KYIV – Olexander Materukhin scored twice and added an assist to lift host Ukraine to a 5-2 victory over Estonia in Thursday’s last Division I Group B game. In earlier action, Group B leader Kazakhstan beat Poland 4-2 and Great Britain stayed in contention with a 5-2 win over Estonia.
Ukraine – Estonia 5-2 (1-0, 4-2, 0-0)
In order to fulfill its dream of promotion at the Palace of Sports, Ukraine must now defeat Kazakhstan in Saturday’s final showdown. However, if that scenario is coupled with a Great Britain win over Poland, it would lead to a three-way tie (three teams with 12 points), and the British might be able to secure top spot based on goal differential.
Against Estonia, Vadym Shakhraichuk and Sergei Klymentiev added a goal and an assist apiece, and Oleg Shafarenko and Vitali Lyutkevych had a pair of helpers each.
"We had a couple of lucky bounces that led to goals, but the Estonians didn't go away," said Ukrainian head coach Dave Lewis. "They gave us everything we could handle."
Andrei Makrov scored both goals for Estonia, which will aim to fend off relegation by beating Lithuania on Saturday. Both nations are winless thus far.
"It's a tradition for me to score against Ukraine," said Makrov with a smile.
"This was a good game for us," said Estonian head coach Dmitrij Medvedev. "But it was just preparation for the next game against Lithuania."
After allowing seven goals in the first period versus Great Britain en route to a 7-0 defeat, the Estonians gave themselves a better start against Ukraine. Goalie Villem-Henrik Koitmaa looked steady, staying square to the shooter, and his teammates skated hard and competed physically with the larger, more powerful Ukrainians.
Ukraine came very close to opening the scoring on its first power play of the game. If it wasn’t the puck skittering through the crease, it was Shakhraichuk ringing one off the post.
Shakhraichuk finally broke through on another power play with 2:33 left in the period when he skated into the right faceoff circle, took aim, and beat Koitmaa with a high zinger on the stick side.
The second period was a wild affair with six goals in total. Ukraine grabbed a 2-0 edge at 3:15. Working a 2-on-1 rush, Oleg Tymchenko tried to send a pass across, but the puck hit the skate of an Estonian defender and skittered in past the hapless Koitmaa.
The Estonians replied promptly. Just over a minute later, Andrei Makrov lifted a shot over Fedorov’s glove and the boys from the Baltic seemed to have new life. Yet that was crushed just as promptly when Sergei Klymentiev’s shot from the right side fooled Koitmaa through traffic at 15:01, restoring Ukraine’s two-goal advantage.
Buoyed by chanting supporters, from shirtless dudes to uniformed military, the Ukrainians kept coming. At 13:37, they made it 4-1 with the man advantage when Materukhin was allowed to cut in front of the net and zap a close-range shot past Koitmaa.
The shifty Makrov showed why he’s Estonia’s go-to guy when he cut the deficit to 4-2 at 17:17. But Materukhin demonstrated his canny veteran nature equally well with a shorthanded tally, beating Koitmaa from the left faceoff circle with 53 seconds left before the buzzer. That would end Estonia’s comeback hopes.
"That's what our first line does, score goals," said Lewis.
After the game, Lewis addressed the status of Alexi Mikhnov, who was injured and didn't play after the first period: "We're hopeful he'll be available for Saturday."
Ukraine last appeared in the top division in 2007.
Poland – Kazakhstan 4-2 (0-2, 0-1, 2-1)
Kazakhstan controls its own destiny atop Group B after holding on to beat Poland 4-2 for its fourth straight win.
The Kazakhs now have 12 points. If Kazakhstan defeats Ukraine on Saturday or loses in extra time, it will earn promotion to the 2012 IIHF World Championship in Finland and Sweden.
Poland, meanwhile, will settle for another year at the Division I level. It hasn’t made the top division since Sweden 2002.
Konstantin Pushkaryov scored the eventual winner with about five minutes left in the second period. Kazakhstan’s Vitali Yeremeyev won the goaltending duel with Poland’s Przemyslaw Odrobny, with shots on goal favouring Kazakhstan 26-25.
At 6:57, Kazakhstan’s Maxim Belyayev drew first blood with a tremendous one-timer from the slot. At 11:37, Roman Savchenko’s bullet drive from the blueline made it 2-0. Throughout the first period, the Kazakhs tormented Poland with their superior speed and puckhandling, outshooting the red-and-white squad 11-5.
