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hckosice

Men's Ice Hockey Tournament at the Winter Olympic Games 2018

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hckosice    1,182
White Eagles fly on

OQ Gr. L: Serbia advances after battle with Spain

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Reason to celebrate: After edging host Spain, Serbia advances to the next round and will play in Italy

 

Serbia broke home hearts with a dramatic 5-3 victory in the decisive game in the Olympic Qualification Group L, topping the group and booking a trip to Italy in February for the next stop on the road to PyeongChang 2018.

Serbia vs. Spain 5-3 (0-2, 2-0, 3-1)

A dramatic third period saw both sides experience joy and despair before Serbia edged a 5-3 verdict on captain Marko Milovanovic’s fourth goal of the competition.

He snapped a 3-3 tie with 2:34 left in regulation time as the game was getting more and more stretched. With chances flowing at both ends Milovanovic was the man to capitalize when he fired home a Marko Brkusanin pass for what proved to be the game winner. Brkusanin himself then wrapped it up with an empty net goal, finally ending Spain’s brave resistance and sparking wild celebrations on the Serbian bench.

“This is a great result for Serbian hockey,” said coach Nikola Bera. “It’s the first time in our history that we’ve come through an Olympic Qualification group, and we’ve done it without some of our best players.”

But Bera admitted there had been some nervous moments, especially in 32 crazy seconds when Serbia thought they’d all but won it only for Spain to equalize. The drama started when a Serbian goal was ruled out for offside at 9:55 of the third period. At 10:27 Spain took full advantage of that reprieve as a shot thundered in from the point and Alejandro Pedraz reacted fastest to squeeze the puck home.

Earlier, though, Spain made a dream start. First-period pressure led to a power-play goal at 11:51. Serbia cleared its zone but goalie Ander Alcaine quickly fired the puck down the ice, releasing Guillermo Bertan to score high on the glove side.

The home crowd was celebrating once again at 17:48 when Pat Fuentes made it 2-0. Ignacio Solorzano saw his shot beaten away but the goalie was powerless to stop Fuentes’ shot creeping inside the top corner from a tight angle.

“I thought we started the game really well, we got the pace that we wanted and now there’s a lot of disappointment,” said Spain’s coach Luciano Basile.

That disappointment began in the second session, which belonged to Serbia, and to Dimitrje Filipovic in particular. The forward scored twice to tie the game as Alcaine found himself busy throughout the session. Filipovic got his first at 7:29 of the second period, finding the top-right corner off Ugljesa Novakovic’s pass to put his team back in the game. Spain had a big chance to respond almost immediately, but Rankovic thwarted Javier Garcia-Arias down low by the post. Alcaine then showed his class with a fine glove save to deny Srdjan Ristic.

But there was no denying when Filipovic was sent through on the net by Nemanja Vucurevic and flashed a wrist shot high on the stick side to level the scores.

That had the game poised for a dramatic finale, and Serbia gained the edge at 4:56 of the third when Pavel Popravka put his country up for the first time on the night, assisted by the impressive Filipovic.

“Tonight was a real grand final,” Serbian coach Bera added. “Spain has a really good team, we know each other well and we play often in World Championship play. But I think this time Serbia really was better and deserved the win.”

The teams will meet again in April, when the Division II Group A comes to Jaca, in Northern Spain. And for Basile that’s a chance to build on what was achieved here.

“I think we’ve found an identity here,” he said. “We played seven of the nine periods with the kind of energy that we wanted. We’re disappointed because we had a good week at work, two good games and a fantastic first period tonight but we just couldn’t go through.”

China vs. Iceland 3-11 (0-7, 1-2, 2-2)

Iceland ended its tournament on a high note with a convincing win over China. Two narrow defeats in the opening games left the Nordic nation with no prospect of qualifying but Magnus Blarand’s team was not about to give China an easy ride. The first period saw the Chinese run into serious penalty trouble: two of Iceland’s seven goals came from 5-on-3 power plays, with a third coming from a one-man advantage.

Robin Hedstrom led Iceland’s scoring with five goals to finish as the weekend’s leading goalscorer, and there were two each for Ingthor Arnason and Robert Palsson. Petur Maark and Andri Helgason also scored for Iceland; Jiachang Bao, Longtan Liu and a short-handed goal from Tianyu Hu completed China’s most successful game on offence in the competition.

 

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hckosice    1,182

3rd PRELIMINARY QUALIFICATION ROUND

Tournament 1

:ITA Cortina d´Ampezzo (ITA) - 11.02.2016 - 14.02.2016 :ITA

 

Participating Nations:

  • :ITA Italy
  • :GBR Great Britain
  • :NED Netherlands
  • :SRB Serbia

 

 

Round-Robin

4 Nations, Round-Robin Tournament, 1st Nation will Qualify to the 2nd Olympic Preliminary Quailfication Round

 

:GBR Great Britain  6 - 5  Netherlands :NED

(Score by Period: 2-1, 2-2, 2-2)

11th February 2016, h. 17:00 (GMT +1), Stadio Olimpico, Cortina d´Ampezzo

 

:ITA Italy  8 - 0  Serbia :SRB      

(Score by Period: 3-0, 3-0, 2-0)

11th February 2016, h. 20:45 (GMT +1), Stadio Olimpico, Cortina d´Ampezzo

 

:GBR Great Britain  6 - 2  Serbia :SRB   

(Score by Period: 2-1, 2-1, 2-0)

13th February 2016, h. 17:00 (GMT +1), Stadio Olimpico, Cortina d´Ampezzo

 

:NED Netherlands  2 - 4  Italy :ITA 

(Score by Period: 1-2, 1-1, 0-1)

13th February 2016, h. 20:45 (GMT +1), Stadio Olimpico, Cortina d´Ampezzo

 

:SRB Serbia  3 - 7  Netherlands :NED       

(Score by Period: 0-2, 2-2, 1-3)

14th February 2016, h. 17:00 (GMT +1), Stadio Olimpico, Cortina d´Ampezzo

 

:ITA Italy  6 - 2  Great Britain :GBR    

(Score by Period: 3-0, 1-1, 2-1)

14th February 2016, h. 20:45 (GMT +1), Stadio Olimpico, Cortina d´Ampezzo

 

 

Round-Robin Standing

RANK NATION GAME WINS W(OT) L(OT) LOSE SCORE POINTS
1 :ITA Italy 3 3 0 0 0 18:4 9
2 :GBR Great Britain 3 2 0 0 1 14:13 6
3 :NED Netherlands 3 1 0 0 2 14:13 3
4 :SRB Serbia 3 0 0 0 3 5:21 0

 

 

 

Following Nation Have Qualified to Final Olympic Qualifying Round

  • :ITA Italy

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hckosice    1,182

3rd PRELIMINARY QUALIFICATION ROUND

Tournament 2

:HUN Budapest (HUN) - 11.02.2016 - 14.02.2016 :HUN

 

Participating Nations:

  • :EST Estonia
  • :HUN Hungary
  • :LTU Lithuania
  • :POL Poland

 

 

Round-Robin

4 Nations, Round-Robin Tournament, 1st Nation will Qualify to the 2nd Olympic Preliminary Quailfication Round

 

:POL Poland  6 - 2  Estonia :EST

(Score by Period: 3-0, 2-1, 1-1)

