The semi-final round of the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship Division I tournament ended with one of the best stories of the season as Australia took a huge step forward in its inline hockey program, advancing to the gold medal game against Slovenia after defeating Croatia 5-4 in overtime.
Australia – Croatia 6-5 OT (1-2, 1-2, 0-1, 3-0, 1-0)
After years of competing hard but just narrowly missing out on a medal at the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship, Australia finally kicked down the door to the Division I gold medal game in dramatic fashion, upsetting the favoured Croats in overtime 6-5.
Defenceman Luke Fritchley with his second goal of the tournament and the biggest of his inline hockey career so far notched the game winner in sudden-death extra time to send the Aussies to the gold medal game for the first time ever.
“I was nearly in tears, we’ve been coming here for a long time,” said team leader Clive Connelly. “Whatever comes tomorrow we’ll be very proud of the boys, they played very well and had a never-say-die attitude. I’m elated we’ve worked very very hard for a long time for this.”
“After the game the coach said he was very proud of all the players, from Day One he said that we were here for the gold medal and we stuck to that mantra.”
The Australian defencemen provided most of the offence against the Croats. In addition to Fritchley’s goal, blueliner Antony Collins had a goal and two assists, and Christopher Brophy scored a pair.
Forward Brenton Fitzgerald scored a goal and added four helpers, and Steve Best had a goal and an assist.
Luke Gavin collected one assist, but it was a big one. Less than two minutes into the extra period, following a big scramble in front of the net, Gavin gained possession and passed the puck to Fritchley on the point, who let it fly straight into the back of the net, scoring his country’s biggest goal in Inline Hockey World Championship history.
With the victory Australia will face Slovenia. Win or lose, it will mark the team’s most successful inline hockey season ever, and a feather in the cap for an Australian program that has always been close but never able to finish with a medal.
Slovenia – Latvia 13-2 (2-1, 5-0, 3-0, 3-1)
Slovenia advanced to the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship Division I gold medal game, defeating Latvia 13-2.
The win means Slovenia, which is undefeated so far at the 2014 Division I tournament, will get the chance to return to the top division after being relegated one year ago. Latvia will face Croatia in the final placement game.
Austria – Brazil 5-1 (0-0, 4-1, 1-0, 0-0)
Brazil lost 5-1 to Austria and will be relegated to the 2015 qualification tournament.
The result was never in doubt as the Austrians scored four straight in the second period, opening with a short-handed goal from forward Daniel Oberkofler, who finished the game with two goals and an assist. Defenceman Gerd Gruber had two assists, and Patrick Spannring, Kevin Macierzynski, and Andre Niec rounded out the scoring for the Austrians.
The loss means that Brazil along with Japan will be relegated to qualification events in 2015.
Hungary – Japan 12-2 (2-1, 3-0, 3-0, 4-1)
Hungary did not give Japan a chance to stage an upset in the placement game, sending the team to relegation with a 12-2 blowout.
After Japan had answered a first period power-play goal by Akos Kiss with a power-play score of its own, Hungary’s offence kicked into high gear, scoring seven unanswered goals. Attila Rafaj scored three goals and an assist to lead the team with four points as 13 Hungarian players recorded at least one point.
The loss means that Japan will be relegated to qualification events in 2015, along with Brazil.