LJUBLJANA – It will come down to the expected final for promotion to the top division on Friday between Hungary and Slovenia, the teams that were relegated in 2009 and 2008, respectively. Both teams are undefeated.
Hungary got the maximum of 12 points out of four games after defeating Great Britain, 2-0, while Slovenia beat Korea 8-3. Poland hammered Croatia 6-0 and will play the Brits for the bronze medals. Korea and Croatia will play out which team has to go down to Division II next year.
Slovenia vs. Korea 8-3 (3-0, 2-2, 3-1)
Host Slovenia is looking forward to Friday’s game against Hungary, but before that, Slovenia needed points against winless Korea and secured all three of them in an 8-3 victory.
Coach John Harrington warned his team not to underestimate the speedy Asians and his players obeyed, creating a 3-0 lead after one period.
Jan Mursak slalomed on the ice around the five-minute mark before skating back from net traffic to defeat Korea keeper Sung Je Park with a shot from three metres.
The second goal followed just two minutes later. Ales Kranjc skated toward the Korean net on one wing while Tomaz Razingar came from the other, but Kranjc took a perfect shot into the top-left corner.
At 12:16, Slovenia’s young line gave the Koreans trouble with their quick passes on a power play until Rok Ticar scored the third goal.
Korea worked on a comeback in the second period. After just 22 seconds, defenceman Woo Jae Park surprised Slovenia netminder Andrej Hocevar, who was shielded, with a shot from the blueline.
It was only Korea’s fourth shot but not the last one in their strongest period. At 24:24, Dong Hwan Song had a scoring chance, but Hocevar blocked and Song’s second attempted bounded back from the post.
Slovenia reacted and Klemen Pretnar restored the three-goal lead at 25:04 with a shot just below the crossbar.
Korea tried to come back during a two-man advantage, but when the first penalized Slovene came back, Mitja Sivic scored the 5-1 goal on a breakaway at 32:36 that forced Korea coach Hee Woo Kim to use his time out.
Two minutes later, Korea got a second goal by Woo Sang Park, whose shot went in while the cage was moved and was counted after a video review.
Twelve seconds into the final period, Rodman hit the post and the game was interrupted, but after 33 seconds later, he hit the back of the net with his shot from a sharp angle to make it 6-2.
At 46:47, Mursak scored his second goal on his own rebound after goalie Park had blocked his and Marcel Rodman’s initial attempts.
With six minutes left, Razingar scored the 8-2 goal and one minute later Hyun Min Ahn made it 8-3. Both teams can now concentrate on their crucial last game on Friday.
“Everybody thought we would play for gold against Hungary, and now as we are there, I can finally focus on the game against Hungary, too,” Slovenia coach John Harrington said, referring to the expectations in the host country. “We need to play a lot better on Friday to compete with Hungary. They’re defensive an outstanding team.”
Great Britain vs. Hungary 0-2 (0-0, 0-1, 0-1)
Hungary remained on top of the standings after a 2-0 victory over Great Britain. After losing in overtime to Slovenia the night before, Great Britain challenged another gold favourite until the end of the game, but after the defeat, the Brits can no longer win the tournament.
Hungary goalkeeper Zoltan Hetenyi earned a shutout with 34 saves. Hetenyi became the number one in the Hungarian net after Levente Szuper missed the tournament because his team, Hanover, is in the German final.
“I’m here to prove myself. My goal was to play every game and try to get shutouts,” Hetenyi said. “We also have a lot of fans here, which makes it easier to play. Having the feeling of playing at home is an advantage for us.”
While Hungary had easy wins against Croatia, Korea and Poland, last year’s top-division team faced an entirely new scenario against a smart and hard-fighting British team.
Great Britain didn’t allow Hungary many quality chances and the teams neutralized each other. The biggest chances of the first period came after 12 minutes during a British power play.
First, Great Britain’s Greg Chambers lost the puck to Hungarian forward Janos Vas on the blueline, but Vas couldn’t capitalize on the breakaway.
The game went in the other direction immediately, but Hetenyi caught the puck after Phil Hill’s attempt to capitalize on a rebound.
The game was the same in the second period until Hungary finally scored. Krisztian Palkovics saw Daniel Fekete going towards the goal from the other side and Fekete put the puck in at 30:24.
Never at this tournament did the players and the approximately 400 Hungarian fans celebrate a goal more intensely than after this goal, knowing how much more it took to take the lead.
Great Britain was more active at the beginning of the third period with most action in front of Hetenyi, but Palkovics was given the chance for a counter-attack exactly when the Brits built up most pressure and he defeated Great Britain netminder Stephen Murphy at 45:43.
The British continued to play more offensive hockey and had bad luck when Robert Dowd hit the post at 51:46.
While the chance of a late comeback became slimmer, Greg Chambers received a game misconduct for spearing against Andras Horvath. Any hopes for a comeback were taken away with one player less on the ice.
Ashley Tait had a big scoring chance with 18 seconds left, but was stopped on his breakaway and didn’t spoil Hetenyi’s shutout with the penalty shot.
Hungary will play host Slovenia tomorrow for the gold medal and the qualification to the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia while Great Britain faces Poland for a bronze-medal encounter. It will be a rematch of last year's clash in Torun, Poland, where the Brits defeated the host nation 2-1 in overtime.
Zoltan Hetenyi performed a shutout in Hungary’s 2-0 victory over Great Britain. Photo: Iztok Novak
Poland vs. Croatia 6-0 (3-0, 2-0, 1-0)
After two losses against the tournament favourites Slovenia and Hungary, and a 5-2 victory against Korea, Poland defeated Croatia, 6-0.
For Poland, it was an important victory in its medal quest. Like last year, their game against Great Britain on Friday will be a battle for the bronze.
For Croatia, it was another painful defeat. They next face newly-promoted Korea in a game that will decide which team will be relegated.
Poland made their ambitions clear early with two goals in the fourth minute of play.
Jaroslaw Rzeszutko opened the scoring after getting a pass from behind the net from Adam Baginski at the three-minute mark. Just 57 seconds later, Mikolaj Lopuski’s shot found its way into the net via teammate Mateusz Danieluk and Croatian defenceman Marko Ljubic.
Lopuski was again successful after 13 minutes of play. After receiving a pass at the blueline, the 24-year-old forward escaped from the Croatian defence to score the third Polish goal.
Poland netted two more goals in the second period. Grzegorz Pasiut scored on a power play and Tomasz Malasinski put in a shorthanded goal.
Rafal Dutka scored the last goal of the game on a power play with 44 seconds left in regulation to bring the final score to 6-0.
After 60 minutes and 64-11 shots, the lopsided game ended. Both teams can now enjoy a day off before crucial games on Friday.
“I’m used to being the busiest player on the ice. We made some mistakes again, but we want to stay in Division I and have to beat Korea,” said goalkeeper Vanja Belic, who has been Croatia’s best player despite allowing 28 goals in four games.
Poland wants to climb up in the world ranking by winning the bronze on Friday.
“It was not a very good game today, but there were lots of changes in the line-up and on the power play, so it was good preparation for us prior to the game against Great Britain,” Poland forward Tomasz Malasinski said. “That’s the most important thing, to be prepared for the game against Great Britain.”
Polish forward Mikolaj Lopuski had one goal and one assist against Croatia, his first points in the tournament. Photo: Iztok Novak