11th February 2016, h. 16:00 (GMT +1), Laszlo Papp Budapest Sport arena, Budapest

 

:LTU Lithuania  0 - 4  Hungary :HUN       

(Score by Period: 0-1, 0-1, 0-2)

11th February 2016, h. 19:30 (GMT +1), Laszlo Papp Budapest Sport arena, Budapest

 

:POL Poland  9 - 1  Lithuania :LTU    

(Score by Period: 2-0, 5-0, 2-1)

12th February 2016, h. 14:30 (GMT +1), Laszlo Papp Budapest Sport arena, Budapest

 

:HUN Hungary  7 - 1  Estonia :EST  

(Score by Period: 2-0, 2-1, 3-0)

12th February 2016, h. 18:00 (GMT +1), Laszlo Papp Budapest Sport arena, Budapest

 

:EST Estonia  4 - 1  Lithuania :LTU       

(Score by Period: 3-1, 0-0, 1-0)

14th February 2016, h. 14:30 (GMT +1), Laszlo Papp Budapest Sport arena, Budapest

 

:HUN Hungary  0 - 1 (GWS)   Poland :POL    

(Score by Period: 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, OT: 0-0, GWS: 0-1)

14th February 2016, h. 18:00 (GMT +1), Laszlo Papp Budapest Sport arena, Budapest

 

 

Round-Robin Standing

RANK NATION GAME WINS W(OT) L(OT) LOSE SCORE POINTS
1 :POL Poland 3 2 1 0 0 16:3 8
2 :HUN Hungary 3 2 0 1 0 11:2 7
3 :EST Estonia 3 1 0 0 2 7:14 3
4 :LTU Lithuania 3 0 0 0 3 2:17 0

 

 

 

Following Nation Have Qualified to Final Olympic Qualifying Round

  • :POL Poland

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hckosice    1,182

3rd PRELIMINARY QUALIFICATION ROUND

Tournament 3

:JPN Sapporo (JPN) - 11.02.2016 - 14.02.2016 :JPN

 

Participating Nations:

  • :CRO Croatia
  • :JPN Japan
  • :ROU Romania
  • :UKR Ukraine

 

 

Round-Robin

4 Nations, Round-Robin Tournament, 1st Nation will Qualify to the 2nd Olympic Preliminary Quailfication Round

 

:UKR Ukraine  3 - 0  Romania :ROU

(Score by Period: 0-0, 2-0, 1-0)

11th February 2016, h. 14:30 (GMT +9), Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

 

:CRO Croatia  0 - 3  Japan :JPN       

(Score by Period: 0-0, 0-1, 0-2)

11th February 2016, h. 14:30 (GMT +9), Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

 

:UKR Ukraine  6 - 0  Croatia :CRO    

(Score by Period: 3-0, 1-0, 2-0)

13th February 2016, h. 14:30 (GMT +9), Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

 

:JPN Japan  7 - 0  Romania :ROU 

(Score by Period: 0-0, 5-0, 2-0)

13th February 2016, h. 18:00 (GMT +9), Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

 

:ROU Romania  1 - 4  Croatia :CRO       

(Score by Period: 0-1, 1-2, 0-1)

14th February 2016, h. 14:30 (GMT +9), Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

 

:JPN Japan  2 - 1  Ukraine :UKR    

(Score by Period: 0-0, 0-0, 2-1)

14th February 2016, h. 18:00 (GMT +9), Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

 

 

Round-Robin Standing

RANK NATION GAME WINS W(OT) L(OT) LOSE SCORE POINTS
1 :JPN Japan 3 3 0 0 0 12:1 9
2 :UKR Ukraine 3 2 0 0 1 10:2 6
3 :CRO Croatia 3 1 0 0 2 4:10 3
4 :ROU Romania 3 0 0 0 3 1:14 0

 

 

 

Following Nation Have Qualified to Final Olympic Qualifying Round

  • :JPN Japan

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hckosice    1,182
Japan, Ukraine win openers

OQ Gr. J: Croatia-Japan 0-3, Ukraine-Romania 3-0

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Japan's Hiroki Ueno (right) and Croatia's Borna Silovic battle for the puck.

 

Japan and Ukraine posted comprehensive 3-0 victories on the first day of play in the Men's Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 2 Group J on Thursday night at the Tsukisamu Arena in Sapporo. The hosts beat Croatia in the evening, while Ukraine bested Romania in the afternoon.

Croatia vs. Japan 0-3 (0-0, 0-1, 0-2)

Yuto Osawa's two goals powered Japan to the win in a game that was close until late in the second period. Despite a huge difference in shots on goal (43 for Japan, 8 for Croatia), the Croats hung in to make it a close contest for most of the night.

The opening period was a scoreless affair in which Japan dominated possession of the puck. Croatia had few chances on offence as it spent much of the period defending.

Croatia faced multiple challenges on this night, as in addition to playing the tournament hosts, they did not arrive in the city until hours before the match due to inclement weather.

Yuto Osawa put Japan up 1-0 with 5:10 remaining the in the second with a shot from the edge of the crease. A penalty had been called, but as play continued, Croatia seemed to lose concentration momentarily and Japan capitalized. Ryo Hashiba assisted on the goal.

There was an air of inevitability about Japan's first goal, as Croatia goalie Mate Tomljenovic had made several fine saves before finally allowing Osawa's score.

Croatia seemed to find their footing in the third, when the played well for the first 10 minutes but could not come up with the equalizer.

Osawa's second goal came from the slot with 4:21 left in the third with an assist by Kohei Mitamura.

Go Tanaka clinched the triumph for Japan with a goal from the slot just 20 seconds later.

Japan killed off five power plays in the win.

Japan coach Greg Thomson was relieved after the victory.

“This was a very important game today,” Thomson said. “We knew the situation with Croatia having to stay in Tokyo last night and travel today. They didn't quit.”

Thomson was impressed by the efforts of the Croats.

“They made the first period tough for us,” Thomson stated. “We had a lot of scoring chances in the second but only got one goal. Croatia made the third period tough but we got two more goals. Our goal was to use our speed and create scoring chances.”

Osawa said he worked well with his teammates during the victory.

“I'm very happy. I was surprised with the two goals,” commented Osawa. “It was hard work. I had good communication with my linemates.”

Japan goalie Yutaka Fukufuji didn't see much action, but was content with the scoreline.

“It was a tough game, but a shutout is a good result,” Fukufuji said. “We were able to dominate for 60 minutes.”

Croatia coach Danijel Kolombo believes his team accomplished what it set out to.

“After such a long trip to get here, we wanted to make a tough game for Japan and we did,” noted Kolombo. “We knew the Japanese were better skaters. We came with an amateur team but showed we could still compete.”

Tomljenovic praised his team's result under the circumstances.

“This is an amazing game for us,” Tomljenovic said. “We came only two hours before the game and played great. We didn't want to get embarrassed. We have 12 players playing in the national team for the first time.”

The winner of this tournament will advance to the Final Olympic Qualification round that will be played 1-4 September 2016 in three groups.

The Japan men have participated at Olympics eight times, most recently on home ice in Nagano 1998.

Ukraine vs. Romania 3-0 (0-0, 2-0, 1-0)

Second-period goals by Vladyslav Luhovy and Andri Mikhnov sparked Ukraine to a 3-0 victory over Romania. Ukraine dominated the contest with their power and defence, but Romania put up a valiant fight to keep it tight most of the way. Ukraine outshot Romania 48-27 in the win.

