BUDAPEST â€“ While host Hungary had a day off, the other gold favourite at the Division I Group A, Italy, took the lead with its third straight victory, 6-0 against Korea. The Netherlands won their first game, 8-2 vs. Spain.
Italy vs. Korea 6-0 (1-0, 2-0, 3-0) Game Sheet
Italy hadnâ€™t been the favourite that was expected to dominate the underdog teams in its first two games â€“ and was facing some criticism for that at home. In the 6-0 win against Korea, the Italians showed the perfect reaction, and a different face, with more power and skill. One that made its travelling fans in Budapest very happy.
It was the third win in as many games for the Italians, who will now enjoy two off-days before challenging Hungary for promotion to the 2012 IIHF World Championship on Saturday night.
â€śThe coach told us we have to focus on this game, not on the one Saturday, and that we shouldnâ€™t underestimate anybody here,â€ť said Italian goalkeeper Thomas Tragust after his second shutout performance in his second game in this event. â€śWe were well prepared and I think we could see it in this game. We were improving game by game.â€ť
It was only the second encounter ever between these two teams. The last (and so far only) time Italy and Korea previously met was seven years ago in Gdansk, Poland, and the Azzurri won 7-1.
The beginning of this game didn't hint at such a lopsided score, as Korea had both more puck possession and the first power play. But the Asian side seldom created offensive threats, while the Italians patiently waited until the short Korean storm was over.
At 10:54, on its first real chance, Italy opened the scoring. Alexander Egger's shot beside the net bounced off the boards and Marco Insam was in the right place to shoot the puck past Korean goalie Hyun Seung Eum.
Italy became stronger and made fully use of its physical advantage. It outshot the Koreans 17-8 in the first period, and started well in the middle frame.
Geun Ho Kim was sent to the penalty box for interference and Giulio Scandella took advantage of a weak penalty kill when the Koreans let him approach the net before the Italian forward unleashed a shot through traffic for the 2-0 goal at 4:28.
At 15:55 of the second period, the Italians made it 3-0 when Eum was left alone by his defencemen. He blocked a shot after an attempted wraparound from Scandella, but Egger and Marco Insam were waiting for the rebound, and after another save from Eum it was Insam who scored Italyâ€™s third goal â€“ his second of the night.
After recording two assists, Egger netted his first goal 46 seconds into the third period, and at 12:07 Thomas Larkin made it 5-0 with a shorthander.
It was the first goal at this level for the 20-year-old defenceman, who grew up in Varese and became the first Italian-trained draft pick in 2009, when the Columbus Blue Jackets selected him in the fifth round.
Patrick Iannone added another marker with 66 seconds remaining on the clock for the 6-0 final score.
While Italy plays for gold, the Koreans will aim for their first win in their remaining games on Friday against the Netherlands and on Saturday against Spain.
Spain vs. Netherlands 2-8 (0-4, 0-2, 2-2) Game Sheet
The Netherlands claimed their first win of the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division I Group A after losing their first two matches. The orange team faced little challenge against Spain, sweeping its opponent away by an 8-2 score.
Carlos Quevedo scored Spain's historic first Division I goal, while Diederick Hagemeijer, Marcel Kars and Ronald Wurm had two goals apiece for the Netherlands.
"I'm very happy about the goal in my first World Championship with the senior team," Quevedo said. "I just went straight to the goal for the rebound and I was in the right position to score."
With the victory, the Dutch came one step closer to their minimum goal, staying in Division I, while Spain's fate will most likely be decided in the last game against Korea.
Just as in their opening game against Italy, the newly promoted Spaniards were clearly outshot, but this time goalkeeper Ander Alcaine couldn't lead his team to a respectable outcome.
The winner became already foreseeable at 10:43 of the first period when Kars scored the 4-0 goal on a breakaway after a cross-ice pass from Levi Houkes. Hagemeijer had scored on another breakaway, shorthanded, only one minute earlier. The first two goals came from the first line when Jamie Schafsmaa beat Alcaine through the five-hole at 3:33 followed by a top-left-corner shot from Anthony Demelinne at 7:10.
Defenceman Guillermo BetrĂˇn almost got the first Spanish goal at 14:32 when he hit the post, while the Netherlands extended the lead with two more markers in the middle stanza, by Wurm and again Hagemeijer.
Spain head coach Antoine Lussien Basile brought in backup goalkeeper JosĂ© Luis Alonso, and the change paid off for a couple of minutes when an 18-year-old player with a cage mask was celebrating Spain's first goal with lots of cheer from the pro-underdog crowd of 1,960 fans.
Juan MuĂ±oz battled his way through the crease before seeming to lose the puck, but Carlos Quevedo was in the right spot to shoot it in.
Quevedo, who moved to Tampere, Finland, two years ago, is currently playing in his third IIHF event of this season after having represented the U20 and U18 national teams at the Division II level.
And he's not tired yet.
"I'm always happy about new challenges," he said.
The next one could be his biggest: staying in Division I.
"We have to work really, really hard and then, who knows. It's ice hockey. Anything can happen," he said.
Juan Jose Palacin scored the second Spanish goal with little more than seven minutes left to play to make the final score 8-2. Wurm and Kars had their second markers in between.