TILBURG – Austria completed its mission in Division I Group A and was promoted to the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia after a 2-1 victory over Ukraine.
Austria - Ukraine 2-1 (1-0, 0-0, 1-1)
After one year, Austria is back among the elite. But in doing so, they had to survive a five-minute penalty kill against Ukraine late in regulation. Ultimately, the Austrians posted a 2-1 victory, punching their ticket to Slovakia in 2011.
"The game could have been won by either team," Austria coach Bill Gilligan said. "Thank God we survived that five-minute penalty kill at the end."
Austria set the tone early. The team's first power play resulted in a goal after 1:56. Roland Kaspitz crossed the puck from the left side to Thomas Raffl, who shot it home from close range.
The lead gave the Austrian wings, vocally supported by a large fan base. They had an excellent opportunity to double the lead on a two-man advantage for 52 seconds, but Ukraine withstood the storm.
Ukraine came out stronger in the second period, dominating most of the time and forcing Austria to play on the counter-attack. The slick skating of the Ukrainians had Austria wobbling late in the period.
First Kostiantyn Kasianchuk hit the underside of the bar with 25 seconds left to play and they escaped with just one second on the clock. Sergi Klymentiev released a low slapshot that was initially stopped by Divis. In a melee the puck then crossed the goalline and the red light flashed. The referee disallowed the goal though and whistled a slashing call against Kasianchuk.
With just 20 minutes left to earn promotion Ukraine needed something special to beat Divis, who the difference for Austria according to Gilligan.
Ukraine got what it needed with 9:54 left in regulation. While Raffl was sitting in the penalty box for interference, Andri Srybko released a rocket one-timer from the blueline that flew in the top right corner behind Divis.
But the hard work was in vain. Kostiantyn Simchuk stopped Oliver Setzinger's breakawy attempt, but did not stand a chance on Matthias Tratting's one-timer at 51:55. Again Roland Kaspitz got the assist.
Austria withstood a frantic final few minutes as David Schuller was given a match penalty for putting Sergi Klymentiev into the boards.
Ukraine coach Mikahil Zakharov said, "the better team won today. We were not strong enough physically to beat them." Zakaharov's future with Ukraine remains unclear since he was only slated to continue if the team was promoted.
The best defenceman of the tournament, Matthias Trattnig, praised the support of the fans but admitted the final minutes were nerve racking. "We tried was to block every shot with any part of our body and get the puck out of our zone. We succeeded and you can definitely call this Mission Accomplished".
Best Goaltender: Yutaka Fukufuji (Japan)
Best Defenceman: Matthias Trattnig (Austria)
Best Forward: Kostiantyn Kasianchuk (Ukraine)
Netherlands - Serbia 3-2 (2-1, 0-1, 0-0,1-0) OT
Serbia knew avoiding relegation to Division II was like mission impossible today. But the Serbs put in an honest effort and earned their first point of the tournament. Unfortunately, the overtime loss to the Dutch did not save them from relegation.
The host was off to a great start. Marcel Kars was twice allowed to cut inside the offensive zone and release a shot. The first time he scored, the second time, Casey Vanschagen was in place to tip in the rebound.
But at 15:45 Filip Mirkovic scored with a blast from the point to bring Serbia to within one. He netted his second at 35:14 with a shot through traffic.
The crowd was stunned, not in the least place by the stellar performance of Serbian goaltender Milan Lukovic, who was outstanding. In total, he had a massive 47 saves.
Realising that the win was within reach, Serbia started the final period with hope and had a golden opportunity to take the lead on a two-man advantage. The Dutch survived with a combination of luck and good goaltending from Phil Groeneveld.
When the Dutch had their turn had a 5-on-3 power play and didn't score, it was clear that this game would not be decided in regulation.
With just over two minutes played in the extra period, Marcel Kars saw his good play rewarded when finally Milan Lukovic had to surrender on the rebound put in by the towering Dutch forward.
"I'm proud of my guys," Serbia coach Pederson said. "Even though they knew they faced elimination after yesterday's result they emptied tank today."
His Dutch counterpart was happy with the victory but admitted it was a tough game. "Unfortunately we played our worst game of the tournament today," he said. The Netherlands finished fourth, improving from three consecutive fifth places. "I'm glad to see that we are rewarded for the progression that we've made this year."
Serbian goaltender Milan Lukovic can only watch how Marcel Kars scores in overtime to give the Netherlands a 3-2 victory. Photo: Ronald Goudberg
Japan - Lithuania 7-1 (2-0, 2-1, 3-0)
For the fifth consecutive year, Japan won the bronze medal of the World Championship Division I. The Asians finished with nine points after a comfortable 7-1 victory over Lithuania. Seven different players scored for Japan.
Both teams knew each other well. It was the fourth time the teams met and on all occassions Japan came out as the winner. Lithuania had a chance to win the bronze if with a win, but Japan immediately took control of the game.
Japan took the lead at 14:45 when two Lithuanian players were sitting in the penalty box. A nice tic-tac-toe play led to Go Tanaka giving Japan a 1-0 lead.
Still on a power play, Jun Tonosaki doubled the lead at 15:22 with a wrist shot over Dauksevicius shoulder.
Lithuania cut the deficit after Mindaugas Kieras scored early in the second period, but Japan did not collapse and moved out to a 6-1 lead.
Second period goals by Makoto Kawashima and Takahito Suzuki secured the bronze medal while the third period was just icing on the cake for Mark Mahon's team. Bin Ishioka and Takuma Kawai scored their first goal of the tournament in the third period and Hiroki Ueno scored in the final minute as Japan ran out to a 7-1 final score.
"After yesterday's loss I was a little bit afraid the lteam would be heartbroken, but they responded well," Mahon said. "I think we made some steps in the right direction and came closer to the top two ranked teams than in previous years."
Team Japan ended yet another successful World Championship winning a medal. Photo: Ronald Goudberg