Hungary, Italy survive scare

Div. IA: Favourites allow comebacks, but grab all points

19-04-11
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The Hungarians struggled against a hard-working Korean team, but they didn’t fall. Photo: Andras Wirth

BUDAPEST – The two favourites of the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division I Group A continued their winning streaks. However, both Hungary (vs. Korea) and Italy (against the Netherlands) allowed their underdog opponents to tie the game before scoring late game winners.

Hungary vs. Korea 6-3 (3-1, 0-0, 3-2)

Hungary defeated the Netherlands 7-3 in entertaining fashion yesterday, giving further excitement to a nation that hopes to see its team in the Top Division in Finland and Sweden next year.

However, the game against Korea proved to be much more work than expected. Korea tied it at three in the third period before the Hungarians woke up and scored three late goals for a 6-3 victory.

“We had a breakdown and couldn’t take the game to our side after the 3-1 goal. They worked hard and we knew they would work hard,” Hungary’s Marton Vas said after the game.

“They are skating well and they played well from 0:00 to 60:00. We just have to keep it simple and work harder than them. Maybe our team thought it would be easy after the 3-1 and let up a bit.”

Hungary set the tone with quick goals in the first period against a Korean team that was playing its first game of the tournament and didn’t seem to be ready for the red-hot home squad in the beginning.

A counter-attack opened the scoring after five minutes of play as defenceman Andras Horvath sent a cross-ice pass from the own end to the offensive blueline, where Marton Vas escaped to defeat Korean netminder Hyun Seung Eum with a low shot.

At 9:39 the Hungarians made it 2-0 when a puck bounced back from the boards and Roger Holeczy shot the loose puck into the net.

The speedy and hard-working Koreans didn’t make life easy for the home squad however, and persistence paid off at 14:58 when Don Ku Lee cut into the lead.

Nevertheless, the Hungarians remained the more dangerous team and some of their attacks made their fans rise in their seats. Like the one with two minutes left in the first period, when the Hungarians restored the two-goal lead with nice tic-tac-toe passing of the first line, Ă  la the Soviets in their glory days. Marton Vas entered the zone, passed to Balazs Ladanyi who rushed towards the Korean net from the left side before sending a pass to the right to Istvan Sofron, who netted the puck.

Hungary stayed dominant in the middle stanza with a 17-5 shots-on-goal advantage, but the game remained scoreless until Korea trimmed the lead again, scoring at 5:52 of the third period. The referee needed the review and the video goal judge decided the puck was in and the goal awarded to Sang Wook Kim.

It came even worse for the Hungarians when Won Jung Kim stole the puck in his own zone three minutes later. His shot against Hungarian goalie Levente Szuper bounced off the goalie, but Sang Woo Sin scored on the rebound at 9:04 for the 3-3 equalizer.

For the Hungarians it was a wake-up call, and in the last few minutes the rushes and unexpected attacks that made the Hungarians so dangerous in this tournament were back.

Daniel Koger squeezed the puck in with 4:43 left in regulation time, but it needed another video review to make sure the call was right. It was a tense situation at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena, but the 7,366 fans could eventually celebrate when the referee pointed to centre ice.

And they had even more reason to party only seven seconds after the ensuing puck drop, when Marton Vas ran towards the Korean net and fed Sofron with another nice pass for the 5-3 goal.

With 1:22 left Sofron completed his hat trick after a pass from Ladanyi. Once again it was the first line that decided the game with Marton Vas (one goal, two assists) and Ladanyi (three assists) collecting three points as well.

Italy vs. Netherlands 3-2 (2-1, 1-1, 0-0)

Italy edged the Netherlands, 3-2, for a second narrow victory. The Dutch remain winless after facing the two top seeds of the event.

Despite performances against Spain and Netherlands that can’t be described as overwhelming, the Italians got the six points on the way to their goal: the promotion back to the Top Division.

For the Netherlands it was already the second setback after a 7-3 defeat against host Hungary the day before, following a 4-0 deficit after the first period.

This time coach Tommie Hartogs went with another goalkeeper, Ian Meierdres, against Italy. But things didn’t look much more promising in net at the beginning. Meierdres let in a weak shot after only 21 seconds of play as Luca Ansoldi brought Italy on the scoreboard.

Two minutes later the Dutch had the chance to tie it up on a power play, but instead Giulio Scandella made it 2-0 for Italy on a breakaway.

It looked like the Dutch would suffer another early decision, but this time they managed to find their way back. The Netherlands created more offence and Diederick Hagemeijer missed the biggest chance on a breakaway during an Italian power play.

With three minutes remaining in the first period Anthony Demelinne scored the first goal for the Netherlands on a power play. He capitalized on a rebound after a shot from Nick de Jong.

The Dutch came out strong for the second period and at 4:11 the game was tied at two. After a great rush from Jamie Schaafsma on the right side he sent a perfect centering pass to Demelinne for his second marker of the day.

The Italians were struggling for a while, but regained the lead two minutes later. Patrick Iannone scored on the power play after defenceman Armin Helfer had skated to the end boards before sending a drop pass to Iannone.

Despite the 3-2 lead for the Azzures the game remained open. The Netherlands’ much used first line of Demelinne and the Dutch-Canadians Schaafsma and Casey van Schagen created dangerous rushes, while Italy often cracked the Dutch defence with its tall, but not always dynamic players.

Meierdres had a strong second period in the Dutch net and was also helped by the crossbar midway through the game after a shot from Scandella.

The Netherlands tried their best to stage a comeback in the last period, but with each second running down on the clock a surprise became less probable.

The Netherlands players didn’t come close enough and with six skaters on the ice and no real scoring chances on the net of Daniel Bellissimo, the Dutch ran out of time. Defenceman Mike Dalhuisen sent off the only shot of the dying seconds from the own zone.

Bellissimo saved the puck, and earned three more points for Italy with his solid play.

MARTIN MERK

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