Mission accomplished for Ukraine

Wins Division IB ahead of Poland, Netherlands; Estonia relegated


The Ukrainian national team poses for a team photo after winning the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B. Photo: Valeri Dudush

DONETSK – Ukraine won the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B on home ice after defeating Poland 4-3. Lithuania crushed Estonia on the last day to stay in Division I.

Before 4,037 fans at the Ice Palace Druzhba, hosts Ukraine edged Poland despite trailing 2-0 after the first period. The 4-3 win sees Ukraine move up to the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A.

The Netherlands took home the bronze medals following a comfortable 6-2 win against fourth-placed Romania. Three quick first-period goals sealed the win for the men in orange.

At the bottom, Lithuania staged a sensational comeback in their relegation decider against Estonia to finish on fifth spot. Trailing 3-2 with less than half of the game left, they hit back with 11 unanswered goals, including eight in the final frame to send Estonia down to the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group A.

Lithuania’s big hero of the afternoon was 20-year-old Aimas Fiscevas. He had been scoreless ahead of the final game but clocked up 6 goals and 2 assists in 15 minutes and 30 seconds.

Ukraine vs. Poland 4-3 (0-2, 3-0, 1-1) Video

Ukraine bounced back from a first period 2-0 deficit to score four straight goals to win promotion to Division I Group A. Poland missed out on promotion on the last day for the second year in a row.

The key behind Ukraine’s victory was a strong second period and a lethal first line where Oleg Shafarenko, Olexander Materukhin and Oleg Tymchenko were the instigators behind Ukraine’s hard-fought 4-3 victory, with Tymchenko and Shafarenko both scoring 1+3.

“To be two goals behind in the first period was psychologically hard for us, but between the break ahead of the second period I saw the light in the players eyes that they wanted to win and that we were going to win, and the second period was much better for us with much less penalties and mistakes,” said a delighted Ukraine head coach Olexander Kulikov.

It took Poland only 13 seconds to stun the predominantly yellow and blue crowd packed inside the Ice Arena Druzhba for this promotion decider between two neighbouring countries.

Captain Marcin Kolusz vied for the puck which was snapped up by Tomasz Malasinski who snapped a zinger past Yevgen Napnenko for Poland’s shock lead. The menacing Andri Mihnov soon after barged down on one of his trademark rushes along the boards before forcing Poland’s goalie for the evening, Przemyslaw Odrobny, holding on to the puck.

The first period quickly became a parade to the penalty box, and it was when Sergi Varlamov was serving a two-minute interference penalty call that Poland once again silenced the crowd. Pawel Dronia played along the blueline to his left where Rafal Dutka’s low slapshot was steered in by Malasinski for his second of the night to send Poland to a 2-0 lead after six minutes.

Despite Ukraine pressing forward and severely testing Odrobny, Poland held out. And before the buzzer for the first period sounded, Malasinski could have had a hat trick as he was picked out in front of the goal by Krzysztof Zapala but saw his attempt saved by Napnenko.

Winning the shots 14-5, it was a new-look Ukraine during the second frame. With Poland having their backs against the wall, the hosts found the net for their first goal of the evening at 7:42. Varlamov held off his marker as he pushed his way along the boards and from his position behind the net he fed an unmarked Roman Blagy to get a goal back.

20 seconds later with the vast majority of the crowd still on their feet, Shafarenko tied the game at two following an Odrobny rebound. Ukraine continued pressing for the lead and when Tymchenko scored Ukraine’s third with just over three minutes left of the period, the home team had turned the game around and going into the locker room for the second intermission the momentum was clearly now with the team in yellow and blue.

36 second seconds into the final frame the game started to slip out of Poland’s hands. Shafarenko burst through centre ice. The puck came to Tymchenko and to Olexander Materukhin, who found the net with a wrist shot to increase Ukraine’s lead to 4-2.

Poland chased the game, which also saw them hit the post, before Leszek Laszkiewicz gave them hope as it was thanks to his fine work Jerzy Gabrys got the puck on the offensive blueline and fired a low shot past Napnenko to reduce Ukraine’s lead to one goal with 7:44 remaining in regulation time.