The first period was scoreless despite both teams having several power-play opportunities. Ukraine outshot Romania 12-3. Goalies Eduard Zakharchenko (Ukraine) and Attila Adorjan (Romania) each came up with fine saves to maintain the stalemate.

Ukraine began to take the initiative in the second period and broke the deadlock on Luhovy's goal with 10:28 left in the period on a shot from point-blank range. Sergi Kuzmik was credited with an assist on the play.

Adorjan stopped a penalty shot by Viktor Zakharov with 9:51 left after a tripping penalty on Istvan Nagy to keep it 1-0. Ukraine, ranked 21st in the world, kept heavy pressure on Adorjan throughout the second.

Ukraine tallied again when Mikhnov scored from close in with 1:41 remaining. Artem Bondaryev got the assist.

Romania, ranked 28th, was on the defensive side for the majority of the second period and had few chances to score.

Artem Gnidenko put the game away for Ukraine with a shot from the point with 5:25 left in the third.

Ukraine coach Olexander Savytski was satisfied with the victory;

“A win is a win. Some moments we should have been better,” stated Savytski. “Our goalie played well. There were a few moments when he should have played better. Romania kept the game close.”

Zakharchenko, who played well in the crease, credited his players for the shutout win.

“It is thanks to my teammates that they did not score,” Zakharchenko commented. “My team blocked a lot of shots and Romania did not have long possessions because of our defence.”

Romania coach Kjell Lindqvist was philosophical after the defeat.

“Ukraine is a good hockey team. They are big and heavy,” stated Lindqvist. “We had chances. I'm satisfied because we tried hard. If we could have scored in the third it might have been different.”

Lindqvist cited the play of Adorjan as a positive.

“Our goalie played solid. He is only 20 years old,” noted Lindqvist. “He stopped the penalty shot and many others.”

Romania forward Zsolt Molnar knew his team would be in for a challenge this day.

“I thought it would be hard,” said Molnar. “Ukraine played good. We tried our best and fought until the end.”

Ukraine played at the Olympics in 2002 but hasn't qualified for a top-level event since 2007.

 

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hckosice    1,182
Favourites open with wins

OQ Gr. H: Lithuania-Hungary 0-4, Poland-Estonia 6-2

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Patryk Wronka celebrates his opening goal with Polish teammate Krystian Dziubinski while Estonia’s Deniss Konyshev looks on.

 

Hungary opened the Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 2 Group H on home ice with a 4-0 blanking of Lithuania while Poland had a clear 6-2 win over Estonia in the afternoon game.

Lithuania vs. Hungary 0-4 (0-1, 0-1, 0-2)

Hungary had a successful start on home ice in Budapest with a 4-0 shutout win against Lithuania before ending the day with a teddy-bear toss as a donation to children.

The Lithuanian national team travelled to Budapest for an Olympic Qualification event for the third consecutive time and like in 2012 (5-1) and 2008 (5-2) it was the Hungarians, who won at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena in front of 7,110 fans.

“Lithuania competed very hard, they were missing some of their best players here but their goaltender was very sharp. We had good chances in the first period and then finally scored,” Hungary coach Rich Chernomaz said.

“We played a simple game and continued to play a hard game although in the second period we became a bit sloppy with the puck management and allowed some turnovers. Tomorrow we want to continue play the right way against Estonia.”

Hungary came out strong right from the start and outshot its opponent 60-19. Being the team recently promoted to the top division of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and playing in front of their own fans in a crowded and loud arena the Magyars visibly wanted to fulfil their task.

Csaba Kovacs and Janos Vas had the best chance early in the game at 2:16 with a nice combination but the Lithuanians stood strong and tried to create offensive action as well although they had the best chance while playing shorthanded with a Paulius Gintautas breakaway. During those minutes Hungary had the chances for an early lead as Lithuania took two straight penalties but the game remained scoreless.

It was especially thanks to goaltender Mantas Armalis, who plays in the Swedish top league for Djurgarden Stockholm, that the game remained scoreless until 14:25. That’s when the work eventually paid off for the Hungarians with a shot from Vilmos Gallo on the right side that first hit Armalis. Krisztian Nagy stood ready for the rebound but the puck moved in via Armalis pads as he turned around. Like Armalis also Gallo plays in the top Swedish league, for Linkoping. The 19-year-old moved to Sweden as a junior six years ago and it was his first goal in his first-ever game with the senior national team.

“It was an amazing atmosphere and it was very special to score in my debut game. It was not a nice goal but a goal is a goal,” Gallo commented after the game.

Hungary also had more puck possession and scoring chances then their Baltic opponent in the middle frame and at 7:43 Janos Hari scored on a rebound after Armalis had blocked Istvan Bartalis’ shot.

The game was still far from over when the teams entered the ice for the third period but when Frank Banham made it a three-goal lead for Hungary with a long shot during a man advantage at 2:23, Lithuania’s hopes for a comeback were diminished.

At 5:09, just after the Lithuanians had missed out on a chance on the other side, Daniel Kiss even made it 4-0 with a shot into the top-right corner on a counter-attack.

“For the first time in [post-war] history Lithuania played against a top-division team and we saw why they play there,” Lithuania head coach Bernd Haake said. “4-0 is not so bad. They had a lot of shots but we had an outstanding goaltender. We had two hundred-per-cent chances that could have made the score friendlier and if you’re an underdog you better capitalize on such chances.”

Poland vs. Estonia 6-2 (3-0, 2-1, 1-1)

Seven places separate Poland (22nd) and Estonia (29th) in the IIHF World Ranking and also in the last two meetings at Division I tournaments Poland won both clashes when going head to head against Estonia, 5-3 in 2013 and 8-3 in 2011, both times in Ukraine.

Also in Budapest the Poles wanted to make it right and dominated the game from the beginning until the end, outshooting their opponent 64-16.

“It was a good start for us. Estonia has been getting better and better the last few years. 6-2 is a good score but we have to play better,” Polish forward Aron Chmielewski said about his team’s first game and the upcoming ones against better-ranked Lithuania and Hungary.

Patryk Wronka, in the so far biggest tournament for the 20-year-old, already opened the scoring after 110 seconds of play in a first period that was one-way hockey for most of the time. Aron Chmielewski, who spent the last two seasons in the top-three Czech leagues, made it 2-0 on the Poles’ second power play after a horizontal pass in front of the crease from Grzegorz Pasiut at 15:00. Four minutes later Kacper Guzik made it a three-goal lead for Poland.

Estonia had a good start into the second period with team captain Aleksandr Petrov scoring the team’s first marker on a breakaway. However, the Poles reacted fast. 51 seconds later Mateusz Bepierszcz capitalized on his own rebound and another minute later Marcin Kolusz made it 5-1 for Poland, forcing Estonia coach Jussi Tupamaki to take his time-out but as it turned out the game was more or less decided with this score early in the second period.

“It was a rough start but we got better period by period and gained confidence. I hope we can continue getting better with the things we do but it will be probably even harder against Hungary. Most of our players don’t play hockey professionally,” said Estonian assistant coach Mart Eerme.

