KRYNICA – During the fourth round of games at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships Division I Group B in Krynica, Korea needed overtime to beat Netherlands, Romania defeated Lithuania in an 11-goal-thriller, while Poland found Australia a tougher nut to crack than expected.
Undefeated Korea and Poland will play a winner-takes-it-all game in the grand finale on Saturday for promotion to the Division I Group A, while Australia, Lithuania and Romania will fight it out for survival.
Lithuania vs. Romania 5-6 (3-1, 1-2, 1-3)
Romania, which had found goals hard to come by, found an unlikely hero in defenceman Istvan Nagy, who scored two late goals as they staged a late comeback against Lithuania to claim their first victory.
With 3:36 of the game remaining, Romania got a glimmer of a hope of getting something out of the game when Ede Mihaly steered in to cut the deficit to 5-4. Thanks to relentless hard work and a bit of luck, Romania's scored two more before the end of the game to snatch their first three points during an exciting afternoon at the Krynica Ice Stadium.
"We had a good start to the game, but unfortunately we got a silly penalty after ten minutes, and then the rest of the period was bad for us as we conceded three goals,” said Levente Hozo, assistant coach of Romania. "What then happens towards the end of the game is just like from the movies as we start scoring and change the game within three minutes."
Despite taking the lead after a goal by defender Attila Goga on 6:12 , Csaba Nagy's minor penalty midway through the first period got Romania into trouble. Before the first period was over, Lithuania, led by their first line, had hit the back of Romanian goaltender Adrian Catrinoi Cornea's net on three occassions. First goal came on the powerplay from a Nerijus Aliskauskas' slapshot at 11:50 after fine work in the corner from Aivaras Bendzius. 19-year-old Bendzius added another goal himself at 12:51, before Mindaugas Kieras bulleted home 3-1.
Yevgeni Pysarenko pulled one back for Romania at 5:57 of the second period, and the game was tied less than eight minutes later when Otto Biro pressed the puck just over the goal line after fine work from Roberto Gliga.
While Romania has desperately been seeking a goal scorer, Lithuania was well equipped in that department. Darius Pliskauskas struck twice in short succession as he first put Lithuania in front after a breakaway 19 seconds before the end of the second period. Just over a minute had passed of the second period when Pliskauskas with fine stickhandling carefully placed the puck under goaltender Catrinoi Cornea to make it 5-3.
Despite yet another setback, Romania battled on relentlessly, winning the shots in the final period with 19-6, which in the end paid dividend as the Lithuanians were beginning to show signs of tiredness.
"We started to play with two lines a bit too early and got tired," said Lithuanian forward Sarunas Kuliesius. "I think that was the main reason why we started to make mistakes and in the end lost the game."
After Mihaly had pulled one back with 3:46 to go, Romania finally found their goal scorer, in the unlikely guise of defenceman Istvan Nagy. His wrist shot from the blueline ended up in the back of the net after dubious goaltending from Lithuania's promising 20-year-old Mantas Armalis. Nagy scored his second and Romania's winner with 1:47 remaining on the clock after fine work from Biro and Ervin Moldovan, and then held out until the end despite Lithuanian efforts to tie the game after pulling their goalie.
"So far in this tournament luck has not been on our side, but we were well prepared and worked hard today until the end and finally the luck showed up," said a delighted Marius Gliga, General Secretary of the Romanian Ice Hockey Federation.
Netherlands vs. Korea 3-4 (1-2, 0-1, 2-0, 0-1) OT
Undefeated Korea pushed to the wire and needing overtime to seal victory ahead of a winner-takes-it-all decider against Poland on Saturday.
"For us there is just one thing now: to beat Poland," said Korea assistant coach Hee Woo Kim following his team's 4-3 overtime win over the Netherlands.
Korea, without influential Min Ho Cho, who missed out of the game due to a knee injury, fell behind just over five minutes into the game when Mitch Bruijstein scored on the power play following good work from his older sibling Kevin Bruijstein and Diederick Hagemeijer.
