Im­prov­ing hockey team is run­ner-up

Korea beats poland and italy to fin­ish sec­ond in tour­na­ment

JoongAng Daily - - Sports - BY KIM MIN-KYU bong­moon@joongang.co.kr AP

The Korean na­tional ice hockey team led by Korean-Cana­dian Coach Jim Paek, or Paek Ji-seon, beat 24thranked Poland, 6-3, in the Euro Ice Hockey Chal­lenge in Bu­dapest on Mon­day to fin­ish the tour­na­ment in sec­ond place.

The Korean team, ranked 23rd, beat 18th-ranked Italy on Sun­day, 4-3, in a penalty shootout after los­ing to 19thranked Hun­gary, 6-1, on Satur­day.

The team ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions given that Italy, Poland and Hun­gary are in Di­vi­sion I Group A of the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion (IIHF).

Korea was rel­e­gated to the thirdtier Group B after los­ing all five of its matches in Di­vi­sion I Group A at the IIHF World Cham­pi­onship in April.

As rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the host coun­try, the team is el­i­gi­ble to com­pete in the 2018 Pyeongchang Win­ter Olym- pic Games, but it was not com­pet­i­tive against other teams from Europe and North Amer­ica.

That changed when Paek ar­rived in Au­gust. Though ice hockey is not popular in Korea, Paek’s ca­reer is as glo­ri­ous as that of foot­ball legend Cha Bum-kun, who scored 98 goals in the Bun­desliga.

Paek moved to Canada at the age of 1. He be­came the first Asian NHL player as a de­fense­man for the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins in 1991, and won the Stan­ley Cup in 1991 and 1992.

“We are think­ing we may not be able to come back to the na­tional team if we don’t sur­vive here,” said 27-yearold Shin Sang-woo of Dae­myung Sangmu. “We can’t re­lax be­cause we al­ways feel like we are be­ing tested.”

Paek in­tro­duced ad­vanced strate­gies to the na­tional team.

“Paek or­dered us to watch NHL video clips, and he teaches us set plays,” said Shin.

“Two of the goals in the game against Poland were the re­sult of strat­egy train­ing,” said Park Woo-sang, the team’s cap­tain.

Paek’s team of­ten em­ploys swarm­ing tac­tics, in which all play­ers join both the at­tack and de­fense, sim­i­lar to the Nether­lands’ to­tal foot­ball tac­tics. In the match against Italy, even de­fense­men Kim Hyuk and Bryan Young had goals.

The coach also cheers up the play­ers by telling them in his im­per­fect Korean: “Don’t think too much, en­joy the hockey. We are get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day, be­cause we did good against Italy and even bet­ter against Poland.”

Park said his coach­ing style cen­ters on what he calls his “three P’s,” which re­fer to pas­sion, prac­tice and per­se­ver­ance. And he is about to add one more “P”: Pyeongchang. LeBron James wanted so badly to give back to Cleve­land fans after he played poorly in his emo­tion-laced home opener. They de­served some­thing. On Mon­day night, he de­liv­ered a be­lated gift.

James recorded a triple-dou­ble with 32 points, 12 re­bounds and 10 as­sists, Kyrie Irv­ing scored 27 of his 32 in the sec­ond half and Cleve­land’s Big 3 dom­i­nated in a 118-111 win over the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans on Mon­day night.

Kevin Love made six 3-point­ers and added 22 points for the Cavs, who were back at Quicken Loans Arena for the first time since Oct. 30, when Cleve­land wel­comed James home after four years in Mi­ami. He failed to play up to the mon­u­men­tal event, go­ing 5 of 15 and com­mit­ting eight turnovers in a stun­ning loss to the New York Knicks.

James wouldn’t al­low a re­peat per­for­mance. After the Cavs re­turned from a four-game road trip, James went on his Twit­ter ac­count and told Cleve­land fans, “I owe y’all one.’’ Not any­more. “It worked out. It’s good when you put some­thing out there and it comes true,’’ he said. “I owed them one, and many more as well. Tonight we took care of business.’’

James and Irv­ing dom­i­nated in the sec­ond half, com­bin­ing for 49 points — 30 in the third quar­ter when the Cavs over­came a 9-point deficit. Love, too, was huge after half­time, mak­ing four 3-point­ers.

“This is spe­cial,’’ said Irv­ing, who added nine as­sists and had just one turnover in 40 min­utes. “We played well as a group.’’

An­thony Davis scored 27 with 14 re­bounds for the Pel­i­cans, who beat de­fend­ing NBA cham­pion San An­to­nio on Satur­day night and gave the Cava­liers all they could han­dle. Ryan An­der­son added 32 points — 23 in the first half for New Or­leans.

“In or­der for you to be­come one of the best you have to play the best and learn from them,’’ Davis said. “I love play­ing against LeBron and the Cavs. They’re a tough team. They have three play­ers who can score the ball at will. We broke down de­fen­sively. They scored 118 points. We can’t al­low teams to do that.’’

Irv­ing’s 3-pointer gave the Cavs a 101-95 lead, but the Pel­i­cans didn’t go away and were within three when Love drained one of his six 3s. Irv­ing scored on a con­ven­tional 3-point play and then hit another long-range shot to give Cleve­land a 110-98 lead with 2:26 left.

James was taken but Coach David Blatt had to re-in­sert the su­per­star in the clos­ing seconds after An­der­son’s 3 brought the Pel­i­cans to 117-111 with 13.9 seconds left.

Fol­low­ing the game, Blatt an­swered sev­eral ques­tions be­fore re­mind­ing ev­ery­one what James did.

“Hey, that guy No. 23 was pretty good tonight,’’ Blatt said. “It’s easy to over­look that guy. He grabbed the game. He un­der­stood the mo­ment.’’

[AP/NEW­SIS]

Jeong Wu-seong, left, and Ahn Jeong-hyeon, sec­ond from left, de­fend Se­bas­tian Kowalowka of Poland in the last match of the Euro Ice Hockey Chal­lenge in Bu­dapest on Mon­day.

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