Favourites roll on to victories

Div. IB: Poland, Ukraine and Netherland all start with wins


Ukraine’s goal galore ended with an 8-1 victory over Romania. Photo: Valeri Dudush

DONETSK – The 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Donetsk went underway without upsets as hosts Ukraine crushed Romania, Poland blanked Lithuania and Netherlands edged Estonia during the opening day of the tournament.

Netherlands v Estonia 5-4 (2-0, 2-3, 1-1)

Despite suffering a middle period scare during their opening game of the Division I Group B tournament, the Netherlands prevailed in the end, as Estonia were downed 5-4.

Leading 2-0 after the first frame, last year's bronze winners, the Netherlands, looked like heading for a comfortable win when Estonia stepped out on the ice for the second period as a revitalised team. The Balts fought back to turn the game around with three goals in less than three minutes, before the men in orange bounced back to claim three points despite being outshot 24-32.

”We are very happy with the win and we played a very good first period. I think we could have killed the game a lot earlier and made it a lot easier on ourselves, but it is a good start to the tournament. We played one game and won one, but I think we can do better,” said Chris Eimers, assistant coach of the Netherlands.

The Dutchmen set the tone as soon as the first puck was dropped thanks to a couple of quick goals in the first period against a newly promoted Estonia team. It took 18 seconds for the Netherlands to get off the mark on the Donetsk scoresheet. Tony Demelinne snapped up a sloppy Dmitri Rodin pass, hit a quick pass in front of Estonia's goal, where Kevin Bruijsten managed to get a touch before his younger brother Mitch hit home for a fine Dutch start.

Rodin was soon again the culprit, when the Netherlands doubled their lead at 2:45, as it was the veteran Estonian defenceman who served a two-minute clipping penalty call, when Raphael Joly, on his World Championship debut, picked out Steve Mason on the blueline who found a crack in Koitmaa's armour to double the lead.

Despite a resolute start by the Netherlands, Estonia – much thanks to four power plays – managed to work itself back into the game. Their first line showed most attacking prowess with busy Andrei Lukin squandering a couple of fine chances to cut the Dutch advantage on the scoreboard, which were to leave the Estonians goalless but far from hopeless ahead of the second period.

”We got off to a tough start as we arrived to Donetsk only late last night and didn't have much time to prepare for the game,” Estonia defenceman Aleksandr Ossipov said. ”We let in two quick goals, but after that we start to find our feet and create chances, and their goalie played well in the first period. But during the first intermission we talked about the need to skate harder and get more shots on goal and that worked.”

Rodin redeemed himself with a fine wrist shoot from the blue line 48 seconds in the middle stanza with Martijn Oosterwijk blocked by traffic in front of his net. The Baltic threat became even more serious when hard-working Lukin was rewarded for his earlier misses as he tied the game following a mazy dribble from 19-year-old prospect Robert Rooba at 24:20. 77 seconds later the turnaround for the men in white was complete when Jan Rajevski worked hard behind Oosterwijk's net to feed Jevgeni Missenjov who hit home a 3-2 lead.

Estonia's third goal worked as the much-needed wake-up call for the Netherlands, and it was their first line that got them out of trouble with the influential Bruijsten brothers combining nicely for a Demelinne marker that brought the game back to even terms. Soon after Jan-Jaap Natte broke through on a 2-on-1 to feed Wesley Hendricks, who hit a low shot past hapless Villem-Henrik Koitmaa with just over a minute left of the second frame for 4-3.

With the Netherlands missing influential players and regular starters that includes goalie Ian Meierdres, defencemen Björn Willemse and Mike Dalhuisen as well as the giant presence of Marcel Kars as an attacking threat, Estonia refused to be pushed over and it was a Vadim Virjassov strike 3:08 into the final period that tied the game. But once again the luck was short-lived as the Netherlands rose up once again to find their winning goal thanks to fine work from captain Diederick Hagemeijer, who picked out Ivy van den Heuvel who forced the puck past Koitmaa for the game winning goal and three points.

”We got unnecessary penalty calls and that gave Estonia the momentum,” said Eimers. ”That's when they pressured us, but although we did things we should not do the good thing is that we always managed to bounce back, and we are very happy with that.”

For Estonia, despite the opening loss, their never-say-die attitude is encouraging for the newly promoted Baltic state’s hopes to stay in this division. They arrived to Ukraine without a number of influental players where free-scoring Andrei Makrov, nursing a knee injury, and their rock in defence, Lauri Lahesalu, a newly crowned French champions with Rouen Dragons, are just two names that could had made the outcome different in this opening game.

”We are lacking experience, and we have many players with a lot of experience missing , but we are here to stay in the group. All matches are important, but the main ones are against Lithuania and Romania,” said Ossipov.

