Szuper start for Hungary

Div. IA: Comeback goalie earns win; Kazakhstan, Italy succeed

14.04.2013
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The Laszlo Papp Sportarena was filled for the opening night with Great Britain vs. Hungary. Photo: Laszlo Mudra

BUDAPEST – The top-seeded teams opened the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A with wins. Italy took the lead with a 4-0 blanking of newly promoted Korea, Kazakhstan beat Japan 5-2 and host Hungary defeated Great Britain 4-2.

Great Britain vs. Hungary 2-4 (1-0, 1-3, 0-1) Video

In the expectedly closest game of the opening day host Hungary avenged for the loss one year ago in Ljubljana and defeated Great Britain 4-2.

It was a game with question marks for a Hungarian team that didn’t have a good start. Although the host nation outshot Great Britain 15-5 in the first period it was the British who scored the lead. At 16:06 David Phillips sent off a shot from the blueline that went through Levente Szuper’s five hole.

It wasn’t a super start for the long-time national team goalkeeper who played his first official game of the season today. The 32-year-old didn’t play in any league but became president and goalie coach of Vasas Budapest instead, a club that doesn’t have a professional team.

For most of the last 12 months he was only on the ice as an instructor and started to practise again on a regular basis in early March.

Hungary’s new head coach Rich Chernomaz put his hopes in Szuper despite the lack of game practice and sent home Zoltan Hetenyi, who also saw limited ice time this season with 20 games in the ECHL.

Eventually Szuper improved throughout the game as did the offensive department.

“It was special to play after one year especially in front of the home crowd. One-and-a-half months ago I didn’t know, I even didn’t imagine that I would be part of the team and start against the Brits. It feels like I jumped into a movie,” Szuper said. “The game was quite a ride from hell to heaven for me. But we carried each other and that brought back a lot of memories since I’ve been part of this team for the last 15 years.”

The Hungarians continued to be the more active team in the second period. At 2:29 the Hungarians equalized on a man advantage. Gergo Nagy scored from a few metres distance after receiving a horizontal pass from Balazs Ladanyi.

Six minutes later brotherly pressure in front of the British net brought the Magyars the lead. British netminder Stephen Murphy blocked a shot from Janos Vas from the right but Marton Vas capitalized on the rebound on the left side.

However, the lead didn’t last long when Great Britain had its first power play of the game. Midway through the period Robert Dowd brought the puck to the crease while falling down. Colin Shields got the disc and converted the opportunity to tie the game at two.

With 3:23 left the hockey world was put in order again for most of the 7,304 fans at the arena. Balazs Ladanyi skated along the left side boards and his shot from the face-off dot, slightly deflected, founds its way into the net for the 3-2 lead.

One minute later the fans even cheered the alleged two-goal lead when Csaba Kovacs skated along the goal line and passed the puck to Janos Vas in front of the crease. He deflected the puck into the net with his skate but after a video review the refs decided no goal due to the kick motion.

With 8:08 left in the third period. Ladislav Sikorcin scored on Murphy after the British goalie had blocked an Andras Horvath shot from the blueline for the final score of 4-2. The British improved and showed a more offensive play in the last period but that’s also when Szuper was in game shape.

“Our defencemen looked a bit tired. Our defence needs more puck movement,” Great Britain head coach Tony Hand said. “They gave everything they could but we need to improve throughout the tournament.”

The question that arises among Hungarian fans after Szuper’s successful first test: Will his comeback be a short stint or could he even be back as a professional player next year?

“There have been a lot of things that changed in my life in the last few years,” Szuper said. “I got a baby girl. I want to give something back to my family after I have been out of the country so often. I just want to help the team now and will think about the future later.”

Korea vs. Italy 0-4 (0-1, 0-2, 0-1) Video

In a clash between recently promoted Korea and top-seeded Italy the Azzurri left no doubt about their role as favourites. The Italians didn’t allow the Koreans many chances but were able to crack the Korean defence on my occasions to secure the first three points.

Diego Kostner already scored at 4:46 at the end of a power play. He netted the puck on a rebound after a shot from Patrick Iannone.

“I’m happy that I scored the goal but that’s just a side story in the game, it’s more important that we earned the three points,” Kostner said. “It wasn’t our best game. There’s room for improvement. But we capitalized on our chance and we had a superb goalie in Adam Dennis.”

It took six minutes of play until the Koreans had their first scoring chances and new Italian national team goalie Dennis got his first work to do. In the end he had 16 saves to earn a shutout.

Early in the middle frame the Italians quickly capitalized on their first power play. Robert Sirianni got the puck at the blueline and succeeded with his shot from the face-off circle.

With 72 seconds left in the second period, David Borrelli initiated an attack on left side, passed to Vincent Rocco far on the other side at the redline who then fed Borrelli for the 3-0 marker.

The Koreans replaced starting netminder Hyunseung Eum with Sungje Park for the last period but it didn’t change the direction of the game. With six minutes left to play the Italians even made it 4-0 with Stefano Marchetti’s shot from the blueline.

Japan vs. Kazakhstan 2-5 (1-1, 1-2, 0-2) Video

It was an interesting game for the spectators with the Kazakhs trying to make use of their experience and physical strength while the Japanese were most dangerous with their long passes and quick counter-attacks.

At 12:56 after surviving the second Kazakh power play, Japanese captain Go Tanaka did exactly what his name indicates. He went and outskated the opponent’s defence to open the scoring.

However, over four minutes later the Kazakhs tied it up. Japanese defenceman Makoto Kawashima had probably the biggest blackout on the Japanese national team’s defence since Nobuhiro Sugawara’s infamous own goal at the 2004 IIHF World Championship against Denmark.

Kawashima lost the puck when he came from behind the net and skated straight into a hit from Konstantin Savenkov, who gained puck possession just before the Japanese goal and levelled the disc into the net to tie the game.

After five minutes of play in the second period Konstantin Romanov brought Kazakhstan the first lead in the game when scoring on a rebound after a shot from the blueline but three minutes later the Japanese replied. On a power play Aaron Keller sent off a pass from his own end to Takuma Kawai, who was waiting at the offensive blueline and scored the 2-2 goal on the breakaway.

Seiji Takahashi even had the chance for another breakaway goal after 15 minutes of play in the middle frame but with 40.6 seconds left before the intermission the Kazakhs regained the lead. On a power play Viktor Alexandrov tipped in the puck after a shot from Roman Starchenko.

The Japanese tried hard to come back in the last period but their playmaking qualities were not as effective as their counter-attacks. With 4:41 left in regulation time Talgat Zhailauov sealed the win for his team when he scored the goal after some great skating from Dmitri Upper through the Japanese zone. Konstantin Romanov added another goal with less than two minutes left on a breakaway to make it 5-2.

“We focused on our own game and did what the coach told us to do. We wanted to play our game for 60 minutes,” Zhailauov said about the recipe in his team’s win against a difficult opponent.

MARTIN MERK

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