Slovenia sweeps on home ice

Wins Division I ahead of Austria, Hungary – Ukraine relegated

21.04.2012
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The Slovenian national team celebrates the gold-medal win at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A on home ice in Ljubljana. Photo: Samo Vidic

LJUBLJANA – The Slovenian national team wins the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A on home ice after defeating Austria for gold, 3-2. Ukraine wins on the last day, but loses the battle for survival.

After both Slovenia and Austria had reached promotion to the 2013 IIHF World Championship in Stockholm and Helsinki in the second-last round, the neighbours faced each other for the gold medals in the tournament-closing game on Saturday night.

Slovenia succeeded before 10,500 fans on home ice at Arena Stozice, edging Austria 3-2.

Hungary took home the bronze medals despite a 5-4 loss to Great Britain on the last day, which helped the British stay in the Division I Group A.

Although Ukraine got its first win, 2-1 against Japan in a shootout, they will be relegated to the Division I Group B – and announced to replace the coach.

Final Ranking:
1. Slovenia 15 (promoted)
2. Austria 10 (promoted)
3. Hungary 6
4. Japan 6
5. Great Britain 5
6. Ukraine 3 (relegated)

Individual Awards:
Best Goalkeeper: Robert Kristan, Slovenia
Best Defenceman: Matthias Trattnig, Austria
Best Forward: Manuel Latusa, Austria
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Robert Kristan, Slovenia

All-Star Team:
Goalkeeper: Robert Kristan, Slovenia
Defenceman: Olexander Pobyedonostsev, Ukraine
Defenceman: Matthias Trattnig, Austria
Forward: Rok Ticar, Slovenia
Forward: Shuhei Kuji, Japan
Forward: Manuel Latusa, Austria

Austria vs. Slovenia 2-3 (0-0, 2-3, 0-0) Photos Video

Players from both sides knew they were promoted and expected an open, spectacular game in a full house. In the end the Slovenes succeeded on home ice and took the gold medals while Austria had to settle for silver.

After a scoreless opening period it became indeed an open game with four goals in four minutes at the beginning of the second period. Each time the Slovenes scored, the Austrians tied it up.

“Beating Austria especially in the final is great. I’m proud to be part of the team,” said Slovenian forward Ziga Jeglic. “It was a really good game against a tough and disciplined Austrian team. We had to be very careful. We didn’t make many mistakes except of some penalties. We played a really good game overall and deserved to win.”

Andrej Hebar put the puck into the net after receiving a pass to the crease from Rok Pajic for the first goal of the game at 4:07. At 5:46 Gerhard Unterluggauer scored on a rebound on the left side after Gregor Baumgartner saw his shot from right blocked.

“We’re happy that we won the tournament without a loss,” Hebar said. “I think we played very well from the start. We had good discipline and played well defensively. The reason that we won is that we were focused for 60 minutes.”

The Slovenes reacted immediately after the face-off. 22 seconds later it was 2-1 for the host nation.

David Rodman sent off a centering pass. Ales Music missed in front of Austrian goalkeeper Fabian Weinhandl, but Marcel Rodman capitalised on the rebound.

Again it didn’t take long until the next goal. With the man advantage Austria tied it up with a Thomas Raffl goal at 8:09.

The gates were closed until three minutes before the second intermission.

With confusion in the opponent’s defence – three Austrians were behind their own goal line – Ales Kranjc made use of the situation to regain the lead for Slovenia.

“It was a great hockey game. The Slovenes capitalised on their chances,” Austrian captain Thomas Koch said. “It was our goal to get promoted and we have reached the goal, but there’s room for improvement in our team.”

Kranjc’s goal remained as the game-winner after a scoreless period and the Slovenian fans were able to celebrate their team’s sweep on home ice.

Hungary vs. Great Britain 4-5 (2-2, 2-2, 0-1) Photos Video

It was an offensive contest with nine goals including two converted penalty shots that Great Britain won 5-4 against Hungary.

“The situation of needing at least one point against a very strong team was difficult,” Great Britain coach Tony Hand said, “but my guys battled hard. For us it’s huge to stay in this pool.”

While the Magyars had already secured the bronze medals in advance, the win means staying in the Division I Group A for Great Britain while Ukraine goes down and has to play in Division I Group B next year.

“We were disappointed with parts of the game,” Hungary coach Keith Primeau said. “We came back and battled hard and wanted to finish the tournament with a win, but they battled for their life.”

