Helfer’s shot to the top

Div. IA: Italy earns promotion vs. Hungary; Korea wins bronze

23-04-11
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The Italian players celebrate the promotion to the Top Division after just one year. Photo: Andras Wirth

Italy - Hungary 4-3 (3-1, 0-1, 0-1, 1-0) Game Sheet Photos

BUDAPEST – Italy will be back in the Top Division next year in Finland and Sweden. The Azzurri won the deciding game against Hungary 4-3 in overtime. Armin Helfer scored the overtime game winner while Giulio Scandella netted two goals.

“It was my dream to win this game as a team,” Helfer said. “It was kind of luck that it was me, who scored the goal. We began like a rocket and had a quick lead, but we let them come back. Somehow we managed not to concede another goal and had the luck we needed in overtime.”

While Italy changes between the Top Division and Division I for the fourth straight season, Hungary will have to stay in the second tier for the third straight year after being relegated in 2009.

“It was a hell of a game!” said Scandella, another key player in Italy’s triumph in Budapest. “We knew it’s going to be a battle out there as Hungary really played a great tournament. Our guys worked hard for the full time, we never gave up and kept pressing and forcing them until we came out with the win.”

The game before 8,723 fans at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena was a drama with more than 100 shots (57-48 for Italy) and with the better end for the Italian side. The blue squad gave up a two-goal lead in a great Hungarian comeback, but eventually Italy decided the game after 56 seconds of the extra period.

“We saved the best for last. We have great leaders on our hockey team. We wanted to catch our breath and give our leaders the opportunity to lead,” Italy’s head coach Rick Cornacchia said. “But Hungary was a great team. They put in a great effort. They came back into the game, but we didn’t break.”

Everything was ready for a party for the Hungarians, who have had the best tournament record before the deciding game. Thousands of coloured sheets were distributed in the arena so as to have the Hungarian tricolour throughout the entire venue.

But then it was the Italians who celebrated on the ice shortly after the first puck drop, and the “Ria, Ria, Hungaria” chants were interrupted by the Azzurro goal song played for the Italians more often than the home fans could have imagined in their worst nightmare.

Michael Souza gave Italy the lead at 3:36 when he shot the puck in after a centering pass from Matt de Marchi.

Souza was also in the spotlight some minutes later. The Italians enjoyed a man advantage after an unnecessary hit from behind by Hungary’s Balint Magosi, but only half-a-minute later an interference penalty was called against Souza and the game continued with 4-on-4 action.

Italy won the face-off in its own zone and the puck went to Scandella, who rushed along the boards before beating Hungarian netminder Zoltan Hetenyi with a low shot for a 2-0 lead at 10:00.

This was one goal too many for the liking of Hungary’s coach Ted Sator, who replaced Hetenyi with Levente Szuper.

“Hetenyi has been strong the whole week and in the practices,” Sator said after the game when asked about the decision who would be the starter.

The signal to his team paid off. The power play started to work and a penalty call against Jonathan Pittis created a two-man advantage for the Hungarians that Balazs Ladanyi converted into a goal. Italy’s lead was cut to 2-1 after Ladanyi’s low shot from the left side.

The Hungarians, however, couldn’t gain momentum from that situation, partly due to taking two penalties. The Italians converted on the second man advantage with 9.5 seconds left in the first period. Scandella scored his second goal after Armin Helfer made a good pass from the blueline to the crease.

Just like the first period, the second featured lots of scoring opportunities at both ends. Although the Italians had more shots on goal, it was the Hungarians who scored the only goal of the period.

Italian goalkeeper Daniel Bellissimo, who got his second start of the tournament according to Cornacchia’s initial plan to split goaltending, blocked a shot by Adam Hegyi, but Ladislav Sikorcin was in the right spot to capitalize on the rebound at 9:57.

The Hungarians had a strong start to the third period. They didn’t capitalize on a power play in the beginning, but soon afterwards. Istvan Sofron skated from the right side toward Bellissimo and was blocked by Italian defenceman Armin Hofer, but the puck slid to Martin Vas, who tied the game at 3-3 at 4:21.

Hungary outshot Italy 20-17 in the third period, but the score remained 3-3, and the game for the Division I gold medals and promotion had to be decided in overtime.

“We knew it would be a fantastic hockey game. Our team showed a lot of character and heart, it’s a very special group,” Hungary coach Sator said. “Being down 2-0 after ten minutes was not what we envisioned, but we did a good job after.”