The game flow didn’t change much after the time-out but Estonia kept its net clean for the remainder of the period and at 3:08 of the third frame Petrov even scored his second goal to make it 5-2. However, Poland continued to be in charge of the game and Mateusz Rompkowski replied two-and-a-half minutes later to restore the four-goal cushion that stayed until the final buzzer.

 

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hckosice    1,182
Goals rush in Italy

OQ Gr. G: Italy-Serbia 8-0, Great Britain-Netherlands 6-5

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Kevin Devergilio and Stefano Marchetti celebrate a goal for Italy while Serbian netminder Arsenije Rankovic looks on

 

There were 19 goals in two games as host nation Italy made an impressive start to its Olympic campaign with a dominant display over outsider Serbia after the British and the Dutch served up a thriller in the opening game in Group G.

Italy vs. Serbia 8-0 (3-0, 3-0, 2-0)

A goal after just 60 seconds set the tone for Italy’s opening game against Serbia. Stefano Marchetti struck in the first minute as a youthful Serbian team, more accustomed to Division II hockey, got its first look at an opponent at this level.

That was the prelude to an opening stanza of almost total Italian domination: two further goals and a shot count of 20-1 in favour of the home team. Without some brave goaltending from Arsenije Rankovic, especially in a flurry of action late in the period, the damage could have been even greater.

As it was Nicholas Plastino doubled the lead in the 13th minute off a Marco Insam pass before Kevin Divergilio added to his assist on the opener by unleashing a savage wrist shot that whipped upstairs after Paul Zanette’s drop pass opened up a look at goal.

Italy’s play had the home crowd in party mood, greeting each attack with a clanging cow bell – a mountain tradition not confined to Switzerland – and serenading the goals with a thunderous pounding on the wooden frame of the venerable Olympic Stadium.

The middle session followed a similar pattern, with Italy continuing to fire in an average of one shot every minute. Three further goals followed, while the piping denied Thomas Larkin and Daniel Frank as the game often resembled an offence vs. defence training drill.

To Serbia’s credit, though, the defence stuck doggedly to its task and kept Italy at bay for almost 13 minutes of the second period with Rankovic again providing good resistance to the onslaught. Frank beat him on 32:59, and after hitting the post twice Italy went on to add two more before the second intermission.

A good combination involving Marchetti and Zanette got the puck to the net where Markus Gander sowed confusion before the puck was bundled over the line. Then Alexander Egger added a sixth before Serbia enjoyed its first power play of a difficult evening, finally earning a little respite from the blue tide surging inexorably towards its goal.

“I think we went out there with the right approach,” Egger said after the game. “We kept going to the end, all four lines were skating hard. We kept them down in the their own end and it was a good start to the tournament for us.”

By now it was already a question of ‘how many?’. Diego Kostner added a seventh early in the third, Plastino got his second of the night on a solo rush. That brought Rankovic’s evening to a merciful end with eight minutes left to play and gave 19-year-old Petar Stepanovic a spell in the firing line. He managed to keep the Italians at bay with 19 saves despite some intense pressure. At the other end goalie Andreas Bernard needed just four saves for his shut-out.

After such a convincing opening-day victory, Italy now has to prepare for tougher tests ahead.

“We didn’t know what to expect from Serbia, it’s a team we’ve never played before, so it was a good start but we are aware that there will be probably be tougher opponents coming up,” Egger added. “It’s a win and we’ve started the tournament the right way.”

Great Britain vs. Netherlands 6-5 (2-1, 2-2, 2-2)

These two countries have been rivals in recent World Championship Division I events and they demonstrated that they had a good understanding of each other’s weak spots as fans in the Dolomites witnessed an avalanche of goals.

Britain finally claimed victory – by the odd goal in 11 – on a Mark Richardson goal in the 56th minute. His initial shot got caught up in a Dutch defenceman but he was first to the rebound and scored on the wrong-footed Martijn Oosterwijk to end the Netherlands’ resistance. Dutch penalty trouble in the closing stages helped GB to close out a game that was high on entertainment but that will give both defences sleepless nights as the goals flew in.

Russell Cowley, a double goalscorer for GB, admitted that the result was better than the performance. “There’s a few things we need to clean up. We can definitely say we’re happy with the win but as a team we know we are better defensively than we showed at times tonight.”

GB was officially the home team for this one, and with a raucous travelling band of about 100 supporters the atmosphere in the arena was loudly pro-British. But those fans were stunned into silence in the third minute when the Netherlands opened the scoring on the first power play of the game. Ronald Wurm got the goal, exploiting the extra space around the net to score from close range after Mitch Bruijsten shot into Ben Bowns’ pads.

Back to full strength, the Brits were back on level terms almost immediately. Defencemen David Phillips and Ben O’Connor combined in centre ice and the latter pulled out a defence-splitting pass to set Cowley through on goal. The Coventry Blaze frontman slipped his shot through the five-hole to level the scores.

The O’Connor-Phillips axis was back in business for the second British goal. O’Connor fed the puck along the blue line and Phillips launched a slap shot from the point to send his team into the first intermission with a 2-1 advantage.

And the pair combined again midway through the third to make it 3-1. This time it was Phillips’ pass and O’Connor’s shot, with Matt Myers forcing the puck through Oosterwijk’s pads.

If GB thought it had built a decisive advantage, it was quickly proved wrong as a double Dutch strike in just 55 seconds levelled the scores. Mike Dalhuisen assisted on both of them. First, on 33:06, his shot from the point deflected off a GB skate for Kevin Bruijsten to fire home. Then on 34:01 the defenceman stepped up to send in a rising shot that had Bowns juggling on the crease before the puck dropped for Maarten Brekelmans to slip it into an empty net from a tight angle.

GB head coach Pete Russell added: “At 3-1 I thought we controlled it a little bit but those two goals in 55 seconds were not good. We certainly didn’t help ourselves at times but it was a win and that’s what sport is all about.”

Parity lasted just two minutes. Britain had been profiting from diagonal plays all evening and when Ashley Tait slipped the puck into the danger zone from the top of the circle, Cowley stretched out with his stick to deflect it past Oosterwijk and make it 4-3.

“At least we showed good character,” coach Russell added. “When team loses a lead, then loses a lead again, sometimes it can collapse a bit but I don’t think we ever did that.”

The action remained frenetic in the final stanza. Dalhuisen was prominent once again, racing round the back before popping up the puck for an unmarked Kevin Bruijsten to join his brother on the scoresheet and tie it at 4-4 before GB edged in front once more with 10 to play. Colin Shields shot from the point, Myers threw up the screen on Oosterwijk.

But there was still more to come. Diederick Hagemeijer went high on Bowns off a Nardo Naagtzam pass to tie it up once again before Richardson got the eventual game-winner in the 56th minute.

 

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Hungary, Poland set up final

OQ Gr. H: Hungary-Estonia 7-1, Poland-Lithuania 9-1

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The two co-favourites of the Olympic Qualification Group H, Hungary and Poland, were on fire also on the second day. Host Hungary beat Estonia 7-1 while Poland was on a roll in a 9-1 victory in the neighbouring clash with Lithuania. The two teams set up a winner-takes-it-all game on Sunday at 18:00.

Hungary vs. Estonia 7-1 (2-0, 2-1, 2-0)

Like against Lithuania, Hungary entered the game against Estonia as favourite and left it with a safe and sound 7-1 win in front of 8,100 fans at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena.