"The start of the game was very bad for us, " said Polish coach Wiktor Pysz. "We began to play better after that, but couldn't convert all our chances."
The Poles hung in doggedly deep into the second period, getting territorial pressure in the Kazakh zone but not generating enough offensively.
The momentum Poland might have had was deflated when Odrobny let a Konstantin Pushkaryov shot from the right wing sneak through him at 14:58, giving Kazakhstan a 3-0 lead. That would make the comeback mountain a little too steep to climb for Poland.
Maciej Urbanowicz finally got Poland on the scoreboard at 1:06 of the third period. With Kazakhstan’s Yevgeni Bumagin off for hooking, the Poles made it exciting when captain Leszek Laskiewicz scored on a tap-in at 10:06 after some excellent power play puck movement. But that was as close as they’d get, despite one more power play chance and some heavy late pressure.
The Kazakhs flirted with disaster when they were caught with too many players on the ice with under two minutes left, but Maxim Semyonov iced the victory with a shorthanded empty-netter at 19:08.
Kazakh head coach Andrei Khomutov, a legend of the 1980s Soviet national team, celebrated his 50th birthday on Thursday. In honour of the occasion, IIHF Marketing Director Christian Hofstetter, a teammate of Khomutov’s with Switzerland’s Fribourg-Gottéron in the 1990s, presented him with an IIHF necktie before the game.
"I'm happy we won this game," said Khomutov. "Fortune was on our side."
Great Britain – Lithuania 5-2 (4-0, 1-1, 0-1)
Great Britain picked up against Lithuania where it left off in yesterday’s rout of Estonia, posting a 5-2 victory in Thursday’s first Division I Group B game. A four-goal first period sealed the third win in four tries for the Union Jack squad.
The British have one game left versus Poland on Thursday, and with nine points, they still have a chance to make it back to the top division for the first time since 1994.
Corey Neilson led the way offensively with a goal and two assists, and David Longstaff had a goal and a helper. Jonathan Weaver added a pair of assists.
"We had a good first period," said British coach Paul Thompson. "We scored a lot of goals and then we relaxed."
Lithuania and Estonia will battle it out on Thursday to determine who goes down to Division II. Both Baltic states are winless at this tournament.
The punchless Lithuanians have scored just four goals in four games so far. Darius Pliskauskas paced his side with a goal and an assist here.
"We wanted to win this game, but the first period was bad for us, and we took lots of penalties," said Lithuanian coach Sergej Borisov. "I don't know a team that can win taking as many minors as we did."
At 2:31 of the first period, Matthew Myers found himself unguarded in front of the Lithuanian net and coolly tapped home a Jonathan Phillips feed from the right side boards to open the scoring for Great Britain.
With a power play one-timer from the right faceoff circle at 13:26, Ben O’Connor stretched the British lead to 2-0. It took less than three minutes for Longstaff to add another at even strength.
British goalie Stephen Murphy was sharp on the rare occasions he had to be, blocking a close-range slapper by Mindaugas Kieras with less than three minutes left in the first. Britain outshot Lithuania 15-7 in the first.
David Clarke was awarded a penalty shot with 36 seconds left in the period, and he made no mistake, firing home a high wrister for his team-best fourth goal of the tournament.
Lithuania had a possible goal disallowed after a video review 4:13 into the second period, and Murphy stoned Kieras again at close range near the midway point of the game.
At 10:12, Neilson teed up a slapper from the high slot to make it 5-0 Great Britain.
Lithuania ended Murphy’s shutout bid less than three minutes later when Darius Lelanas finished off a shorthanded rush with a high shot stick side. Things got penalty-heavy toward the end of the period, with some dicey hits along the boards and shoving matches.
In the third period, Pliskauskas launched a one-timer from the right faceoff circle and beat a lunging Murphy, cutting the gap to 5-2.
"Murphy made several good saves for us," said Thompson. "We're satisfied with the outcome."
Forward Colin Shields, who’s contributed three points in three games for the British, sat out this game due to an upper-body injury. Defenceman Danny Meyers was also injured versus Lithuania, and held out for precautionary reasons, but is expected to return against Poland.
Only one current British player, Longstaff, played for the 1994 World Championship team. The Newcastle native was 19 at the time.