Belgium perfect in winning gold
by Ameeta VOHRA|11 MAR 2024
photo: © Zahit DÜZGÜN
Belgium flew high and finished with a perfect record to win gold at the 2024 IIHF U18 World Championship, Division III, Group A in Istanbul, Turkiye.
The championship has promoted Belgium to Division II, Group B.
The team faced their greatest test of the tournament in their final game against Iceland. Iceland opened the scoring on a shorthanded goal from Olafur Bjorgvinsson 6:57 into the first period.  Belgium scored three consecutive goals in the same period, including power-play markers from Simon Blanchy and Arisyan Brande. Nawfal Laeremans rounded out the scoring in that period.
Iceland pulled within one score when Haukur Karvelsson got the puck past Belgium goaltender Thijs Scheyltjens in the second period.  However, Belgium got insurance as Dries Schoovaerts tallied a goal at 6:57 of the third period.

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There were standout performances for Belgium throughout the tournament. Those included Blanchy’s game winning power play goal midway in the third period against Turkiye, Nafwal Laeremans’s pair of goals in the victory against Mexico, Gregory Finn’s two goals against Bosnia and Herzgovina, and Ruben van Bruyssel’s hat trick in the victory over New Zealand.
Forwar Robbe Delport was named player of the tournament for Belgium.
photo: © Zahit DÜZGÜN
Meanwhile, Mexico finished second in the tournament with a 4-0-1 record.  This is an improvement from a fourth-place finish at the 2023 tournament. The highlight was Luis Valencia netting a pair of goals in wins over New Zealand, Turkiye and Iceland. Nicolas Potts tallied a shorthanded goal 6:23 into the third period to give the team their win over Turkiye.
In the same game, Emilio Jimenez added a power play goal in the last couple of minutes in the second period and goaltender Santiago Cucuraqui stopped 38 of the 40 shots he faced in the game. Against Iceland, Jimenez tallied another power play goal. In the team’s final game of the tournament, Valencia tallied two goals and added five assists. Jack Wilson and Marcelo Abdala each had a pair of goals. 
Cucuraqui was named players of the tournament for Mexico.
photo: © Zahit DÜZGÜN
Turkiye ended up with a 3-0-2 record at the tournament. That meant a second consecutive third place finish at the tournament. In their loss against Belgium, the highlight was Mehmet Karadag’s hat trick, including scoring a power-play marker with 15 seconds remaining in the second period to tie the game. Ege Odabas scored a pair of goals in Turkiye’s win over Iceland.
One of their biggest offensive output came in their 15-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Emin Inandi racked up four goals, including three in the third period. In their final game of the tournament against New Zealand, Odabas had a four goal and two assist performance including a score on a penalty shot. Inandi added three goals and three assists.
Karadag was named player of the tournament for Turkiye.
photo: © Zahit DÜZGÜN
Iceland finished the tournament with a 2-0-3 mark. Helgi Bjarnason led the with four goals in the team’s victory over Bosnia Herzegovina.  Three of his goals came in the second period, while  Bjarmi Kristjansson and Askur Reynisson each tallied a pair of markers.
In their loss against Turkiye, goaltender Sigurgeir Soruson faced 35 shots on goal while Ymir Haflidason and Olafur Bjorgvinsson each scored a power play goal.
The highlight of the team’s victory over New Zealand was Bjarnason’s pair of goals, including a power play marker in the third period.  Hektor Hrolfsson added a shorthanded goal 48 seconds into the start of the second period.
Hrolfsson was named player of the tournament for Iceland.
photo: © Zahit DÜZGÜN
New Zealand was fifth in the standings with a 1-0-4 record.  In their only victory of the tournament against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Andrew Cunningham and Joel Paterson each scored a pair of goals. Goaltender Jake Thompson faced 33 shots on net.
There were some highlights in the team’s loss to Belguim.  Paterson racked up a pair of power play goals in the third period while Markus MacDonald added a shorthanded marker in the second period.  Goaltender Caleb Price faced 32 shots in the net.
Lennart Wimmer was named player of the tournament for New Zealand on the heels of netting a hat trick in the final game of the tournament against Turkiye.
photo: © Zahit DÜZGÜN
Despite Bosnia and Herzegovina ending up winless and at the bottom of the standings, there were a few bright spots for the team.  Amar Bajramovic scored the team’s first goal of the tournament against Iceland on the power play in the second period.
Against New Zealand, goaltender Ajnur Husejnovic faced 35 shots on goal while Faris Capin tallied a marker on the power play in the second period. Vasilije Vucinic scored a shorthanded goal and Benjamin Vranesic added a power play goal within five minutes apart of the second period of their game against Belgium. Barjamovic faced tremendous pressure in net as he faced 39 shots on goal. Ismael Silajdizic scored the lone goal in the team’s loss against Turkiye.
In their final game of the tournament, Husejnovic faced 44 shots on goal. Vucinic was named player of the tournament for Bosnia and Herzegovina.