“We played with the same mentality like in the game before [against Lithuania]. We have a hard game on Sunday and we need to play well for 60 minutes and that’s what we did,” said Peter Vincze, who scored a pair of goals in the last period.

This time the Hungarians had to wait even less long to see their team take the lead. At 1:50 Estonian goaltender Villem-Henrik Koitmaa blocked two shots but when Istvan Sofron scored high on the second rebound it was the one shot too much for him.

The Estonians had few chances to score a goal and just as they had missed out on their first man advantage, Vilmos Gallo had a breakaway and beat Koitmaa with fine stickhandling for the 2-0 goal at 15:12.

In the middle frame the Magyars converted their first power play. At 3:31 Istvan Sofron scored after nice drop pass from Daniel Koger, however, with a similar play on the other side Robert Rooba, assisted by Andrei Makrov, brought Estonia on the scoreboard three minutes later and cut the home team’s lead to 3-1.

Rooba was not surprised about the clear score in the end. “It’s a bunch of professional guys against a bunch of amateur guys. It was a tough game the second day in a row and we became tired. I’m proud of our guys, we battled hard and gave our best and learned a lot,” said Rooba, one of the few pros on the team as he plays in Finland.

The goal didn’t change the direction of the game too much and Frank Banham with a goal midway through the game and Vincze with a point shot at 4:15 of the third period extended the lead to 5-1. The 20-year-old added another goal on a power play with 3:33 left in the game, which means that three of the seven goals were scored by players nominated for the fourth line.

“In the end it’s a team game, so it doesn’t matter who scores but of course we are happy that we managed to score,” Vincze said with a smile.

After contributing two assists, also Andrew Sarauer scored tipping the puck in after a rebound on a power play with 87 seconds left.

Despite the result, Hungary head coach Rich Chernomaz was not entirely satisfied and wants to see more from his team in the last game.

“I thought we were a little bit slow in our thinking and moving pucks. It wasn’t the way it was in last night’s game. I was thinking maybe our team was fatigued but in the third period the passion and fire came back in the third period,” he said. “These are things we definitely need to have for three periods to have a chance to beat Poland. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes will probably be the successful team.”

The teams will have a day off on Saturday before Hungary takes on Poland in a showdown for first place. The winner of that game will advance to the Final Olympic Qualification. Lithuania and Estonia will be looking for their first win and third place in the all-Baltic afternoon game on Sunday.

Poland vs. Lithuania 9-1 (2-0, 5-0, 2-1)

Poland had another strong showing and beat Lithuania 9-1 in a game they were outshooting their opponent 56-39.

Poland was the stronger and most notably more efficient team while the Lithuanian underdogs seemed exhausted from their game last night against Hungary. The second period made the difference for the Poles with five unanswered goals.

Krystian Dziubinski and Krzysztof Zapala each had a pair of goals while Przemyslaw Odrobny had 38 saves in what seemed to become a shutout until Daniel Bogdziul’s marker for Lithuania late in the game.

“The second period was very good for us. We played very well,” said Tomasz Malasinki. “But the most important game will be on Sunday. It will be a very hard game because the Hungarian team is very strong.”

Like in the last game against Hungary the Lithuanians showed a remarkable penalty kill to start the game, however, they’d do better if they didn’t test their four-man and three-man units too often against higher-ranked opponents.

After Poland hadn’t capitalized on a 5-on-3, the game flow became a bit more balanced, however, at 15:01 Grzegorz Pasiut opened the scoring for Poland on a rebound.

The Poles used these strong minutes for a momentum chance and Aron Chmielewski made it 2-0 on a rush just two minutes later.

Poland tried to blow away any doubts about the winner of this game early in the second period. After 35 seconds Lithuania was outskated and Zapala netted the puck for the 3-0 lead.

Although the teams were almost equal in shots on goal during the last two periods, the Poles outskated the team from their northern neighbours and added one goal after another against the seemingly tired Lithuanians.

Maciej Urbanowicz hit the back of the net at 3:12 of the second period. After a few shifts the Poles were back on power play and Dziubinski converted for the 5-0 goal. Tomas Malasinksi added another one with 2:31 left in the period and Dziubinski increased the damage for the Lithuanians with another power-play marker 18 seconds before the end of the middle frame.

The Lithuanians changed goalies for the last period. Mantas Armalis, who had a strong game the night before, made space for Artur Pavliukov, who was beaten by Zapala after just 33 seconds. Mateusz Bepierszcz added another marker at 12:20 before Bogdziul scored Lithuania’s consolation goal to cut Poland’s lead to 9-1 and spoil Odrobny’s shutout.

“We were tired from yesterday, it was really tough for us. A day off would have helped us today,” Bogdziul said. “We are a very young team, some are just 18 years old. Now we have the last game against Estonia and want to win it.”

Also Poland will have a day of rest before the deciding game against host Hungary in the quest for a berth in the Final Olympic Qualification. Hungary missed out on it last time when losing to the Netherlands while Poland was beaten by Ukraine in the deciding game. This time one of the two teams will likely make it.

 

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Japan, Ukraine score high

OQ Gr. J: Japan-Romania 7-0, Ukraine-Croatia 6-0

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The Japanese players celebrate a goal in the 7-0 routing of Romania.

 

Japan and Ukraine scored decisive victories on the second day of play in the Men's Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 2 Group J on Saturday at the Tsukisamu Arena in Sapporo. Japan routed Romania 7-0, while Ukraine pounded Croatia 6-0. The results set up a title match between the two winners on Sunday. The winner will advance to the Final Olympic Qualification round in early September.

Japan vs. Romania 7-0 (0-0, 5-0, 2-0)

Japan broke open a tight game with five goals in the second period as Shuhei Kuji, Yushiroh Hirano, Hiroki Ueno, Masahito Nishiwaki and Daisuke Obara all found the net.

The first period was a scoreless one that saw Japan dominate puck possession. Japan fired 16 shots on goal but could not score.

Romania managed only three shots in the opening frame.

Japan's quickness was evident as the Romanian skaters struggled to keep up with the pace of the hosts. Japan had the lone power play in the period, but was unable to take advantage of it.

Kuji broke the deadlock with 14:31 left in the second when he scored from the slot on a 3-on-1 break on a nice pass from Obara.

Romania hung tough until Hirano flipped in a shot just off the crease with 6:37 left in the frame.

The floodgates opened soon after as Ueno took a long pass and scored on a breakaway at 4:31. Nishiwaki and Obara then scored within 94 seconds and it was suddenly 5-0 as the Romanian defence became porous. Romania goalie Geller Ruczuj did his best but could not halt the onslaught.

Kuji added a second goal in the third period and Takuro Yamashita closed out the scoring with 2:37 left in the game.

Japan goalie Takuto Onoda made 14 saves and posted a shutout in his debut for the senior national team.

“I was a little bit nervous before the game. We had to win this one," said Onoda. "This gives me confidence. My performance was 100 percent tonight.”

Kuji was content with his two-goal outing in the victory.

“It was good that everybody played well tonight,” Kuji said. “In my mind I am always thinking about scoring. Tonight was good for me and the team.”

Japan coach Greg Thomson appeared pleased with the performance of his charges.

“I felt the team played a very good hockey game tonight,” said Thomson. “We didn't score any goals in the first period, but we stuck to our game plan and they came in the second.”

