LJUBLJANA – Host Slovenia won its first game against Poland 3-2 while the other favourite Hungary had a close win against Korea, 4-2. Great Britain had a remarkable performance, ending its 26-hour bus ride with a 4-1 victory against Croatia on Day 1 of Division I Group B action.
Poland vs. Slovenia 2-3 (1-3, 1-0, 0-0)
Slovenia had a tough start against a Polish team that visibly wanted to improve on a disappointing fourth-place finish on home ice last year. The Slovenes had a one-goal lead for most of the game and it was a hard battle for them to earn the 3-2 victory.
Both teams scored two goals with shots from the blueline.
Slovenia opened the scoring off a faceoff in the offensive zone. Mitja Sivic got the puck and passed it to defenceman Sabahudin Kovacevic, who scored from the blueline three minutes into action.
At 13:44, Marian Csorich’s goal from the blueline tied the game at one, but Slovenia regained the lead within a minute.
Sivic tried to pass the puck through the crease, but the puck hit Poland goalkeeper Krzysztof Zborowski and stayed in front of the him. Slovenian forward Tomaz Razingar took advantage and scored the 2-1 goal at 14:17.
Slovenia continued with the better scoring chances. Marcel Rodman had bad luck when his shot at 16:29 hit the post, but with 11 seconds remaining in the first period, Slovenia scored the 3-1 goal on a power play. Urbas deflected a shot from the blueline from Gregory Kuznik.
Poland had a man advantage at the beginning of the second period and the blueliner Jaroslaw Klys scored with another distance shot.
The 3-2 lead for Slovenia stayed for the rest of the game. Poland had 16-9 shots edge in the second period, but Slovenia controlled the game in the third.
The Poles put pressure on the Slovenian net late in the game. On a power-play, the pulled their goalie for the six-on-four, could not get the equalizer.
“I think we were the better and faster team with more chances, but the third goal was very unlucky for us,” said Poland head coach Wiktor Pysz. “Now we have to live with that.”
Slovenia head coach John Harrington was surprised by Poland's performance.
“They were a great possession team and we stayed in our own zone than we wanted,” he said. “We got the lead and they came back. It was really important that we got the lead back so soon. Every game in this tournament is going to be tough.”
Croatia vs. Great Britain 1-4 (1-1, 0-2, 0-1)
The British team arrived four hours before face-off in Ljubljana after a 26-hour bus ride. Still, they managed to earn three points against Croatia with a 4-1 win.
Great Britain was supposed to play the 13:00 game, but the first two games were swapped because all flights in Great Britain were cancelled.
“It took us to the second period until we were into the game, we didn’t know them so well and they probably didn’t know us,” Great Britain head coach Paul Thompson said. “It’s far from perfect preparation, but sometimes adversity works in wonderful ways. Spirits in the camp are good, in fact in a funny way. This whole last day has made us laugh and brought the whole group closer together. You never know if we win this tournament it might become GB standard practice.”
Dozens of British fans also joined the team in the arena and got into a cheering competition with the Croatian fans at the opposite tribune.
The noise level rose only 4:48 into the game when Jonathan Phillips scored the first goal for Team Great Britain with a shot deflected by Croatian defenceman Ivan Sijan. Phillips was well-positioned in front of Vanja Belic’s net when Robert Dowd passed from behind the goal.
During a two-man advantage, Great Britain netminder Stephen Murphy failed to get the puck under control after a shot from a short angle by Dominik Kanaet. Borna Rendulic stood ready to bring the loose puck over the line at 12:45.
Great Britain was stronger in the second period with a 19-3 shots advantage.
Jonathan Weaver had the best chance eight minutes into the period, but Croatia goalie Vanja Belic made the save.
Defenceman Ben O’Connor gave Great Britain the lead at 30:56. Coming out from the penalty box, he received a pass at the blueline from Colin Shields to defeat Belic.
With three minutes left in the period, Britain made it 3-1. Jonathan Phillips skated towards the Croatian netminder, but instead of shooting he passed the puck back to Greg Chambers, whose shot hit the back of the net.
Great Britain had the game under control in the last period when Robert Dowd scored the 4-1 goal on a power play at 56:29.
“We knew that they came after a long trip, but we were still not able to beat them because our team is young and inexperienced,” Croatia coach Pavle Kavcic said after missing the big opportunity for a surprise.
“After our trip we kept it as simple as possible. We just got in and did a good job. We used our energy and tempo, that’s our strength. We did lots of hard work and showed determination. I think that’s kind of the British way,” said Phillips, who had one goal and assist each.
Now he’s looking forward to get a rest.
“We didn’t have a lot of sleep, maybe a couple of hours here and there,” Phillips said. “I think we get some good food now and well-deserved sleep to get prepared for tomorrow.”
The British players celebrate their victory against Croatia following a 26-hour bus ride. Photo: Iztok Novak
Korea vs. Hungary 2-4 (0-0, 1-3, 1-1)
It was a meeting between first and last as top seed Hungary, which was relegated from the top division last year, met newly-promoted Korea.
Normally, the favourite earns a lopsided win, but the Hungarians struggled in the first half of the game to put the Koreans away.
36 seconds played into the second period Ki Sung Kim put in a rebound that deflected off a Hungarian defenceman. A video review was needed to confirm the 1-0 lead.
The Hungarians responded less than two minutes later, tying the game at one when Roger Holeczy scored after a pass to the centre from Balint Magosi. The goal sparked the Hungarians to life. Janos Vas gave Hungary the lead five minutes later at 28:51 after getting a pass from behind the net from Daniel Koger.
Imre Pederdi made it 3-1 three minutes later. Vas waited in the left corner before a perfect centring pass to Pederdi.
At 33:30, Korean goalkeeper Hyun Seung Eum, who suffered a slight injury during the second period, was replaced by Sung Je Park, but he couldn’t prevent Hungary’s victory despite a breakaway from Han Sung Kim, whose shot hit the crossbar.
Instead of Korea cutting the lead it was Csaba Kovacs, who scored the shorthanded 4-1 goal early in the third period with a breakaway.
One late Korean goal brought the final to 4-2.
Hungary earned three points for the win and learned the lesson that Korea shouldn’t be underestimated.
Hungary’s Krisztian Palkovics tries to stop Korea’s Seung Jun Lee. Photo: Iztok Novak