QMJHL by the Remparts to the Montreal Juniors on June 7, 2008. On July 8, 2011, he was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Kenndal McArdle. On January 13, 2012, he was traded to the Dallas Stars for Ondrej Roman. This is the third time he has been traded by a NHL team, all without having yet to play a single game in the NHL. After the 2011-2012 season was over Esposito didn’t get a qualifying offer and thus became an unrestricted free agent. He signed with Lahti over the summer, and played 29 games for them before getting released.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.