BIETIGHEIM-BISSINGEN – Germany lost a tight game against Italy 2-1 in overtime. But while the Italians are out from the race to Sochi, the point for the regulation-time tie allows the Germans to win the tournament with a regulation-time victory in the neighbouring clash against Austria on Sunday.
From that point of view tonight’s score doesn’t change much for the Germans apart from the fact that an overtime or shootout win against Austria wouldn’t be enough anymore. Austria, the only undefeated team in Bietigheim-Bissingen, needs a win or an overtime/shootout loss against Germany to end this tournament in first place and get the ticket for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
“It was not a surprise for me that this would be a very difficult game for us,” Germany’s head coach Pat Cortina said. “That’s how Italy wins at the international level. They play really good defensively, they wait for counter chances, they get great goaltending. We battled extremely hard and were in control of the puck most of the game but the Italians were really strong in front of Dennis and didn’t allow rebounds.”
Although Germany outshot Italy 37-21, it was the Italians who had the better start.
The Italians created their first chances when Nikolai Goc was sent to the penalty box at 6:53 and one second after the penalty had expired Felix Petermann was sent out for delaying the game.
The Squadra Azzurra made use of its second power play and Robert Sirianni netted the puck after being fed by Giulio Scandella’s drop pass to the crease at 10:15.
“It was a close game. Our team battled very hard against Italy,” German goalkeeper Dennis Endras said. “We had some chances but their goalie played well and they had luck in overtime.”
The Germans were not able to dominate their opponent in the first period like the night before against the Netherlands and created only few dangerous scoring opportunities in the beginning. But Jerome Flaake tried it the simple way after deking Italian defenceman Trevor Johnson at 13:29 and sent off a wrist shot from the right face-off dot – and beat Italian goalkeeper Adam Dennis to tie the game at one.
“It was an important goal but I would be happier if we had won the game,” Flaake said. “It was a tough game. Italy can play hockey. But we are still in the race.”
Four minutes later the Germans missed out on an odd-man rush during an Italian power play when Marcus Kink fed Garrett Festerling with a pass to the other side.
Germany came out stronger for the start of the second period and did better in avoiding penalty trouble like in the opening frame. Germany was more active and had 13-5 shots on goal in the second period including several chances that increased the noise level in the sold-out EgeTrans Arena. Like Daniel Pietta’s deflection in front of the net midway through the game that went beside the post by just a few centimetres.
The loud crowd of 4,517 fans in Bietigheim-Bissingen cheered on their team with a standing ovation for the dying minutes in regulation time but the Italians stood tall defensively throughout the third period and had their chances as well.
“Germany controlled the game with the puck more than we would have liked. But we had a solid team effort from everybody. It was a real team unit with players sacrificing for each other,” Italy’s head coach Tom Pokel said.
“It was solid defensive-zone coverage. We were opportunist. We took advantage of the opportunities we had. Germany is a strong team and we know it but our team was ready for the win tonight. I’m proud of our players and of Italian hockey to have won the game against Germany.”
No goal scored in the third period meant overtime work for the teams. But for Italy the 1-1 tie after 60 minutes also meant the end of the Olympic dream since the Azzurri needed to gain three points tonight to stay in the race.
Despite the scenario, the Italians didn’t lose the motivation. A penalty call against German defenceman Felix Petermann gave the Italians opportunities to end the game with a win. And they did. At 2:19 of the extra period Nathan di Casmirro beat Endras through his five-hole after a centering pass from Robert Sirianni.
Germany remains on the road to Sochi also with the help of the point. The Germans still have it in their own hand and need a regulation-time victory in the last game against undefeated Austria.
“We still have the opportunity of winning the group and going to Sochi,” coach Cortina said. “Of course we know that the Austrians are going to be ready for us and they’re a good team. We have to make sure we keep our head up and hopefully the bounces we didn’t get tonight we get on Sunday.”
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