Thomson pointed out that this is the way it goes on occasion.

“Sometimes that's how it is in sports,” Thomson stated. “You don't get it on the first or second try, but it comes on the third. We stuck to our game plan and they started going in. You really have to concentrate in games like this.”

Romania coach Kjell Lindqvist was honest with his feeling after the defeat.

“Japan is one or two divisions better than us,” commented Lindqvist. “They are very speedy. Sometimes too speedy. It is tough for a slow team like us to be able to stop their rushes.”

Lindqvist felt his team had few decent opportunities on the night.

“We had maybe two or three good chances to score,” Lindqvist said. “Japan was too good for us. We have to accept that.”

Ukraine vs. Croatia 6-0 (3-0, 1-0, 2-0)

Goalie Eduard Zakharchenko recorded his second straight shutout as Ukraine blanked Croatia 6-0 on Saturday at the Tsukisamu Arena.

Georgi Kicha scored his first goal for the Ukrainian national team and added two assists in the victory.

Ukraine's speed and power proved too much for Croatia to handle. Ukraine fired 57 shots on goal to Croatia's 26 in the triumph.

Croatia is 0-2 after the defeat and has yet to score in the tournament.

Ukraine wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, as Artem Gnidenko flipped in a shot near the crease just one minute into the first period. Kicha and Yuri Petrangovsky assisted on the goal.

The game quickly moved into a fast-paced affair and Ukraine boosted their lead to 2-0 with 12:32 left in the first when Olexander Pobyedonostsev scored on a one-timer from the point. Artem Bondaryev had an assist on the play.

Petrangovsky put in a rebound of a missed shot by Kicha with 4:18 remaining and Ukraine was in command with a 3-0 advantage.

All of Ukraine's goals were scored at full strength despite the fact they had four power-play opportunities in the period.

Croatia goalie Vilim Rosandic did well to keep it at 3-0, as he stopped 19 shots in the opening frame.

Kicha scored from the slot on a power play to make it 4-0 with 15:54 left in the second period.

Croatia played better in the second, picking up the pace and creating a few scoring chances with 10 shots on goal. Ukraine killed off two power plays in the second.

The third period provided more of the same, as Croatia scored on goals by Roman Blagy and Bondaryev for the final margin.

Ukraine coach Olexander Savytsky thought his team played well.

We asked our wingers to make fewer mistakes in the offensive zone, commented Savytsky. "They played more active than Thursday. It was good."

Savytsky noted that getting the first goal was significant.

We scored the first goal quickly and that really helped us, Savytsky said. "We kept up the pressure after that."

Croatia coach Danijel Kolombo knew his squad was facing a tough test.

It's hard to play against a pro team with an amateur team, stated Kolombo. "They scored early in the first and after that moment we started to chase the game, which isn't good in hockey. We made four penalties (in the first period) after that and could not get back on track."

Zakharchenko gave the credit to his fellow players following the contest.

Today's game was a bit easier than yesterday, because it was the first game, said Zakharchenko. "My teammates played well in front of me. I especially want to cite the play of No. 4 [Vsevolod Tolstushko], who blocked many shots."

Kicha was pleased with his contribution in the win.

It was a great feeling to get my first points for the national team, stated Kicha. "We feel better after acclimatizing ourselves here. The team was in a good condition today.

Ukraine defeated Romania in their opening match on Thursday, while Japan downed Croatia 3-0

 

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Set for a showdown

OQ Gr. G: Netherlands-Italy 2-4, Great Britain-Serbia 6-2

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Italian forward Kevin Devergilio scores on Dutch goalie Martijn Oosterwijk.

 

It’s winner takes all on Sunday night as Italy and Great Britain improved to 2-0 in this tournament. Both teams had to battle to win their games on Saturday but Italy got past the Netherlands 4-2 after the Brits downed a hard-working Serbia 6-2 in the earlier game.

Netherlands vs. Italy 2-4 (1-2, 1-1, 0-1)

Italy paid tribute to its hockey history before taking another step towards Olympic qualification with a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands on Saturday night.

The evening began with a celebration as Cortina commemorated two favourite sons. Brothers Gianfranco and Alberto da Rin were born in the town in the 1930s and became mainstays of SG Cortina and the Italian national team. Gianfranco played here in the 1956 Winter Olympics and was joined by younger brother Alberto in Innsbruck in 1964. The two were on hand for a special pre-game ceremony attended by IIHF President Rene Fasel.

There was also a minute’s silence in honour of 1956 Olympic goalie Giuliano Ferraris, who passed away last Sunday before the action got underway in breathless style.

Just 39 seconds had been played when Marco Insam put the Italians in front, wrestling in the slot and forcing the puck inside Martijn Oosterwijk’s near post. But that lead lasted just minutes as the Netherlands hit back through youngster Tom Marx to tie the scores.

The two teams traded chances but it was Italy that got back in front in the tenth minute thanks to another pair of brothers. Simon Kostner set off on a rush from centre ice, slaloming through the defence to set up Diego for the decisive touch on the slot.

The Dutch thought they’d tied the scores during a 5-on-3 power play. Kevin Bruijsten found the net when he swung at a bouncing puck but Orange boom turned to Orange bust when it was chalked out for a high stick. Furious, the Netherlands lost some focus and failed to threaten for the rest of its advantage.

But the Netherlands did make it 2-2 eight seconds into the second period. Mitch Bruijsten harried from the face-off and picked out captain Diederick Hagemeijer in space at the far post.

“It wasn’t pretty,” admitted Italy’s head coach Stefan Mair. “This is a young group and a lot of them don’t get to play that many minutes in important games for their clubs. Situations like this are a big thing to help them get better down the road and gain experience.”

That stung Italy into action and the host nation proceeded to have the better of the middle stanza. Luca Frigo should have done better when a loose pass from Jordy van Oorschot presented him with the puck and the freedom of the Italian zone.

Then Insam thought he had his second of the evening midway through the frame. His slap shot from the blue line rattled both posts but the video showed that it did not go in. Simon Kostner also hit the bar before Kevin Devergilio finally made the pressure tell, touching home a tic-tac-toe move involving Paul Zanette and Armin Helfer in the 34th minute.

“I’ve got to give Holland credit,” added Mair. “They played with a lot of grit. Playing Serbia first maybe wasn’t the best start because they didn’t really hit us. The Dutch came out and hit us hard from the start and we had to adjust because we’re not used to that physical game. But in the end, with the times we hit the crossbar, I think we deserved the win.”

The third period saw the Netherlands absorbing more pressure as Italy’s extra pace began to tell. But the home offence was having to work hard for its opportunities and it wasn’t until the 52nd minute that Italy finally got some breathing space. The impressive Diego Kostner wrestled for the puck down on the boards and fed Luca Frigo for a wrist shot that flashed upstairs to make it 4-2.

Great Britain vs. Serbia 6-2 (2-1, 2-1, 2-0)

GB’s Colin Shields became his country’s second-highest goal scorer in the modern era with a goal in a 6-2 victory over Serbia. He took his tally to 34, and two in this competition, moving to within six goals of British hockey legend Tony Hand. Gerry Davey, a star of the British team of the ’30s and ’40s, holds the all-time record with 43 goals in 45 games.

“When I was growing up Tony was a legend in his own right, someone who we all look up to and who did a lot of great things for British hockey,” Shields said. “I’m still a few behind him but this is a proud moment.

