DUMFRIES, Great Britain – The Italian U20 national team arrived in the Scottish city of Dumfries as the third seeds in the IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B, but they fast became the side everyone was talking about with their pleasing-on-the-eye style of hockey.
Their promotion to Division I Group A was secured with a 4-2 victory over Ukraine on Sunday evening. Prior to that game, the Italians had four 4-3 wins including two in overtime. Kazakhstan took silver and France, who went into the tournament as top seeds, had to settle for bronze.
Italy’s U20 national team last celebrated a promotion in 2008 when they came up from Division II while their bottom-three finish in 2011 saw them placed in Division I Group B following the restructure of the World Championship tournaments.
A standout feature was the Italian resilience. They were 32 seconds away from losing to Great Britain in their opening game before going onto win 4-3 in overtime.
They then trailed Japan 3-1 early in the second period but came back to win 4-3. Italy also fell behind to Kazakhstan but went on to win 4-3.
The most important comeback of them all was their victory over number-one seed France and the fourth time out of four they had won by a 4-3 scoreline.
With a touch over 10 minutes remaining the Italians were 3-2 down but Giovanni Morini's double – with the winner coming in overtime – ensured the Italians went into the final day with a one-point lead at the top.
Going into the crucial game, Italy found themselves 2-1 down at the middle of the second period and had to dig deep against Ukraine, who themselves were chasing a bronze medal.
But three unanswered goals from Peter Hochkofler, Joachim Ramoser and Tommaso Trezago ensured Italy could start celebrating a memorable promotion.
“I am very proud of this team. We fought hard every night and showed a lot of character to keep coming from behind,” said Italy head coach Robert Chizzali.
“It was a fantastic tournament, with some great teams, and there was no easy night. But we made it and we must now prepare for the future.”
France and Kazakhstan were left to rue what might have been and in particular France, who returned home with eight points from five matches.
One of their low points was a massive high for Great Britain, as the hosts beat their French counterparts 4-3 after a thrilling penalty shootout.
The British were unable to match that high when they lost 4-0 to Ukraine and this meant a relegation showdown with Japan.
The game was in the balance when Japan turned a one-goal deficit into a
2-1 lead, but goals from Bobby Chamberlain and Lewis Hook nudged Great Britain in front and Liam Stewart scored into an empty net to seal the host’s survival and Japan's relegation.
1. Italy (promoted)
5. Great Britain
6. Japan (relegated)
Individual Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate
Best Goalkeeper: Martin Rabanser, Italy
Best Defenceman: Yuri Sergienko, Kazakhstan
Best Forward: Krill Satvitski, Kazakhstan
More: Scores & Stats, Photos & Videos
NOTE: While the event in Dumfries finished on Sunday, two new U20 events started. The Division I Group A is under way in Sanok, Poland, and the winning team will be promoted to the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal, Canada. The Division II Group A started in Miskolc, Hungary. Click on the links for scores, stats, photos and live streams.