Austria, Slovenia go up

Japan loses to Hungary, misses out on historic opportunity

26.04.2014
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Slovenia's Rok Leber with a scoring opportunity in front of Austrian netminder Bernhard Starkbaum. Photo: Soohan Kim

GOYANG – Slovenia and Austria finish in the top-two spots in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A to earn promotion to the top division and play in the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the Czech Republic. Japan missed out on a historic opportunity by losing the last game to Hungary 5-4 in a shootout. The Japanese were just one goal away from earning promotion through Division I play for the first time in history.

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Austria vs. Slovenia 1-3 (0-0, 1-1, 0-2)

Slovenia will join Austria to the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship thanks to a 3-1 win against their neighbours after Japan missed to beat Hungary.

It was the big chance for other teams to challenge the two top-seeded teams who played in the Sochi Olympics just two months ago and Austria and Slovenia were heavily challenged during the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A but not prevented from going up to the top division again.

“It feels great. It’s been a tough game and tournament. We called the last games quarter-final, semi-final and this was our gold medal game and luckily it ended up well. We deserve what we achieved,” said Jan Urbas, who scored Slovenia’s first two goals and had the assist on the third.

“They put a lot of pressure on us and in the end we scored three goals and held it up. We didn’t give them too many chances. Our goalkeeper and defence played well.”

For Austria the good news came already one hour before the game as Hungary defeated Japan, which meant that Austria was promoted in any case. The only question was who would join them: Slovenia, which needed to beat Austria, or otherwise Japan, which had missed to secure promotion on its own in the early game against Hungary.

“It was a good game. We played very well. Slovenia had a lot of pressure to win and we wanted to win too,” Austria head coach Manny Viveiros said after the game.

“This young team has worked really hard these weeks and really deserved to be promoted. It’s a great performance one could almost compare to the qualification to the Olympics. To make this next step is a compliment for these young players.”

Those who thought only the Slovenes would be motivated and the Austrians would take it easy proved wrong. From the first face-off it was a competitive game between these two rivals and neighbours with shots and just few penalties on both sides and no goals in the first 20 minutes of play.

Tomaz Razinger had the probably best chance in the beginning of the second period on a breakaway but didn’t hit the puck as he wanted and shot it wide the net.

At 13:44 the puck was in the net for the first time. A misunderstanding between Austrian goalkeeper Bernhard Starkbaum and Matthias Iberer led to a giveaway behind the net. First Marcel Rodman missed on the opportunity with Starkbaum back in the net but Urbas scored on the rebound. But the Slovenes couldn’t enjoy the lead for long. 96 seconds later Benjamin Petrik scored his first goal of the tournament with a shot from the blueline that went in into the top-right corner and made the Japanese players in attendance smile.

The third period started again with a tight battle between two teams on par and after several scoring opportunities it was Urbas, who scored again for Slovenia after a centering pass from the end boards from David Rodman.

Austria was looking to tie the game but Slovenia tried to use the open space. With 92 seconds left Miha Stebih scored the 3-1 goal after Urbas had taken the puck away from Martin Schumnig in the Austrian zone. The Slovenian bench was watching the countdown before celebrating their return to the top division and singing the national anthem.

“I think we came as a favourite after the results at the Olympic Games,” Slovenian forward David Rodman said. “We wanted to finish first and after the first game against Japan we told ourselves we cannot afford to lose anymore. There were no easy games for us here.”

Slovenia and Austria will travel to Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic, for the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

“It was a tough game. We played against a good Austrian team. They were more relaxed in the beginning. We know each other pretty well. It’s tough for both sides,” Slovenian head coach Matjaz Kopitar said.

“They missed a lot of players like us. Hopefully we will both have strong teams and perform well in the Czech Republic next year.”

Hungary vs. Japan 5-4 (1-1, 2-2, 1-1, 0-0, 1-0) GWS

Hungary concludes this year’s Division I with a 5-4 shootout win against Japan. The result brings Austria back to the top division while for Japan it was not enough to secure promotion on its own.

Marton Vas scored three goals in the shootout and one in regulation time while Shuhei Kuji fell down during Japan’s last penalty shot.

“I didn’t forget what I was doing before. It’s a matter of confidence,” said the forward-turned-defenceman. “We started to play the way we were supposed to play the whole tournament and backchecked better.”

“Today’s game was really meaningless for us because we had nothing to prove in the sense of positioning but I do command and congratulate my players to play as hard as we could even if we did some costly mistakes before the fourth goal,” Hungary head coach Rich Chernomaz said. “Japan played a very disciplined game and tournament which gave them the opportunity to challenge for the top-two tonight and the game is never over until it’s over as it went to the last shot tonight.”

Hungary has now the chance to move up to fourth place in the final standings if Ukraine loses the last game to Korea. The Japanese could have earned promotion from their own force by beating Hungary but instead had to hope for an Austrian win against Slovenia.

For Japan it would have been the first time in history it had qualified for the top division through the Division I (or formerly B-Pool). Japan played in the top division after being invited in 1930, 1957 and being set as the Far East qualifier between 1998 and 2004. 

“I’m very proud of my hockey team. They had a tremendous tournament and played with heart and soul and Japanese discipline. Whether we will be promoted or not is not in our control anymore. In the end of the day it was a good tournament for us,” Japan head coach Mark Mahon said.

The Hungarians started the early minutes with more puck possession but the first time the Japanese were dangerous after less than three minutes of play they scored. Takeshi Saito surprised Hungarian netminder Zoltan Hetenyi by shooting the puck high from just a few centimetres before the goal line from the left side to open the scoring. This after a pass from his linemate Takuro Yamashita, who had won the battle at the end boards against Janos Hari with agile skating and moves.