“I’ve had a lot of years on the national team and played with some great players. A lot of good guys have passed me pucks and this is something to remember.”

But while the Brits go forward to a win-or-bust showdown against Italy tomorrow there was also much for Serbia to celebrate after a big improvement on Thursday’s 0-8 reverse against the host nation.

The Balkan nation generated far more offence than it managed in game one and it wasn’t until an extended 5-on-3 power play late in the second period that Britain finally earned the comfort of a two-goal lead.

GB shaded the first period after Shields opened the scoring in the fifth minute. The Belfast Giant circled off the left-hand boards and found open ice in front of goal as he fired past Arsenije Rankovic from between the hatchings.

But Serbia had learned from its opening day experience and tied the scores five minutes later. The goal came from a defensive error – GB turned over the puck on its blue line – and Andrej Zwick quickly fed Nenad Rakovic for his country’s first goal here in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

That gave the Serbs a visible boost in confidence and the White Eagles began to produce far more offence than it managed against the host nation. By the first intermission Marko Kovacevic’s team had produced twice as many shots as it managed in the whole of its first game.

However, it was unable to get on the scoreboard again and GB found a way back in front thanks to Matty Davies’ first ever international goal. Robert Lachowicz was the architect, skating across the deep slot to pull the defence out of position before a well-weighted backhand pass picked out Davies with a clear look at the net for the finish.

That didn’t deter the outsider, though. Serbia began on the front foot in the middle session and GB quickly ran into penalty trouble. Mark Garside and Stephen Lee were cooling their heels in the sin bin when Uros Bjelogrlic forced the puck home at the far post to tie the scores once again.

“It was a tough game,” Shields added. “We knew that they would come out hard, their goalie came up with some big saves and blocked a lot of shots but we knew if we kept getting the puck to the net, kept making our plays, we would get the rewards.

“Maybe we tried to over-complicate things at times – it was a scrappy game – but we got the win.”

Shields helped to put GB back in front, getting an assist as David Phillips’ shot from the point was tipped in by Jonathan Boxill for his first goal for his country, but it wasn’t until Serbia ran into penalty trouble of its own that the British gained that two-goal lead. Lee thumped a shot against the post and it flashed out for Dave Clarke to sweep low past Stefan Ilic’s desperate attempt to clear on the line.

The third period produced fewer opportunities until a power-play goal from Clarke, finishing from close range off Craig Peacock’s pass, and a short-handed solo effort from Lachowicz made the final score 6-2.

For Serbia a second defeat was no disgrace. Recently-appointed head coach Marko Kovacevic admitted before the tournament that his team’s main goal was to acquit itself well and make progress towards its World Championship campaign in Spain later this year.

“We won’t face teams like this so often so it’s nice to see players who are on a different level than us,” Kovacevic said. “Maybe we can pick up some stuff that we see and use it ourselves.

“Don’t get me wrong – we’re all athletes, we all want to win every game, but we understand that the main goal of our season comes in April and that’s what we’re working for here. We know what we want to see in these games and if we can do what we agree in the dressing room that’s a success for us.”

 

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Fukufuji leads Japan triumph

Goalie has huge impact in victory over Ukraine

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Japanese goalie Yutaka Fukufuji celebrates with the winners' plate.

 

Stellar play from goalie Yutaka Fukufuji helped Japan edge Ukraine 2-1 in a tough battle on the final day of play in the Men's Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 2 Group J on Sunday at the Tsukisamu Arena in Sapporo. The victory advances the Japanese men’s national team to the next round of qualifying in September where it will try to make the Olympics for the first time since hosting the 1998 Nagano Games.

Japan vs. Ukraine 2-1 (0-0, 0-0, 2-1)

It was clear from the outset that this would be speed vs. power and that's exactly what it was. Ukraine played a very physical game from the outset, while Japan raced around their larger opponents. The game was a tight one until the third period when winger Kenta Takagi knocked in a rebound with 13:41 left.

Veteran centre Daisuke Obara made it 2-0 for Japan when he scored on a one-timer from the point past Ukraine goalie Eduard Zakharchenko on the glove side with 7:56 remaining.

The two-goal advantage was short lived, however, as Ukraine answered back on a shot by Yuri Petrangovsky past Japan goalie Yutaka Fukufuji on the stick side with 5:24.

The final five minutes were tense as the hosts tried to hang on with Ukraine applying huge pressure. Japan prevailed in the end, but it was not easy.

Fukufuji made 32 saves in the win and received profuse praise from both coaches afterward.

Japan coach Greg Thomson was relieved after the victory.

“I think both teams battled very hard until the end,” said Thomson. “It could have gone either way. We got some timely goals in the third period. Playing aggressive and smart is the right way to play. We have to use our speed. That is one of our biggest assets.”

Thomson cited Fukufuji's play as being a huge part of the result for Japan.

“Fukufuji was unreal today,” Thomson stated. “We played good hockey over all three games.”

Fukufuji said his performance was all in a day's work.

“It was a tight game. We expected that and our defence played well,” Fukufuji said. “The goal they got was deflected by one of their players to the scorer. They are big and have skills. We scored on a couple of chances and that was the difference.”

Zakharchenko, who had shutouts in the first two games, stopped 28 shots in the loss.

The first period ended scoreless despite both teams having multiple power play chances. Japan killed off three power plays, while Ukraine stopped two.

Ukraine's Volodomyr Aleksyuk was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for spearing and with 3:11 left in the first.

Ukraine had 12 shots on goal in the period, while Japan mustered nine.

In the second period Ukraine had four power-play opportunities but was unable to convert any of them into a goal as the pace of play picked up.

Ukraine got off 10 shots on goal in the second, while Japan had just seven.

Petrangovsky said he was ready when his chance came.

“I took a pass from my teammate (Artem Gnidenko) and put it in,” Petrangovsky commented on his goal. “It is a play we have used in practice many times.”

Petrangovsky felt the Japan team utilized their strengths in the triumph.

“They are fast and have several skill players,” Petrangovsky said. “There were no surprises. We have gone against them before in the World Championships. They just played their game.”

Ukraine coach Olexander Savystky was not down despite the loss.

“We are building a new team,” Savystky commented. “This was the first tournament for many players. We are proud of both the veterans and young players.”

Savystky summed up the difference in the game in concise fashion.

“Modern hockey today is a game of mistakes and today we made one more,” Savystky said. “Today the goalie is 80-90 per cent of the game. Fukufuji played more than very well.”

Romania 1 Croatia 4 (0-1, 1-2, 0-1)

Croatia defeated Romania 4-1 on Sunday at the Tsukisamu Arena in Sapporo. Both teams entered the contest with 0-2 records, having lost their games against Japan and Ukraine.

Croatia goalie Mate Tomljenovic made 24 saves in the victory.

Croatia set the pace in the first period, attacking relentlessly and taking 20 shots on goal against Romania's Attila Adorjan. Dominic Kanaet gave Croatia the lead with 13:01 left in the opening period when he flipped in a backhander directly in front of the goal.

Romania squandered a good chance to score when they had a two-man advantage on a 5-on-3 power play with 2:57 left in the period but came up empty. They had just seven shots on goal in the first.

The game opened up in the second period with both teams playing more fluidly. Romania equalized with 13:30 left in the second when Zsolt Molnar fired in a shot past Tomljenovic from the slot.

