DONETSK – Day 3 of the World Championship Division I Group B saw Ukraine blank a defensive-minded Lithuania, 7-0, Poland overpower the Netherlands with a 3-1 victory and Romania rack up their first win against Estonia, 6-3.
Estonia vs. Romania 3-6 (1-2, 2-2, 0-2)
Romania expung memories of Estonia as Csanad Virag tallied a hat trick in Romania's important 6-3 win, keeping their bronze medal hopes alive. Estonia remains winless after three games.
"We took too many penalties but overall, I thought it was two even teams, but we played hard and I am proud of our team," said Romania head coach Tom Skinner.
Mention Estonia to any of the thirteen players on the current Romanian roster that featured at the IIHF World Championships Division II Group B in Narva, Estonia in 2009 and there will be silence.
It was four years ago that an Estonian superior first period shots-on-goal advantage was followed by three Estonian goals in 26 second-period seconds that killed Romanian hopes of promotion as Estonia rushed to a 7-1 win. Four years later Romania got their revenge.
Andrei Makrov, Aleksandr Petrov and Maksim Semjonov – the scorers of those three purple patch goals, are all missing from the Estonia roster in Donetsk. But lack of goals has not been the problem for the Balts this year. Instead the concern has been their leaking defence, which is why Estonia added Roman Sumikhin from Tallinn Viking Sport to their roster just in time for this important tie.
Estonian's new netminder got off to a rusty start against the Romanians, but first Aleksei Sibirtsev put the Estonians in front on the power play when tipping in a shot from the blue line from Dmitri Rodin. But the lead was short-lived as soon after Alexandr Ossipov lost the puck in Estonia's defensive zone, Zsombor Antal snapped it up and hit a drive that came of the post. But the next Romanian wave of attack saw Tihamer Becze sail down the left wing and power himself past the hapless Ossipov and squeeze the puck past Sumikhin to tie the game at 10:30.
Three and a half minutes left of the period, Istvan Nagy's wrist shot from the blue line saw Sumikhin struggle to hold on the puck. Csanad Virag was first to react and his backhand goal meant 2-1 in a period where Romania won the shots on goal 13-6.
A composed power play saw Estonia's prospect Robert Rooba tie the game at two 28:04 into the second period. Estonia was offered a chance to turn the game, when Romania's Magor Petres was serving his second concecutive minor penalty in period 2. Instead Attila Goga hit a shorthanded wrist shot into the far corner past Sumikhin to make it 3-2 to Romania midway through the game.
Alexandr Kuznetzov staged another fight-back as it was his goal that once again tie the game at 33:56. But before the end of the period was over Romania hit back on the power play and restored the lead when Virag bundled in his second of the afternoon assisted by Becze and Nagy.
In the final frame fatigue started to take its toll on the Estonians, who played with three lines instead of the usual four. When Romania scored their fifth goal Becze was once again the instigator as he snapped up a Szabolcs Papp pass to race clear on a three-on-one where he elegantly served Zsombor Molnar to hit home 5-3. Goal-shy in the first two games, Romania added a fifth when Virag completed his hat trick in an empty Estonian net after Sumikhin had been pulled with three and a half minutes left of the game.
"We created a lot of chances, but failed to score," said Estonia's Alexandr Kuznetzov. "We played with three lines today, which made us tired in the final period. Now I both hope and believe that we will win against Lithuania to stay in this division."
Estonia plays Poland tomorrow. Romania are up against Lithuania, with their chances of winning a medal still very much alive as they take on the Netherlands in their final game.
"Lithuania tomorrow will be tough, but if we win tomorrow, watch out," said Skinner.
Poland vs. Netherlands 3-1 (1-1, 1-0, 1-0)
The red machine of Poland marched on to their third successive win while the Netherlands slump to their first defeat. One goal in each period for Poland clinched their 3-1 win with all goals coming from the influential first line with Krzysztof Zapala grabbing 0+3.
"We were closer to make a fourth and fifth goal than they were scoring their second. We are creating a lot of goal scoring opportunities, but we have to be cooler in front of goal," said Igor Zakharkin, head coach of Poland, of a match where his team outshot the Dutchmen 32-18.
At 2:49, Poland’s Tomasz Malasinski drew first blood with a one-timer from the slot, but before the first frame was over, Raphael Joly had drawn the Netherlands level as it was his power-power play strike which tied the game. The Netherlands worked tirelessly, but how long was it going to last against the Poles playing with four strong lines?
