To say the least, it was a tough week for Team Korea at the World Para Hockey Championship.
Not only could they not seem to catch a break in the round robin, they also had to deal with the eventual gold-medal finalists Canada and the U.S. before running into a tough Team China in the quarter-final.
So it stood to reason that the hockey gods would shine a bit of light Korea’s way on Sunday morning in the fifth-sixth place game, and sure enough, that’s what happened.
Korea battled to a 1-1 draw through regulation and overtime with Team Italy and then saw Jang Dong Shin score three times in the shootout to take a 2-1 victory at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
As a result, Korea will finish in fifth place and Italy in sixth, with both teams returning to Pool A for the Worlds in 2025.
“It’s right after the game and there’s a lot of things going through my mind, but I’m just happy we were able to get the win,” said Korea’s Lee Jun Yong “There was a lot of weight on our shoulders going into this game and I’m happy for the team we won and we’re looking forward to the next time we get to play.”
Korea head coach Kim Taoe Ho was equally as pleased with the result, even if seeing it go to a shootout wasn’t exactly what they were hoping for.
“I don’t like it because it’s really hard on the heart, but we had a good goalie who made some saves and then Jang our captain scored a couple of big goals and it was nice to get the win,” he said. “Any time you can win a hockey game you’re happy, and this was for fifth and sixth so it was an important game for us.”
As the score would indicate, the game was close in every aspect, from time of possession to legitimate scoring chances and on the shot clock.
Both Korea goaltender Choi Hyuk Jun and Italy’s Santino Stillitano were sharp from the get go, and they needed to be as both teams had early chances. Choi finished with 19 saves, while Stillitano was right there as well with 22 stops of his own.
Stephan Kafmann opened scoring for Italy 10 minutes into the second period and Cho Byeong Seok replied for Korea three minutes later with the only goals of regulation.
The shootout would end up going 12 shooters deep before Jang scored the winner and Choi made a save on Andrea Macri to finish things off.
It was a disappointing game result for Italy, but they were proud of their impressive defensive performance just the same.
“It was a very good game, and we knew that Korea would be a strong team,” said forward Matteo Remotti-Marnini. “Then the shootout is just 50-50, you don’t know how it’s going to go and it wasn’t good for us. But I’m proud of my team and my line, I expected we could win, but we’ll get them next time.”
Seeing his crew come as close as they did to a win was a positive for coach Mirko Bianchi.
“It was a tough game, we played good and we’re on the same level, and I’m happy for that,” he said. “Then the penalty shots are a like a lottery, and I’m not so happy we lost like that, but we fought to the end against Korea and I’m happy for the team.”
The tournament wraps up with the bronze medal game between Czechia and China, followed by the gold medal game between Canada and the U.S. at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the title contest are available on www.sasktix.ca.