In the ninth minute the Asians had another big chance with a quick Japanese-style counter-attack after a Daniel Koger giveaway but after Daisuke Obara’s side pass Seiji Takahashi’s shot just hit Hetenyi’s goalie pad.

At 17:29 Istvan Sofron, after a great cross-ice pass to the blueline from Marton Vas, suddenly had the gate to the net wide open and beat Yutaka Fukufuji with a shot into his five-hole.

The Hungarians started the second period with a man advantage after a penalty a few seconds before the first intermission. Istvan Bartalis scored his fifth goal of the tournament after 49 seconds to bring Hungary the 2-1 lead. Janos Vas sent a drop pass to him after Marton Vas’ shot had bounced back from the end boards.

The Japanese didn’t give up and concluded a quick rush with three-on-three players with the equalizer. At 6:50 Masahito Nishiwaki’s shot went in after a horizontal pass from Daisuke Obara. Four minutes later the Japanese had the lead back with a Hungarian penalty just expired and the Japanese continuing putting pressure on Hetenyi’s net. Shuhei Kuji beat Hetenyi, screened by Takuma Kawai, with a point shot.

But with 67 seconds left in the middle frame, Hungary’s first-line forwards hit the back of the net again. After Janos Hari’s drop pass Sofron scored his second marker of the day to enter the third period with a 3-3 score.

In the third period events came thick and fast for Japan. First goalkeeper Yutaka Fukufuji had to be replaced due to a knee injury at 8:42 by Yuta Narisawa whose only experience at this level came with three games at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A. And at 10:03 Seiji Takahashi was awarded a penalty shot after Tamas Groschl’s hooking but his weak shot was an easy catch for Hetenyi.

Four-and-a-half minutes later the Japanese eventually scored the lead. Takeshi Saito took out Tamas Pozsgai at the boards, Hiroki Ueno got the puck and beat Hetenyi between his legs for the 4-3 goal with 5:30 left in regulation time. With 3:36 left Japan coach Mark Mahon took a time-out to calm down his team for the final minutes. The Hungarians pushed for the fourth goal but they missed out on their chances as Japan did on a three-on-one counter attack until 66 seconds before the end of the third period and with Hetenyi pulled for a sixth skater.

A shot from the blueline from Marton Vas hit Narisawa and slid over the goal line behind the Japanese goalkeeper to tie the game again.

“It was a tough game for us. We needed three points but we didn’t play good enough. In the last minutes we needed to defend better,” Japanese captain Go Tanaka said.

“He didn’t play for a while and the guys played well in front of him. It’s unfortunate he gave up the last goal but that’s sport,” Mahon said on Narisawa.

After a goalless overtime period the shootout had to decide. Marton Vas became the man of the match with three goals on three penalty shots while Kuji missed the equalizer in the last round falling down after the blueline.

Game Winning Shots:
Round 1: Kuji 0-1, Hari save.
Round 2: Ueno save, Marton Vas 1-1.
Round 3: Tanaka save, Sofron save.
Round 4: Marton Vas 2-1, Obara 2-2.
Round 5: Marton Vas 3-2, Kuji miss.

Korea vs. Ukraine 2-8 (0-2, 0-3, 2-3)

Ukraine defeated host Korea 8-2 for the second win at the tournament and a fourth-place finish for the promoted team.

“It was a good game. We tried to play really well defensively and moved the puck very well,” Ukraine coach Andrei Nazarov said.

Korea meanwhile ended the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A on home ice winless in sixth place after a fifth-place finish with two victories one year ago in Budapest.

“It was the worst game they played. We played better before. There was lot of pressure here on the players but the other teams are good teams. Maybe the pressure of playing at home was a reason why we our players didn’t perform that well,” said Korean head coach Sun Wook Byun. “We tried to do the best and there’s a lot of things we have to learn from here and to improve to be ready for PyeongChang 2018.”

Korea wasn’t the most efficient team in scoring in the tournament and the first period wasn’t an exception. While the Koreans outshot Ukraine 12-10 in the first frame, it was the Ukrainians who scored the only two goals.

At 2:27 Denys Isayenko opened the scoring with a distance shot into the top-left corner and three minutes later Olexander Materukhin doubled the lead.

Soon after the second period had started the Ukrainians had another power play and once it was over they scored. After three minutes in the middle frame Roman Blagy was skating from behind around the crease before sending off a shot that beat Sungje Park for the 3-0 goal. Late in the period Denys Petrukhno and Oleg Shafarenko extended the lead to 5-0 to end a strong period for the yellow-and-blue team.

Materukhin took care of the 6-0 goal 87 seconds into the third period. While being interfered, he shot the puck in before falling into the cage as well.

Hyung Joon Kim scored Korea’s first goal on a quick attack after a centring pass from Jun Il Chang at 6:34 and prompted a quick Ukrainian reaction with goals from Olexander Toryanik and Roman Blagy. A Korean power-play goal from Brock Radunske ended the goal galore with the final score of 8-2.

Final Ranking:

1. Slovenia 12
2. Austria 10
3. Japan 10
4. Ukraine 7
5. Hungary 6
6. Korea 0

Individual Awards (selected by the tournament directorate)

Best Goalkeeper: Yutaka Fukufuji, Japan
Best Defenceman: Dominique Heinrich, Austria
Best Forward: Jan Mursak, Slovenia

Most Valuable Player (selected by the media)

Luka Gracnar, Slovenia

All-Star Team (selected by the media)
GK: Luka Gracnar, Slovenia
DE: Dominique Heinrich, Austria
DE: Marton Vas, Hungary
FW: Brian Lebler, Austria
FW: Thomas Koch, Austria
FW: Jan Urbas, Slovenia

MARTIN MERK

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