PARDUBICE – Slovenia will be back among the top dogs at the 2015 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship, defeating Australia 10-5. Croatia won the bronze medal game, edging Latvia 4-3.
Slovenia – Australia 10-5 (4-1, 3-0, 1-1, 2-3)
Slovenia kept its visit to Division I a short one, winning promotion in just one season in Division I with a statement victory over Australia.
"Obviously we are very satisfied," said Slovenia head coach Ales Fajdiga. "This was our goal from the beginning, we changed the team around a bit from last year and added more players, it worked out well and I'm happy for the guys."
Despite the loss the Aussies can hold their heads high, having achieved the best result in the inline team’s history with a silver-medal finish in 2014.
"I told the players that I'm really proud of them," the Australian head coach said. "They're a bunch of guys that come from all over Australia to play in this tournament. I knew with this selection this year I knew we'd be aiming to get to the gold medal game, and I think this silver medal will drive the guys to work harder and come back stronger next year."
The result was never much in doubt as the Slovenes jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first half. Matic Kralj then threw the puck on net where linemate Nelj Berlisk was sitting in front waiting to tip the puck in for the 2-0 lead.
But the Aussies answered back when took the puck into the zone skating behind the goal line and drawing in two Slovene defenders before centering the puck in front.
But a defensive miscue by Australia in the Slovene zone set off on a breakaway, beating goaltender Michael James with a backhand between the legs. Then caught James out of position and rifled home a one-timer wrist shot putting Slovenia up 4-1.
The first period ended with James making a nice stop on Berlisk during a penalty shot. But the Slovenes kept coming and Jure Sotlar made it 5-1 with a shot from the slot area.
While Slovenia moves back up to the top division next year, Australia will be looking to join them in 2015. The future looks good for the Aussies, with young players like goaltender Michael James, who in his first IIHF Inline Worlds won the tournament's Best Goaltender award.
"It's just incredible to be a part of this," said James. "It's my first trip away with the team and this is the best group of guys I've ever played hockey with and the most fun I've ever had. Flying home won't be so bad with this medal."
Slovenia's Domen Vedlin earned the Directorate Award for Best Defenceman, and Latvia's Artjoms Ogorodnikovs won Best Forward.
Croatia – Latvia 4-3 (1-2, 1-0, 1-1, 1-0)
Croatia won the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I bronze medal, outlasting a determined and much-improved Latvian team 4-3. Ivan Jankovic had the game-winning goal for the Croats, who won their first medal in four years, the last one coming in 2010 with a silver result in Sweden.
Latvia, which made its inline debut this year, recovered from a tough start to the tournament where the team was outscored 20-8 in the preliminary round. In the Division I quarter-final the Latvians upset Austria 4-3 in the shootout, paving the way for the team to contend for a medal in its inaugural season.
Things started positively for Latvia in the first period. Arturs Batraks and Vladislavs Konisevs scored to give the team a 2-0 lead. Jankovic answered back though with the first of his two goals in the game, and Tomislav Cunko tied things late in the second period. Batraks’ second marker in the third period gave the lead back to the Latvians, but only for a moment as Igor Jacmenjak equalized just over three minutes later, setting up Jankovics’ bronze medal winner in the fourth.