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Israeli hockey wins gold at U20 tourney after ban reversed

The Blue and White went undefeated at the world championships in Bulgaria, earning a promotion next year.

Israel's U20 men's ice-hockey team after winning the gold medal in Sofia, Bulgaria, Jan. 27, 2024. Credit: International Ice Hockey Federation.
Israel's U20 men's ice-hockey team after winning the gold medal in Sofia, Bulgaria, Jan. 27, 2024. Credit: International Ice Hockey Federation.

Israel’s Under-20 men’s national ice-hockey team skated to a gold medal with a perfect record at the world championship tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, that concluded on Jan. 27.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) initially banned the Blue and White’s participation in the U20 Division III Group A tournament due to supposed security concerns after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel and the ensuing war in the Gaza Strip.

This decision was reversed on Jan. 17, seven days after it was announced, after mounting criticism of the move, including a statement of concern from the National Hockey League in North America.

The gold medal was given to the Israel team on a day with symbolic meaning—Saturday being International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In the final game of the tournament, Israel defeated Mexico 6-3 with two goals by Guy Aharonovich just 26 seconds apart in the third period. The team also notched wins against host Bulgaria, New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.

Israel scored 41 goals in the tournament while only allowing 14.

With the gold medal, the Israelis have been promoted to Division II Group B for the 2025 championship where they will face off against Australia, Belgium, Iceland, Serbia and Spain, which will be held in Ottawa, Canada, from Dec. 26, 2024 to Jan. 5, 2025.

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