Kazakhs come back

Div. IA: Italy loses battle for gold; Korea stays up

20.04.2013
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The Kazakh men's national team celebrates after the promotion and winning Division I gold. Photo: Laszlo Mudra

BUDAPEST – Kazakhstan wins the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A thanks to a 3-0 victory over Italy. Both teams will be promoted to the 2014 Worlds. Korea sent Great Britain down in a 4-1 win and host Hungary had to settle with the bronze medals.

Italy vs. Kazakhstan 0-3 (0-1, 0-1, 0-1) Video

Kazakhstan takes first place at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A after winning the deciding game against Italy 3-0. The Kazakhs will join Italy, which had won all four previous games, to the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus.

“It’s great to get back to the top division, we’re very happy about that. We kind of made up for the loss against Hungary,” said Kazakh forward Konstantin Pushkaryov. “We managed to score the first goal and kept it going.

“Everybody worked as a team and that led to the success. We did the right job, not like before. In the games before we were not really ready. We knew we can beat these teams here but Hungary put us in the right spot and we started to work. We cannot always be on attack and score goals, we have to work first on our defence.”

The Italian national team has probably never had as many fans at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena as in the beginning of the game. The Hungarian team and fans hoped for an Italian win which would have kept their chances for promotion alive before their evening game against Japan.

But would Italy, already promoted after four wins in as many games, be motivated enough against a Kazakh team that was in bigger need for a victory?

After the first few minutes of the game the Hungarians didn’t have to worry. The Italians dominated the first half of the opening period and showed their desire for the Division I gold medal. But then the game between the top-two teams of the tournament became rather a tragedy for the partisan Hungarian crowd at the arena.

The Kazakhs had shown little until they got a power play because of too many Italian players on the ice. With their second scoring chance of the game the Kazakhs made it 1-0 at 10:54. Talgat Zhailauov scored his third goal of the tournament on a rebound after a shot from the blueline from Roman Savchenko.

The direction of the game changed in the middle frame when the Kazakhs dictated the play while the Italians ran into penalty trouble. At 4:40 Roman Starchenko doubled the lead when capitalizing on a rebound after a shot from Yevgeni Fadeyev in what was almost a copy of the first goal.

The teams didn’t exchange any more goals. Italy had trouble getting past the opponent’s defence and Kazakhstan controlled the game also in the third period while its goalkeeper Vitali Kolesnik did a great job that earned him his second shutout of the tournament with 22 saves.

With two minutes left to play Starchenko sealed the win with his second goal of the day into the empty Italian net for the 3-0 score.

“I thought we had a really good first period. We attacked them, we probably should have scored two or three goals,” Italy coach Tom Pokel said.

“You could see in the second period that we were still tired from the game against Hungary last night. We worked our hardest but couldn't capitalize on our scoring chances. The first goal determined the outcome of the game. We are disappointed not winning the gold medal, but we are extremely happy we are back in the top division.”

Thanks to the win the Kazakhs overtook Italy for first place and made Hungary-Japan a game for the bronze medal. Both for Italy and Kazakhstan it’s an immediate return to the top division after having been relegated one year ago.

“It will be an interesting tournament,” Pushkaryov said. “We want to win there, we want to stay there. We will work all year to keep the success up.”

Hungary vs. Japan 1-0 (1-0, 0-0, 0-0) Video

Hungary defended its bronze medal and finished in third place in the Division I for the third consecutive time after edging Japan 1-0.

Istvan Sofron netted the game-winning goal at 4:05 of the first period. Sofron shot on a rebound and the puck slid over the goal line via Yutaka Fukufuji’s five-hole.

“I’m happy that we won this game and I scored my first goal. We had some hard games here and played well as a team,” said Sofron.

“We have a good team with many young players coming. We have to continue to work hard and stick together and then let’s see what we will achieve next year.”

The Japanese sought their first goal and had bad luck with a post shot at 10:59 in the first period. But throughout the whole game they had only few big scoring opportunities to offer.

Hungary controlled the game in the middle frame apart from granting the Japanese two power-play opportunities.

“We needed the bounce and couldn’t get it,” said Japan coach Mark Mahon. “Hungary deserved to win tonight.”

Also in the third period the home team managed to protect Miklos Rajna, who got his second start of the tournament in the Hungarian net, well from Japanese chances.

“Tonight’s game is what you call an ugly win. It was a close game and I’m happy we won. The one thing the players realized is that if you play simple and you play as a team you’re capable to be successful,” said Hungary coach Rich Chernomaz and thanked the Hungarian fans for the great atmosphere and support in every game.

The Asians threw everything into the offence for the dying minutes of the game but the Hungarian defence remained invulnerable and Rajna defended his shutout with 18 saves while Janos Vas missed the second Hungarian goal when his puck hit the post rather than the empty net.