“It’s never a nice feeling when you lose a two-goal lead,” Scandella said. “But we regrouped on the bench and kept going and we got that fortunate power play at the end that definitely helped us.”

The Italians started the extra time with the man advantage as Andras Horvath had got a penalty for hooking down Scandella with 45 seconds left in the third period.

They immediately put pressure on Szuper’s goal and 56 seconds into the overtime period the Italians started to cheer. A long-range shot from Helfer went in off the crossbar in the top-right corner. After video review and a short period of trembling for both squads, the goal was confirmed, and the Azzurri started to celebrate their return to the top division.

“There’s no big difference between Italy and Hungary. Today it was maybe the shape or luck that decided in our favour,” Helfer said after his overtime goal. “It was a very attractive game from both teams and there were lots of shots. In the end we had the ounce of luck that you need to win such a game, and they didn’t.”

Final Ranking:
1. Italy 11
2. Hungary 10
3. Korea 4
4. Netherlands 3
5. Spain 3

Individual Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate:
Best Goalkeeper: Hyun Seung Eum, Korea
Best Defenceman: Armin Helfer, Italy
Best Forward: Istvan Sofron, Hungary

Korea vs. Spain 2-3 (0-1, 1-0, 1-1, 0-1) Game Sheet Photos

BUDAPEST – Spain finished its Division I adventure on a positive note with a 3-2 win in overtime against Korea, but thanks to the point won in this game the Koreans received the bronze medals despite the defeat.

Spain hadn’t beaten Korea in the World Championship since the 1995 C-Pool before Saturday’s encounter in Budapest. Korea had won six games against Spain since while one match ended in a tie.

The game meant more trouble for Korea than expected as Spain claimed the lead twice despite being outshot 59-25 by the Koreans.

Spain had more luck with its offensive action also in overtime. Juan Brabo passed the puck along the boards after four minutes, but it bounced out of track at the end boards towards the Korean cage, where Salvador Barnola defeated a surprised Korean goalie Hyun Seung Eum.

The end of the game didn't spoil the Korean party as the Asians just needed one point to receive their first-ever Division I medals in the bronze colour, and that’s exactly what they got.

Prior to this event, last year’s fifth-place finish had been the best Division I placing ever for Korea.

Spain will be relegated despite the overtime win. The Spaniards would have needed a regulation time win with a margin of at least five goals to stay in Division I after their first-ever participation at this level.

The Netherlands finished the event in fourth place after defeating Spain in regulation time but losing yesterday’s match against Korea.

Korea had a good start into the game with lots of shots and three power plays, but the Asians weren’t able to outplay the opponent’s defence as they partly did one day ago.

Korean head coach Hee Woo Kim took his time-out already after 13 minutes of play to wake up his team, but it didn’t have the effect he wanted.

Spain put itself on the scoreboard for the first time with two minutes left in the first period. Korea goalkeeper Eum didn’t bring the puck under control after a weak shot from Bastien Ribot-Tona, and Juan Jose Palacin capitalized on the rebound.

The beginning of the second period wasn’t promising for the Asians, either. Tae An Kwon was sent to the dressing room with a five-minute major and a game misconduct penalty for boarding. He hit Daniel Hilario into the boards, but the Spaniard managed to return later.

Spain, however, couldn’t capitalize on the long power play, and with 3:37 left in the second period Korea’s Kim line tied things up. Won Jung Kim scored after Geun Ho Kim’s drop pass from behind the net.

Korea was close from gaining the lead during a penalty kill in the third period when Spain cleared a puck on the goal line, but it was Spain’s youngsters that succeeded at 5:23 on the other end.

Korean netminder Eum was down after blocking a shot from Alejandro Pedraz, and Carlos Quevedo shot the puck into the empty net from a sharp angle for the 2-1 goal.

Because Korea needed to reach overtime at least to earn bronze, the Asians were desperately looking for their second goal – and again it was the Kim unit that tied the game.

Spanish goalkeeper Alcaine was struggling with a shot from the blueline from Hyeok Kim, and Won Jung Kim was there to push the puck over the goal line.

It was the goal that helped write Korean hockey history, but in overtime Barnola wrote hockey history for Spain as well with his overtime goal despite the relegation back to Division II.

MARTIN MERK

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