Poland v Lithuania 5-0 (1-0, 2-0, 2-0)

A solid opening day performance saw Poland blank Lithuania 5-0.

In a game where Poland outshot their neighbours in emphatic fashion, 61-15, and with three lines scoring, many aspects of Poland's inaugural win of the World Championship Division I Group B in Donetsk pleased head coach Igor Zakharkin.

”We played a good game with great movement, nice combinations and creative play,” he said. ”Perhaps the boys were a bit nervous as it was our first game and we missed many goal scoring opportunities but overall it was a very disciplined performance from our part. If we continue this way we can go quite far.”

Red-hot favourites in this tie, Poland got on the board early with a goal 2:18 into the game as Patryk Wajda picked out Krystian Dziubinski, who thanks to great speed and trickery deked Lithuania's defenceman Justinas Vezelis and finished with aplomb to give the Poles only a one goal cushion after the first period which promised more after outshooting Lithuania 15-5.

Leszek Laszkiewicz marked his 16th consecutive World Championship combining nicely with Sebastian Kowalowka to double Poland's lead five minutes into the second period with an easy tap-in. Lithuania, who last year suffered a 9-0 loss to the same opponents during the opening day of the World Championship, worked hard to keep the score down before succumbing with 3:29 left of the frame when a Pawel Dronia slapshot from outside Lithuania's defensive blue line slinked in past Mantas Armalis for Poland's third.

Poland, chasing promotion to the Division I Group A without influental defenceman Adam Borzecki and veteran forward Damian Slabon, stepped up another gear in the final period, winning the shots 26-5 and scoring twice. Adam Baginski increased the lead to 4-0, hitting home a rebound after Armalis had produced a fine save on a Kowalowka effort.

A sloppy Lithuanian line change proved costly as Dronya and captain Marcin Kolusz snapped up the puck to send Krzysztof Zapala clear on goal to score Poland's fifth and final goal with 2:13 left of the game.

Ukraine v Romania 8-1 (1-0, 5-0, 2-1)

Ukraine open with emphatic win. Seven different scorers in an 8-1 rout of neighbours Romania.

After Romania frustrated the hosts and being only one goal down following the first period, the floodgates opened in the middle frame as Ukraine stormed forward to score five unanswered goals, including three goals in the less than three minutes.

”The first period was difficult for us and we looked nervous,” said Ukraine head coach Olexander Kulikov after the match. ”Then in the second and third period we played the way we should play.”

The promotion-chasing hosts Ukraine called the tune and piled up the pressure right from the start in the Sunday night game at the Ice Palace Druzhba in Donetsk and made Gellert Ruczuj, who got the nod as Romania's starting goalie, break sweat right from the outset. But despite long periods of sustained pressure, winning the shots 17-2 and also playing 5 against 3 for a full two minutes, Ukraine only got on the scoresheet once ahead of the first intermission.

Oleg Tymchenko tapped home Ukraine's early opening goal 2:53 into the game after Ruczuj had failed to hold on to Vitali Lyutkevych's bullet from the blue line.

Dissapointed with their first period, Ukraine redeemed themselves in a one-sided middle frame that saw the hosts being rewarded for their relentless offensive. The men in blue and yellow scored thrice between 3:37 and 6:12 of the second period.

Artem Gnidenko scored the hosts second after Yuri Petrangovsky picked him out in the slot. Artem Bondaryew then threw himself valiantly to catch Volodymyr Aleksyuk's pass from defence before feeding two-metre giant Andri Mikhnov who hit home 3-0. Ukraine's fourth came less than a minute later when Roman Blagy flew down the right flank to cut past Romania's defenceman Endre Kosa and hit the nail in the coffin.

Team captain Olexander Pobiedonostsev made it five and when Maxym Kvitchenko by his own accord rounded the Romanian goal to score marker number six for the home team at 33:57. Romania head coach Tom Skinner replaced the young Ruczuj with veteran netminder Adrian Catrinoi Cornea.

Before a vocal yellow and blue home crowd of 3,824, the final period became a defilaton for Ukraine. Yevgeni Pysarenko pulled a goal back for Romania only 32 seconds into the final period. But before the game was over, Ukraine had added another couple of markers, Olexander Materukhin scored goal number seven for the team that last year got relegated from the Division I Group A, before Blagy netted his second for the night to set the final score to 8-1.

”We knew tonight was going to be difficult, and in my opinion Ukraine should win this tournament,” said Romania head coach Skinner. ”We usually get better for each game, and I am looking forward to this tournament where our goal is to win a medal,” he said with another tough opponent Poland being next up for Romania during day two in Donetsk.


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