The lead changed back and forth between the two teams, but in the end Robert Dowd scored the game winner with his second goal of the night on a penalty shot at 8:29 of the third period.

It was also the Brits who opened the scoring when Jonathan Phillips converted a centering pass from Robert Lachowicz after less than two minutes of play.

Hungary reacted with Marton Vas scoring from the face-off circle and Csaba Kovacs gaining the lead for Hungary after a drop pass from Istvan Sofron.

The first period was overshadowed by Corey Neilson hitting Baltint Magosi heads-on into the end boards. Magosi had to be helped off the ice, but was able to return later.

Hungary couldn’t capitalise on the five-minute man advantage. Nikandrosz Galanisz missed the best chance when he hit the post.

With two minutes left in the first period Dowd tied it up for Great Britain with a shot from left of the goal post right after the beginning of a power play.

The second period started with another Hungarian lead as Sofron converted a penalty shot at 1:40, but the British tied it up again with a goal from Owen Fussey at 14:02 after a pass from behind the net from Matthew Myers.

The teams exchanged two more goals before the end of the period. Arpad Mihaly’s point shot at 16:25 brought back the lead for Hungary, but with 16.4 seconds left in the middle stanza David Clarke netted the puck with his second attempt right before the crease.

Great Britain had another good period in the last 20 minutes and was rewarded with Dowd’s penalty shot at 8:29. His 5-4 goal stayed as the game winner.

Japan vs. Ukraine 1-2 (0-1, 0-0, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1) Photos Video

Ukraine had played four tight games in the tournament, but lost all – three of them by one goal including an overtime loss to Great Britain.

On the last day the yellow-and-blue team eventually edged Japan in a 2-1 shootout victory.

Ukraine ended up with three points, but will be relegated to the Division I Group B because Great Britain won the later game against Hungary.

“It was a very tough game for us in our situation. We were nervous and the Japanese team skates very well,” Ukraine coach Anatoli Khomenko said. “We needed some luck, which we didn’t have in the other games.”

The Ukrainians had the better start and Yuri Navarenko scored his first goal of the tournament with a shot from the blueline at 8:38.

In a defensively played contest the lead remained until Ryo Tanaka completed a fast attack by Hiromichi Terao by scoring on the rebound at 7:16 of the third period.

The goal made Ukraine more determined. The eastern Europeans took the initiative and forced Japan to take penalties. Oleg Tymchenko was close to scoring when pushing the puck along the goal line, but it went wide the net.

With a counter-attack six minutes before the end of regulation time it was Takeshi Ishizuka, who was close to scoring the lead on the other side, but his shot hit the post.

After a scoreless five-minute extra time a penalty shootout decided in Ukraine’s favour:

Round 1: Shuhei Kuji – 1-0, Oleg Tymchenko – save.
Round 2: Hiromichi Terao – misses, Artem Bondaryev – misses.
Round 3: Go Tanaka – misses, Kostyantyn Kasyanchuk – 1-1.
Round 4: Kostyantyn Kasyanchuk – 1-2, Shuhei Kuji – 2-2.
Round 5: Artem Bondaryev – 2-3, Go Tanaka misses.

“We were too passive. There were lot of scoring chances for us in the end,” Japan coach Mark Mahon said. “It would have been nice to win today, but I’m still very happy with the way the team played in the tournament.”

Despite missing the chance to win the bronze medals today, the tournament has been a success for the Asians.

Japan finishes fourth among the twelve Division I nations and 20th overall in the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program. This is the highest position since Japan was relegated from the Top Division in 2004 when the automatic slot for an Asian team was scratched.

Ukraine to replace coach

Anatoli Brezvin, the President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine, announced after the relegation that head coach Anatoli Khomenko will not return as head coach of the national team next season.

He will most probably be replaced by Olexander Kulikov, who has been the head coach of Donbass Donetsk. The contract might be signed next week. In Donetsk, Kulikov will likely be replaced after the club’s move to the Russian KHL.

Kulikov, a former player of Sokil Kyiv in the Soviet league, was coaching Berkut Kyiv before moving to Spain to coach Vitoria-Gasteiz and CH Jaca, and Steaua Bucharest in Romania. From 1998 to 2002 he was already working for the federation, coaching the U20 and U18 national teams and being an assistant coach for the men’s national team. He joined Donbass Donetsk in 2010.

Brezvin also announced that Ukraine will apply to host the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B.

MARTIN MERK
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