By Zjan Shirinian

Ice sledge hockey proved a popular watch at Sochi 2014 and it is hoped a revised schedule of championships will further boost the sport ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe ice sledge hockey qualifying criteria for the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympics has been revealed, alongside details of the championships that will be held in the lead-up to the Winter Paralympics. 

The calendar of competition has been changed as part of a "fair and robust" qualification process.

Canada, the United States, Russia, Czech Republic, Norway, Italy, Japan and Germany - the best eight ice sledge hockey nations in the world - will compete in the World Championships A-Pool in 2015 and 2017.

The B-Pool of nations, which currently contains South Korea, Sweden, Great Britain, Estonia, Slovakia and Poland, will be pitted against each other in a separate World Championships in the same two years.

Relegation will be the penalty for the bottom two finishers from the A-Pool, who will go into the B-Pool for the 2017 edition of the event.

The top two finishers from the B-Pool will be promoted to the A-Pool for 2017.

A new World Championships C-Pool is being created to run in 2016 and 2018.

The last-placed team at the World Championships B-Pool will play in the event, alongside "emerging and newly practising countries".

It has been established to aid "the growth and development of IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Ice Sledge Hockey worldwide".

The United States, who won ice sledge hockey gold at Sochi 2014, are one of eight teams in World Championships A-Pool ©Getty ImagesThe United States, who won ice sledge hockey gold at Sochi 2014, are one of eight teams in World Championships A-Pool ©Getty Images

The top nation in the the C-Pool tournament will be promoted to the B-Pool for the next event.

In 2017, the top five finishers from the World Championships A-Pool will directly qualify for Pyeongchang 2018.

The bottom three teams from the A-Pool event and the top three teams from the B-Pool event will compete at the qualification tournament for the Paralympic Games later in 2017.

The top two or three finishers at the tournament - depending on the status of the Paralympic host nation's team - will qualify for the Games.

IPC Sledge Hockey has also said "potential regional championships" may be included in the competition calendar for 2016.

"We are very excited to enhance the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey competition calendar for the next Paralympic cycle, which includes a World Championships C-Pool to include more developing nations in the sport and expand its reach," said Keith Blase, chairman of the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Sport Technical Committee.

The World Championships A-Pool and B-Pool have been moved to years one and three in the Paralympic cycle "based on input from participating nations at the last IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Sport Forum".

The 2013 World Championships A-Pool was held in Goyang, South Korea, at which Canada defeated the United States for gold.

The US won the ice sledge hockey completion at Sochi 2014, beating hosts Russia 1-0, with Canada claiming bronze.

Host cities for the World Championships have yet to be announced.

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