BIETIGHEIM-BISSINGEN – Austria opened Group D of the Men’s Final Olympic Qualification with a narrow 3-2 victory over Italy.
Daniel Oberkofler scored two goals while Italy failed short in its comeback attempt.
“We found a way to win the game and that’s the most important thing,” the 24-year-old Linz forward said. “But we have to bring our performance over 60 minutes. Not 40 or 20.”
“We are disappointed. We wanted to have a better showing. The small things made a big difference tonight. We have some things to work on,” Italy’s new head coach Tom Pokel said. “It was a hard and fair game from both teams. Down 2-0 we showed a lot of character and we came back”
Two early penalties opened the way to the Italian net for the Austrians. With Italian netminder Daniel Bellissimo screened by Rafael Rotter and Daniel Oberkofler, the latter netted the puck after a shot from the blueline from defenceman Mario Altmann.
It was a strong period for the team in red and with 2:50 left Gregor Baumgartner doubled the lead.
Italy battled for a comeback in the second period but only after Rotter had taken the first Austrian penalty did the Azzurri manage to score. Anton Bernard cut the lead for the Italians when scoring on a rebound at 13:42 of the second period, but Oberkofler restored the two-goal lead for Austria with his second marker of the day less than three minutes later.
The third period began like the second ended. The Austrians defended while the Italians were looking for a goal. Giulio Scandella had the biggest opportunity when he missed on a breakaway on an Austrian power play at 9:50 of the third period.
But Vincent Rocco picked up the slack 17 seconds later. He got a blocked shot behind the net and scored on Austrian goalkeeper Bernhard Starkbaum from behind the line.
Austria’s 3-2 lead stayed until the last second and a last effort with Bellissimo pulled and six Italian skaters on the ice didn’t change the score.
“It’s a good feeling to start with a win,” captain Thomas Koch said. “Later we got more passive and they made it difficult for us.”
Click here for scores, stats and photos