Croatia retook the lead with 8:52 left on a slapshot by Luca Mikulic from the slot.

The Croats boosted their lead to 3-1 on a spinning shot by Mario Novak in front of the net with 51 seconds remaining in the second.

The final period was a wide open affair with both teams being aggressive but unable to find the net until near the end of the frame.

Romania called a time-out with 2:49 left and pulled Adorjan, but could not capitalize with the extra attacker.

Croatia closed out the scoring when Marko Sakic fired the puck into the empty net with 1:07 left.

Adorjan stopped 37 shots in the loss.

Croatia coach Danijel Kolombo was happy to end the competition with a win.

“This was a great tournament for us,” stated Kolombo. “All three games were good. We knew we could play against Romania and compete against the other two even though they are a level higher than us.”

Kolombo said his squad did what they came for in Sapporo.

“We accomplished all of our plans,” commented Kolombo. “The players have played many games this season so fatigue is an issue. But I'm happy with how hard they played.”

Romania coach Kjell Lindqvist did not hide his disappointment after his team's third straight defeat.

“With this roster we only scored one goal in three games. That isn't good enough,” said Lindqvist. “After two tough games we had no power today. Our penalty-killing was good, but that was about it.”

Lindqvist admitted that his side was in a tough situation.

“The team is tired and we are missing key players,” he noted. “But we have to battle better.”

 

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Sweet revenge

Poland advances after rare win vs. Hungary

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The Polish team poses for a group photo after edging Hungary 1-0 in shootout.

 

Ten month ago Hungary won 2-1 on Poland’s ice in Krakow in a game for promotion to the top division. Today Poland avenged the loss and beat Hungary 1-0 in shootout in Budapest to advance to the Final Olympic Qualification.

Click here for a video with the game-winning goal, celebration and post-game interviews.

It was the first win for Poland against Hungary in 13 years in an IIHF-sanctioned game. Krzysztof Zapala scored the game-winning goal while all three Hungarian shooters missed the net.

“It was a very balanced game but we played well and battled hard and I was happy to score with my shot,” Zapala said.

Przemyslaw Odrobny was the other hero for Poland with a 38-save shutout as Hungary outshot the Poles 38-27.

“I’m pretty excited like all the team. It was a hard game for 65 minutes. It was war on ice. We beat them on their own ice like they did last year in Krakow, so it’s 1-1,” Odrobny said. “Both goalies faced a lot of shots, there were many fans at the arena, so it was very hot on the ice.”

It was hot for the fans either. Like ten months earlier the 9,000 spectators at the sold-out Laszlo Papp Sportarena saw a tense game with strong goaltending and disciplined play on both sides that remained exciting until the very end.

Although these two countries haven’t played each other that much in recent years, the clash has a long history in which Poland was ranked better between 1938 and 2006 while Hungary overtook the Poles in the World Championship program in 2007 and hadn’t lost to Poland in IIHF play since 2003 until this day.

The first minutes of the game belonged to the home team. After 30 seconds the Hungarian fans’ breath caught. Istvan Sofron was on a breakaway but Odrobny made a stick save to prevent an early goal. Odrobny remained in the spotlight as Hungary created the scoring chances and was awarded the first power play, although without the desired outcome. Only after more than six minutes did Poland have its first real chance with a long shot from Krystian Dziubinski.

The first period ended with 11-4 shots on goal in Hungary’s favour but the game remained scoreless as the Poles became defensively more stable and started creating more chances.

The second period was more balanced with the biggest chance coming after 11 minutes when Andras Benk had two shots right in front of Odrobny. But the 30-year-old netminder, who plays his first season abroad with Morzine-Avoriaz of the French Ligue Magnus, also mastered this situation.

On the other side Mateusz Bepierszcz had a great chance late in the middle frame with a shot while turning around but the puck went a few centimetres wide the net.

In the third frame Mikolaj Lopuski had the biggest opportunity for Poland to gain the lead after nine minutes of play when he got a loose puck in front of the net but he didn’t capitalize.

The Hungarians had more penalties which offered chances for the visiting team. At 15:39 only a huge block prevented Lopuski from scoring a late goal.

The Hungarians put more pressure on the Polish net in the dying minute of regulation time after a time-out. In overtime they had the chance to play 4-on-3 with Lopuski in the sin bin for slashing while Poland had two good shots after killing the penalty, however, the goaltenders kept the 0-0 score on the board and a shootout had to decide.

“The game was very evenly matched. We got off to a very good start. We got a lot of pucks to the net. They played well defensively, there were no blatant 1-0 opportunities,” Hungary coach Rich Chernomaz said.

“We had our chances in overtime on the power play but we didn’t succeed. I’m very proud of our players, all of them. The one thing that hurt us a bit tonight is that we were missing two defencemen in [Balazs] Goz and [Bence] Sziranyi so we had to play with six defenceman for the majority of the game.”

After Marton Vas missed with the first shot, Zapala decided the first round for Poland. Both Andrew Sarauer for Hungary and Aron Chmielewski for Poland didn’t score in the second round and when Frank Banham hit the metal from a sharp angle the Poles’ victory was sealed.

Estonia-Lithuania 4-1 (3-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Estonia finished the Olympic Qualification on a high by beating Lithuania 4-1 after having suffered to high losses.

Andrei Makrov with a pair of goals and Villem-Henrik Koitmaa with 55 saves were the heroes for the Estonians in their first win in 16 years against Lithuania.

The Lithuanians had won the last five games in the Baltic clash, most recently 6-1 and 12-3 at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in 2015 and 2013 but missing out on some national team mainstays such as Tadas Kumeliaskas from TPS Turku or Nerijus Alisauskas, busy in the Russian VHL, seemed to prove costly.

“It’s pretty amazing. Before the game I was thinking of our game in Donetsk three years ago where I got five goals from nine shots,” Koitmaa said after the game when told that the last win happened in 2000, also in the Olympic Qualification.

“Everything went great for us. I had some easy saves in the beginning. That helped to relax. Before the game we were really focused to win and the team looked confident. Despite some stupid penalties we managed to win the game.”

Estonia was outshot 56-26 but was sharper when it mattered in front of the net and defended an early led well.

Estonia had a great start and capitalized on its first two shots of the game. After 43 seconds of play Andrei Makrov opened the scoring and two minutes later Filipp Shvarogin capitalized on a man advantage for the early 2-0 lead.

Lithuania improved and dominated the rest of the period. At 13:24 they were eventually rewarded when Danielius Nomanovas scored on a rebound during a power play. But two-and-a-half minutes later the goal song “Welcome to Estonia” was back as Deniss Konyshev restored the two-goal lead.

Lithuania wasn’t able to build up the same pressure in the second period. The game remained scoreless for a while and Emilijus Krakauskas missing out on a breakaway was the best chance for the team in red. Four power plays didn’t help the team either as it didn’t capitalized on its chances while Makrov added a second marker on a power play at 3:59 of the third period for the final score of 4-1 for Estonia.

“We had a lot of chances but the Estonian team was the cleverer team. They capitalized on their chances, they had two goals on power play, we just one,” Lithuania coach Bernd Haake said.

“We worked hard but it was not enough. You need to work hard and play smart. In our next game in Zagreb we have to do that because our first game will be against Estonia.”

 

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