But despite Poland looking for the equalising goal, Ukraine’s experienced players fought gallantly and never offered Poland a real chance to bombard Ukraine’s goal or to be able to pull goalie Odrobny. The home team held out and a yellow and blue crescendo ensued to praise their heroes for going through the tournament without a defeat and make a well-deserved step upwards to the Division I Group A.

“Today the strongest team won,” said Poland’s head coach Igor Zakharkin after the game. “Ukraine was very focused when coming back from 2-0 to win the game 4-3, while we lacked a bit of experience from playing these type of games.”

Netherlands vs. Romania 6-2 (3-0, 1-1, 2-1)

Three quick first-period goals effectively killed off Romania’s hopes to nick third spot as the Netherlands wrapped up a comfortable win to seal their bronze medals with Romania finishing fourth.

Lars van Sloun, Raphael Joly and Tony Demelinne scored a goal each in just over three minutes as the Netherlands rushed into a first period lead in a game which in the end finished 6-2.

“I am proud of our guys. We have a goalie who never played at this international level before, and who stepped up really big for us. We are missing five or six guys, including our top four defencemen, but no disrespect to the guys here, they worked hard and did everything they could so it was an outstanding tournament for us,” said Dutch head coach Barry Smith on his crop of players who won their second bronze medal on the trot in the Division I Group B.

The Netherlands needed no time to lick their wounds following their overtime loss to Ukraine, which killed their chances for gold and silver. Only 19 seconds into the game the Dutch could already have went one goal ahead. Ivy van den Heuvel snapped up the puck in the right hand corner of Romania’s defensive zone to pick out Jan-Jaap Natte in front of goal, who saw his effort saved by Adrian Catrinoi Cornea in the Romania net.

Lively Tihamer Becze was eager to cap off a fine tournament for Romania and it was his pass from behind the Dutch goal that found Botond Flinta whose effort was steered away by an alert Martijn Oosterwijk.

The game was still goalless when Romania had just managed to stave off a Szabolcs Szocs minor penalty, when Marco Postma combined with Kevin Bruijsten for Tony Demelinne’s opening goal after 11:10.

The men in orange doubled their lead two minutes later when Postma, from the right-hand side, showed fine vision and stickhandling prowess as he picked out Raphael Joly in front of goal who hit home 2-0 with ease.

Slack Romanian defending saw the Netherlands add a third straight goal in only 3 minutes and 17 seconds. Ronald Wurm backhanded a pass to an onrushing Lars van Sloun, who scored with a forceful shot past a hapless Romanian netminder.

With five minutes of the period, Demelinne on the right found Mitch Bruijsten who instead of adding a fourth Dutch goal saw his effort fly over the empty net after Catrinoi Cornea had been overplayed.

Romania came out into the second period with more verve, with Csanad Virag going close early in the period. But once again the Netherlands were more ruthless in front of goal. As Ervin Moldovan was making himself comfortable serving a two minute hooking penalty, Diederick Hagemeijer needed only five seconds into the power play to hit home the Dutchmen’s fourth unanswered goal.

Gellert Ruczuj replaced Catrinoi Cornea in Romania’s net as they ventured forward seeking goals. They pulled one back after Attila Goga had picked out Moldovan along the Dutch blueline, who reacted quickest to hit home a rebound to make it 4-1 at 14:55 of the second period.

Despite Romania winning the shots 13-8 in the final frame, Dutch captain Hagemeijer added a fifth goal at 9:08. Wurm then made up for squandering two fine goal-scoring opportunities in short succession as he hit home 6-1 for the Netherlands with less than three minutes left to play.

Becze was soon after denied by a Oosterwijk glove save on a penalty shot at 17:41 before Yevgeni Pisarenko finally cut the deficit with a strike in the top right hand corner for his second goal of the tournament in a game that finished 6-2.

Romania’s head coach since 2009, Tom Skinner, had aimed for a medal before the first puck was dropped in Donetsk. In the end he had to settle for a second consecutive fourth place in the Division I Group B.

“A lot of people thought we were the team that was going to get down, but we won two games,” Skinner said. “I don’t think we got off to a slow start against the Netherlands, but we conceded a couple of goals, one at the end of a penalty, and then the third goal was a soft one. We are then 3-0 down and we don’t score a lot of goals while the Netherlands have a good team and their size is also a bit of an issue for us,” he added.