During this tightly fought contest between clashing styles of hockey, the Koreans were living dangerously when they got on the wrong end of three minor penalty calls in the first period. But as the Dutch got too comfortable with their power play, Korea stole the puck and raced clear to score a trademark breakaway goal after Won Jung Kim assisted Yongjun Lee to level the score at 13:48. 41 seconds before the end of the period Korea struck again when Kim Kisung scored Korea's second of the game.
While Korea's coaching team was content with their second period where Geunho Kim had put them in front 3-2, Netherlands head coach Larry Suarez had harsh words with his adepts during the second intermission, which seem to have worked a treat.
The Dutch got out flying in the third period with Anthony Demelinne scoring twice, first in open play and then making it 2-2 at 11:03 on the power play after good work from Marco Postma and Ivy Van den Heuvel.
"Demelinne didn't get off to the start to this tournament that he or we wanted to. The first games were very tough for him and he didn't get a lot of ice time, and I made a conscious decision to give him the chance again and I think he responded phenomenally. Not only the goals, but he played a good, solid game all over the ice," said Suarez.
Korea then went on to score the winner in overtime when Won Jung Kim needed two attempts to get the puck past goalie Ian Meierdres.
As Korea is preparing for their World Championship Division I Group B decider against Poland, Suarez looks back at the tournament so far from a Dutch perspective ahead of their final game against Lithuania.
"I don't think we can ask for more from the guys in this tournament and I have 100% respect for them," said Suarez, who believes hockey in the Netherlands has a lot of potential. "We are not mature enough yet to win a tournament like this. But I think it's important for the Dutch Federation to acknowledge that we have raw talent and young guys who are very eager to develop. If we can design a plan and get more games against better opposition over the course of the year it will make us better prepared next time around."
Poland vs. Australia 5-3 (1-0, 3-2, 1-1)
First against last. If anyone thought this was going to be a rout, then look elsewhere as Australia battled with Poland right until the end.
"We had lost a lot of energy in the game against the Netherlands, so the plan was to play economically as it was game four of this tournament, with players also thinking about the final game and not getting any injuries," said Poland head coach Wiktor Pysz in the post-match press conference. "Australia also played very well defensively and had an outstanding goalie, but during the game I had no thoughts about us going to lose," he continued.
Although Poland had 17 shots on goal during the first period compared to Australia's 5, the hosts only had a one-goal lead, thanks to a Jaroslaw Rzeszutko strike, to fall back on when the puck was dropped for the second period.
27 seconds later Poland got a wake-up call as Nathan Walker scored for Australia to tie the game after suspect goaltending by Poland's back-up Kamil Kosowski. But Australia refused to give up easily and a string of fine saves from Anthony Kimlin kept the Antipodes in the game.
With 4:42 to go in the second period a goal by Jakub Witecki put Poland back into the driving seat. Marcin Kolusz then trickled in 3-1 and when shortly after Pawel Dronia nicked another goal for Poland, it looked like game over for Australia. But a Scott Stephenson goal with 18 seconds to go in the period gave them hope again. Michael Schlamp then missed a penalty shot right at the end of the second period.
Poland made it 5-2 after fine work by Leszek Laskiewicz, who picked out Damian Slabon with a pin-point pass at 14:23, before Kimlin saved a Rzeszutko penalty shot and Todd Stephenson scores the final goal of the game with 18 seconds to go to make it 5-3.
After the game Australia head coach Vladimir Rubes was delighted with his team's performance: "We showed great fighting spirit and it was our best game of the tournament," he said before looking ahead against the relegation decider against Romania on Saturday. "It is going to be a hard game, but if we play like we did in the final period against Poland and stay healthy we have a chance."
The last place will go to either Australia, Lithuania or Romania. Although Australia hasn’t won a game yet, the team from Down Under still has a chance to remain in Division I in the case of a regulation-time win against Romania.