BUDAPEST – And the winner in Budapest is... the Netherlands! Despite the recent coach change and missing players the Dutch defeated favourite Hungary 7-6 in a shootout in a crazy game and will join the Final Olympic Qualification in Germany.
Hungary - Netherlands 6-7 (1-3, 3-1, 2-2, 0-0, 0-1) PS
BUDAPEST – A heartbreaking affair enfolded in Budapest. In the end penalty shots were to decide who would advance to the Final Olympic Qualification tournament in February. It was definitely the best game of the tournament in which Hungary and the Netherlands fought an epic battle. In the end Hungary only led twice and it was the Dutch, who staged the last comeback.
"This game scripted like a Disney movie," Netherlands captain Diederick Hagemeijer said after the game. "This is probably our best result in a long time and given the recent coaching change and our youthful roster truly boasts our confidence for the future."
Hungary got on the scoreboard first when Janos Hari tipped in his own rebound after his initial wrap-around was stopped by Ian Meierdres. The Dutch were not impressed by the early goal and the hostile atmosphere. As if ice was running through their veins they converted three out of eight shots to stun the crowd in Budapest.
At 11:59 Marco Postma was at the right spot to one-time a behind-the-back pass of Raphael Joly to tie up the game. Less than four minutes later Ivy van de Heuvel deflected a puck behind Bence Balizs while in the final minute Kevin Bruijsten dove to the ice to poke in a loose puck that was sitting in the crease.
Both teams swapped power play goals early in the second period before Hungary changed gears and pushed the Dutch back into their own zone. At 31:03 Arpad Mihaly's solo effort was concluded with a shot through Meierdres' legs to cut the deficit back to one and the crowd on their feet. The arena went berserk when Marton Vas found himself at the exact right spot to tip home a shot coming back off the backboards.
With tension running high in the third period neither team was able to break the deadlock until a Nick de Jong shot through traffic ended up through the legs of Balizs and gave the Netherlands the lead again. The unexpected score seemed to throw Hungary off its feet. The Netherlands wasted several glorious chances to extend their lead and it cost them dearly.
With less than six minutes left to play Janos Hari broke free on the left side and his pass found Janos Vas' stick who rifled it behind Meierdres. Barely recovered from the explosion of noise, Balazs Ladanyi had the arena erupt again when he found a hole on the short side between the post and Meierdres' stick hand for the 6-5 lead.
The Dutch were not knocked off their feet though. With 90 seconds left to play in regulation time, Jordy van Oorschot unleashed a one-timer that hit the back of the net to make it 6-6.
Penalty shots had to bring the decision and the Dutch were most convincing, scoring twice on three attempts whereas two Team Hungary shots were saved by Ian Meierdres.
"I don't think Netherlands were good, but we defended sloppy in front of our net and Netherlands took full advantage of that with 3 or 4 goals from there," Team Hungary''s Janos Hari said. "Penalty shots are always a lottery. I'm not a fan of penalty shots but rules are rules. It's a sore way of losing though in front of our fantastic fans." After the game Hari was given some consolation after being voted Best Forward of the tournament.
The win means Netherlands will travel to Bietigheim-Bissingen and keep their Olympic dream alive. Host Germany, Austria and Italy will be the opponents. The last time the Dutch were present at the Olympic stage was back in Lake Placid in 1980.
Round 1: 0-0 Postma saved, Hari saved.
Round 2: 1-0 Hagemeijer 0-1, Kovacs saved.
Round 3: 2-0 Kars 0-2.
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Croatia - Lithuania 1-3 (1-2, 0-0, 0-1)
BUDAPEST – On Day 3 of the Olympic Pre-Qualification tournament Group G, Lithuania finally tasted the sweet taste of victory, overcoming a pesky Croatia team 3-1.
Coming off two consecutive losses Croatia and Lithuania went head-to-head in a much more competitive game than their previous two. Croatia's selection problems had increased due to two injured players but nevertheless they surprisingly took their first lead of the tournament when Igor Lazic was sent clear in on goaltender Mantas Armalis and made no mistake.
It didn't take long for Lithuania to tie the game up when Povilas Verenis took full advantage of a power-play situation at 5:20. Five minutes later Lithuania took the lead when Deividas Kazlauskas wristed a shot through Mate Tomljenovic' legs from a tight angle.
Despite being outshot 23-14 in the second period, Croatia hung in there and were rewarded for their persistence when Janko Kucera raced free and got hooked from behind. Referee Damien Velay had no other choice then to award a penalty shot. Unfortunately for the Mladost Zagreb forward, Armalis stood tall in net and saved Kucera's attempt with a leg-guard stop to keep Lithuania up 2-1.
Coming off a 49-save performance against Hungary yesterday, the Croatian goaltender showed no signs of being fatigued. He was one of the main reasons Croatia kept believing in a good results against Lithuania. Once again he stopped 49 shots but it was only when he was pulled in the last minute that Lithuania could get a third and decisive goal. Verenis hit the empty net from the neutral zone to record his second goal of the game.
The result has Lithuania finish third in the group, while Croatia has to settle for fourth place.
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