The game was also the last one for Japan’s long-time national team captain Takahito Suzuki. The 37-year-old forward has been playing for the national team since 1997 and was celebrated by his team after the closing ceremony.

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

Korea was just promoted to the second tier of ice hockey one year ago. On the last day of the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A they managed to stay there and sent Great Britain down to the Division I Group B with a 4-1 win in a battle for fifth place.

With this win Korea will be ranked 21th overall in this year’s World Championship program – the best placing ever for the Korean men’s national team since joining the program in 1979.

”I’m very happy. We fought very hard for this as a team,” said Korean forward Jiman Yoon, who scored the game-winning goal in the middle frame.

Great Britain outshot Korea 31-26 but the Asians won thanks to strong goaltending from Sungje Park, a defence that improved throughout the tournament and fast attacking. A strong second period with three unanswered goals paved the way for the Korean win.

”At this event we gained confidence for games against higher-ranked teams,” Korean head coach Sun Wook Byun said. ”We rushed too much in the game against Japan and had to play more relaxed and play defence first. We tried to counter-attack and we were successful today.”

For Great Britain it was one of the worst losses in recent years just a few months after advancing to the Final Olympic Qualification after coming out on top in a pre-qualification event that included Japan and Korea.

”We are disappointed. I had a chat with the boys and they are devastated in there,” Great Britain head coach Tony Hand said.

”We were not good enough in the tournament, but we will bounce back I am sure. We are a proud nation, so I know we won't stay down for long. We need to find a way to improve and we need to bring fresh players in.”

Great Britain had the better start in the game. Around the five-minute mark Robert Dowd was sent for a counter-attack by Daniel Meyers. With too little defence from the Korean side he managed to fire off a point shot that went past Korean netminder Sungje Park.

The Koreans didn’t have luck initially. After 12 minutes Dongwan Kim had to leave the ice after a knee hit from Jonathan Phillips. But instead of capitalizing on the power play, Matthew Myers almost doubled the lead on a breakaway.

The fortunes changed in the second period when the Koreans increased the intensity. At 3:19 Yongjun Lee sent a drop pass to Sanghoon Shin, whose perfect shot from the outer part of the face-off circle tied the game at one.

Six minutes later the Korean fans with traditional drums and even a gong in the stands celebrated the second goal. Jiman Yoon scored in the near corner on a fast counter-attack.

Famous Korean pop song and YouTube hit ”Gangnam Style” was played after each goal. For the Korean players there couldn’t be an overkill of hearing this song again and again during the tournament.

The unanswered scoring continued after five minutes. Brock Radunske slalomed around the steady British defence before beating Stephen Murphy for the 3-1 goal.

”Our goalie stepped up big. He gave us the confidence and let us know he’d going to be there. He set the tone and we were able to capitalize on a couple of two-on-ones,” Radunske said about the reasons for the win.

”This week has been a really great show-up of hockey skills from teams around the world. We came here, played before 8,000 fans on the second night and had a big win, that rejuvenated everybody.”

At 3:06 of the third period Kisung Kim tipped in the puck after a pass from Sangwook Kim for the first power-play goal of the game to make it a three-goal lead.

The British tried hard to score themselves but the Korean defence gained confidence and the Asians were always dangerous with their fast counter-attacking.

The score remained 4-1 and for Korea it was a big win in their build-up ambitions in view of the 2018 Olympics on home ice.

”We want to play in the Olympics in PyeongChang. For that we have to try our best every year, every time,” coach Sun Wook Byun said. ”We did our first step but we have to improve our game so we can do the next step.”

The Korean Ice Hockey Association even applied to host next year’s Division I Group A in Seoul.

”It would be great to play at home,” Radunske said. ”Our first goal was to stay at this level and if we can play at home that would give us more of an advantage because we felt the travel and the tournament is very competitive. Everybody of the bottom three teams could have been relegated. One game can decide and we were lucky that we could come out on top.”

MARTIN MERK

Final Ranking:
1. Kazakhstan 12 (promoted)
2. Italy 12 (promoted)
3. Hungary 10
4. Japan 6
5. Korea 5
6. Great Britain 0 (relegated)

Individual Awards (selected by the tournament directorate):
Best Goalkeeper: Adam Dennis, Italy
Best Defenceman: Aaron Keller, Japan
Best Forward: Parick Iannone, Italy

All-Star Team (selected by the media):
GK: Adam Dennis, Italy
DE: Aaron Keller, Japan
DE: Roman Savchenko, Kazakhstan
FW: Parick Iannone, Italy
FW: Roman Starchenko, Kazakhstan
FW: Arpad Mihaly, Hungary

Most Valuable Player (selected by the media):
Patrick Iannone, Italy

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