LJUBLJANA – In a highly anticipated neighbouring clash Slovenia defeated Hungary 4-1 to take over first place in the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A after three games.
Slovenia vs. Hungary 4-1 (1-0, 2-0, 1-1) Photos Video
9,535 fans attended the game at Arena Stozice, among them about 1,000 Hungarians who travelled to Ljubljana. But it was the home crowd that had reason to cheer.
Like two years ago in the deciding game for promotion, also in Ljubljana, the Slovenes tamed a red-hot Hungarian team to push it away from first place with a victory.
“It was like two years ago. We knew we had to stay out of the penalty box, but we just didn’t do it. We didn’t control ourselves, we didn’t control our sticks, we got stupid penalties. That cost us the game,” Hungarian forward Marton Vas said. “They really executed their power play well. They scored three goals on their power plays.”
Although it was a well-balanced match with virtually even numbers of scoring opportunities, it was the Slovenes who knew how to score. Robert Kristan had a great night in the Slovenian net while Hungary’s rookie netminder Bence Balizs couldn’t repeat his astonishing performance from the first two games.
Slovenia opened the scoring after just three minutes of play when Robert Sabolic’s shot through traffic was deflected through Balizs’s five-hole.
Less than two minutes later Rok Ticar was close to score the second goal for his team, but the goal post saved the Hungarians from bigger damage after the first period.
Five minutes into the second period Istvan Sofron had a huge opportunity to tie things up, but he missed on a breakaway just before the Slovenes started to extend the lead when two Hungarians were sent to the penalty box.
At 6:23 Blaz Gregorc beat Balizs with a low shot during the two-man advantage and 46 seconds later the Slovenes made it 3-0 with one more man on the ice.
With a volley shot David Rodman deflected a distance shot from defenceman Sabahudin Kovacevic.
By fully capitalising on this power play and staying defensively strong the Slovenes made it virtually impossible for the Hungarians to stage a comeback. Ziga Jeglic even missed out another opportunity midway through the period when his breakaway was interrupted by Balisz.
“It was an interesting game. We played really well from the start,” Slovenian forward Robert Sabolic said. “Our crowd helped us. They were like a sixth player for us.”
Another great chance for the home team came with 52 seconds left in the second period. Tomaz Razingar passed to Ales Music, who saw his shot blocked between Balizs’ pads. The puck eventually slipped through slowly, but Balizs brought the puck under his control just before it had fully crossed the line.
While the Hungarians had a tough time capitalising on their opportunities, Rok Ticar widened the gap with the 4-0 goal at 7:27 of the third period after double-passing with Gregorc.
Midway through the period Marton Vas eventually found the net to cut the lead, but it was too late. Slovenia won the game 4-1 to claim first position with two game days left in Ljubljana.