Lithuania vs. Estonia 12-3 (1-1, 3-2, 8-0)

Heroes don’t come bigger than this. 20-year-old Aimas Fiscevas scored an unfathomable avalanche of six goals in fifteen and a half minutes as Lithuania secured survival in the Division I Group B with an emphatic 12-3 victory over Estonia.

Trailing 3-2 with less than half of the game to go, Lithuania staged an incredible turnaround with ten unanswered goals, including eight in the final frame to send Estonia down to next year’s Division II Group A. Fiscevas scored 6+2 while his line-mate Daniel Bogdziul got 1+7 and Aivaras Bendzius 1+3.

“This is the best memory in my career and it is a game I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Fiscevas, who waited to open his scoring account when the pressure was really on Lithuania, as his first goal tied the game at three while his second was the crucial 4-3 goal.

Ahead of this relegation decider between the so far winless Baltic nations, Lithuania head coach Bernd Haake decided to tinker with his lines which in the end proved to be very decisive. His masterstroke was to move Fiscevas to play on the same line as Bogdziul and Bendzius, all three knowing each other well from having played together in Lithuania’s junior national teams, most recently at the U20 World Championship Division II Group A played in Brasov, Romania, last December.

Opting for more experienced Nerijus Dauksevicius in net, it was the men in green who started the game stronger and netted a well-deserved lead 12:34 into the first frame when Algimantas Visockas’ low shot slipped through the legs of Roman Sumikhin in Estonia’s goal.

Sarunas Kuliesius squandered a good chance soon after as Estonia’s Vadim Virjassov served a penalty and soon after Darius Pliskauskas sailed up on the right wing and picked out Andrius Kaminskas at the far left post who forced out a fine save from Sumikhin.

Heading towards the end of the first frame, Estonia finally woke up with Robert Rooba being the instigator. Twice in short succession the Australia-based forward failed to tie the game after being picked out on both occasions by the 19-year Espoo Blues' prospect. But the reward were to come with only three seconds left of the first frame when Rooba picked up Jan Rajevski, moved up to the first line for this important game to hit the puck in the top corner for 1-1.

The second period became a free-flowing affair from start to finish. Lithuania once again came out as the stronger team peppering Sumikhin with shots. Pliskauskas squandered a chance for Lithuania, and soon after, at the other end Alexandr Kuznetsov hit the post before seconds later Estonia went ahead once again when Ken Kuusk’s blue-line drive was hit home by Aleksei Sibirtsev for and Estonian 2-1 lead.

But the lead turned out to be short lived as the Lithuanian junior line with the 20-year-olds started to have greater influence on the outcome of the game. The lanky Bendzius tied the game at 12:07 of the second period, but Estonia was still showing resilience and responded with immediate effect when Sibirtsev and Kuznetsov combined with the latter netting the 3-2 lead at 12:51.

Then everything fell apart in spectacular fashion for Estonia. Fiscevas tied the game at 3 with his first goal of the World Championships at 14:01 of the middle frame, which was just the start of a magic Lithuanian afternoon.

Before the end of the second period, Fiscevas added his second of the game to send Lithuania in front, 4-3, going in to the second intermission.

The final period became an explosion in goals for Lithuania thanks to unusually inept defending from an Estonia team that conceded eight goals and scoring zero when it matters the most.

After Bogdziul had increased Lithuania’s lead to 5-3 just over five minutes into the final frame, Fiscevas then scored the next three goals for a 8-3 lead.

After conceding his seventh goal, Estonia’s goalie Sumikhin was pulled. Villem-Henrik Koitmaa replaced him between the pipes, but after only six-and-a-half minutes in the net he conceded five goals out of eight shots. Sumikhin was back in net again for the remaining 3:09 of a game that finished 12-3 and sent Estonia down to the Division II Group A.


Final Ranking:
1. Ukraine 14 (promoted)
2. Poland 12
3. Netherlands 10
4. Romania 6
5. Lithuania 3
6. Estonia 0 (relegated)

Best Players Selected by the Directorate:
Best Goalkeeper: Martijn Oosterwijk, Netherlands
Best Defenceman: Pawel Dronia, Poland
Best Forward: Oleg Tymchenko, Ukraine

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