The Poles got the only goal of the second period while outshooting the Dutchmen 14-5. Once again it was their lethal first line delivering the goods with Rafal Dutka sliding a low shot from the left face-off circle past Martijn Oosterwijk at 22:26 assisted by Zapala and Marcin Kolusz. Poland stepped up a gear and ventured forward with the first line squandering a plethora of chances while Kamil Kosowski in the Poland net was barely tested for huge chunks of the middle frame.
Any hopes of the Netherlands staging a comeback in the third period were quelled two minutes into the final frame when Zapala from the right corner on the one-man advantage found captain Kolusz unmarked in the slot and it was his zinger in the top corner who made it 3-1 for Poland at 42:04. Despite the Dutch pulling their goalie Oosterwijk from the net with 49 seconds to go, Poland weathered the storm and held out for a fully deserved third win out of three.
"We are a young and inexperienced group playing against an experienced Poland team," said Ivy van den Heuvel of the Netherlands.
"Due to the injury to Wesley Hendricks we also had to make many line-changes, and we are now down to only five fit defenders, but we will do our best against Ukraine," he said.
Netherlands head coach Barry Smith's crew, who after two narrow wins are already safe from relegation, play Ukraine next, while Poland take on Estonia.
Ukraina vs. Lithuania 7-0 (2-0, 2-0, 3-0)
Six different players were on the scoresheet as Ukraine racked up their third win on the trot as the hosts cruised to an easy 7-0 win against a defensive-minded Lithuania.
Both teams entered the game with one eye of what is yet to come during the last two days of the tournament, with Ukraine chasing promotion while Lithuania are aiming to avoid demotion.
"Our next two games will be serious tests against opposition who are also looking to end up at the top, and we also understand that the next two games are also important for Lithuania," said Ukraine head coach Olexander Kulikov during the post-match interview.
Both teams gave rare starts to their second-string goalies, with young netminder Pavlo Yanchuk enjoying a quiet night and a shutout, while Nerijus Dauksevicius in the Lithuanian net had to work harder as the Ukrainians tormented Lithunia with their superior speed and puckhandling, outshooting the Balts 50-12.
Deputising for Mantas Armalis, Lithuania's Dauksevicius started well between the pipes as Ukraine ventured forward from the outset.
The towering Ukrainian Andri Mikhnov found Maxym Kvitchenko in front of the net six minutes into the game, forcing a fine save out of Dauksevicius as Lithuania were defending stoutly. The Lithuanian resilience lasted almost nine minutes before the menancing Mikhnov bombed down along the left boards, cut inside between two Lithuanian defenders to pick out Olexander Toryanyk who jammed the puck behind Dauksevicius to open the home team's scoring account for the evening. Less than three minutes later Toryanyk, now in the role as provider was thundering through the centre of Lithuania's defence and hit a pass to Artem Bondaryev whose precise finish doubled Ukraine's load at 11:32.
"We changed tactics to a 1-4 system for this game to try and avoid Ukraine entering our zone so easily, but in hockey small things makes the difference," said Lithuania's head coach Bernd Haake.
Less than two minutes had passed during the second period, when Ukraine scored their third. Working on a one-man advantage, Volodymyr Aleksyuk hit a pass along the blueline to Toryanuk who scored his third point for the evening with a thundering low slapshot. At 27:42 18-year-old Yuri Petrangovsky saw his wrist shot from the blueline slink through the pads of Dauksevicius for 4-0.
In the final period, Ukraine continued to bombard the Lithuanian net. Materukhin won a bodycheck behind Dauksevicius net, fed Tymchenko who showed fine stickhandling qualities as he served Oleg Shafarenko in front of goal who cooly tapped home 5-0 at 45:10. Ukraine scored a sixth unanswered goal only 32 seconds later thanks to burly veteran defenceman Vasyl Polonytsky.
With 39 seconds left on the clock and a face-off in Ukraine's defensive zone, Haake pulled Dauksevicius from his net. 16 seconds later the goal was in the empty Lithuanian net as Mikhov finished the scoring , 7-0 to the home team who tomorrow are facing the Netherlands while Lithuania are taking on Romania.
"When the fixtures were first made available for this tournament, we knew that it is from now our tournament start," said Haake referring to the Lituanian's two final games against Romania and Estonia.
Click here for scores, stats and photos.