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(LEAD) N. Korea ends women's hockey worlds in S. Korea with win

All Headlines 14:52 April 08, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details, comments, photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, April 8 (Yonhap) -- North Korea closed out the women's hockey world championships south of the border with a 4-2 win over Slovenia on Saturday.

North Korea rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit with four unanswered goals at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women's World Championship Division II Group A at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul.

Captain Kim Kum-bok scored twice in the win and was named North Korea's best player of the tournament. The team outshot Slovenia 70-13.

With the victory, North Korea avoided finishing in last place with two wins and three losses. The worst team at this tournament will be relegated to Division II Group B next year, and a loss Saturday would have sealed North Korea's fate as the last-place nation here.

This is the fourth-highest level of the IIHF World Championships, and the champion here will be promoted to Division I Group B next year.

Jong Su-hyon of North Korea (R) scores on Slovenian goalie Pia Dukaric during the teams' final game at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship Division II Group A at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on April 8, 2017. (Yonhap)

Also on Saturday, South Korea and the Netherlands will square off at 4:30 p.m. with the title at stake, while Britain and Australia will meet in the finale at 9 p.m. to see who will finish in last place.

With the win over the No. 24 Slovenia, North Korea, ranked 26th, has wrapped up a rare and much-publicized visit across the heavily fortified border.

The trip came amid rising tensions on the peninsula, and North Korea even fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea on Wednesday, the eve of the first all-Korea women's hockey match here.

North Korea enjoyed a huge following of South Korean supporters at every game in Gangneung.

During its peak, North Korea ranked 12th in the world in 2001.

Slovenia opened the scoring just 25 seconds into the game, before the North Koreans knew what hit them. After a seemingly harmless entry into the offensive zone, Eva Dukaric found herself all alone in the point-blank range and shot one past goalie Ri Pom.

Ri was promptly lifted from the game for So Jong-sim, who gave up Slovenia's second goal seven minutes later when Sara Confidenti tucked one just underneath the crossbar. It was only Slovenia's third shot of the game.

North Korean players celebrate their goal against Slovenia during the teams' final game at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship Division II Group A at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on April 8, 2017. (Yonhap)

North Korea didn't lack for chances, but Pia Dukaric stood tall in the Slovenian net. The shots were 26-6 for North Korea in the opening 20 minutes.

North Korea finally cut the deficit in half at 6:41 in the second period with a goal by Kim Kum-bok.

Jong Su-hyon then knotted the score at 2-2 at 14:23. After a Slovenian turnover, Kim Hyang-mi started a two-on-one breakaway and fed the wide-open Jong for the equalizer.

North Korea completed the comeback five minutes into the final period, as Kim Un-jong poked home a rebound after Dukaric made a difficult stop.

Kim Kum-bok rounded out the scoring with her second goal of the game at 18:14. She skated in alone on four Slovenians and fired a wrist shot to the top shelf past Dukaric for the insurance marker.

North Korea managed only six goals in its four previous games.

North Korean players hoist their national flag and wave to the crowd after beating Slovenia 4-2 in the teams' final game at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship Division II Group A at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on April 8, 2017. (Yonhap)

The North Korean players, who've enjoyed raucous support of South Korean fans all week, circled the rink holding their national flag and waved to the crowd in appreciation.

Once again, they declined to speak to the media in the mixed zone, but a few players said, "Thank you" as they filed into the locker room.

Han Ho-chol, a North Korean team manager who has been a de facto spokesman, said, "We were able to feed off the energy of everyone in the stands and play a good game."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
(END)

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