INGOLSTADT – The favourites got tough work on day one of the 2012 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship. Defending champion Czech Republic needed overtime to overcome newcomer Great Britain. The U.S. edged host Germany, Sweden defeated Finland 5-3 after trailing 3-0, and Slovenia upset Canada.
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Germany vs. USA 4-5 (1-0, 0-2, 1-1, 2-2)
Host Germany was close to upsetting Team USA, but the Americans prevailed in a 5-4 victory before 2,518 fans. It was still a striking improvement for the Germans compared to last year’s 16-1 collapse.
“The game was really tight. Coming into the game we knew that the crowd would be loud and they’d play a good game,” said Jose “Junior” Cadiz, who had two goals and an assist. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy and they would have a strong team in their own country. But we won and that’s all that matters.”
At 6:40 it was local hero Thomas Greilinger, who opened the scoring. He made his way against two American defencemen before beating Nicholas Maricic through his five-hole.
Although the U.S. had chances as well, especially on a power play, the Germans almost scored the second goal with 39 seconds left in the first quarter when Michael Wolf’s shot hit the goal post.
German goalie Jochen Vollmer kept his net clean in tricky situations, but at 3:33 Travis Noe beat him with a shot from a few metres between his pads.
At 10:53 of the second period Cadiz received a pass from Charles Yoder to beat Vollmer with a wrist shot to the top-right corner for the 2-1 lead.
The German fans at the arena had reason to cheer soon after the halftime break. At 2:45 of the third period Robin Riemel tied the score on a breakaway right after coming back from the penalty box, but at 10:21 Patrick Lee reclaimed the lead for the U.S.
The Germans tried to get back into the game at the beginning of the fourth period when Florian Jung scored after a pass to the other side from Greilinger at 3:26. But again the lead didn’t last for long.
Shawn Gawrys regained the lead for Team USA after a centering pass from Anthony Miner at 6:25, and less than three minutes later Cadiz made it 5-3 on a breakaway.
German coach Georg Holzmann took a time-out and pulled his goalie while his team was on the power play. The work paid off 82 seconds before the end of regulation time. Wolf deflected a shot from Daniel Menge in front of the American net.
“We can be satisfied with the way we played against the probably strongest inline hockey nation,” Holzmann said. “I thought it would be tougher for us, but we showed a respectable performance. We played as a team during the whole game.”
The German pressure in the dying minutes continued and Gregory Thompson was sent to the penalty box for delaying the game after he had shot the puck over the plexiglass, but the Germans didn’t manage to score another goal and the Americans won 5-4.
Great Britain vs. Czech Republic 4-5 (0-2, 3-1, 0-0, 1-1, 0-1) OT
The Czech Republic was close to being upset by newcomer Great Britain on the opening day, but Zdenek Kubica’s 5-4 overtime winner avoided a bigger disappointment for the defending champion.
The beginning was as expected against a British team that played in the Top Division for the very first time.
At 7:48 Ludek Broz opened the scoring and 77 seconds later it was 2-0 for the Czechs when Zdenek Kubica deflected a point shot from Ladislav Vlcek.
The game changed in the second period when the British punished the Czechs for sloppy play. At 4:20 they celebrated their first goal in fashion when Philip Hamer beat Roman Handl with a shot that went by his shoulders. Three-and-a-half minutes later Richard Walsh tied the score on a power play. Walsh scored in front of the net after being fed by Nathan Finney.
And the British even topped it when they gained the lead at 9:25 of the second period. Walsh shot the puck volley on a rebound.
Four seconds before the halftime break the Czechs managed to lower the damage as Patrik Sebek tied it up at three on a power play.
After a scoreless third period Great Britain regained the lead at 4:34 of the fourth quarter when Alex Pearman scored after Hamer had sent a drop pass from the end boards. But only one minute later Jakub Curik skated through the British defence to tie the score.
The score could have changed into either direction in the following minutes, but it remained 4-4 and 81 seconds into overtime it was Zdenek Kubica, who beat British goalie James Tanner on the glove side.
Sweden vs. Finland 5-3 (1-3, 1-0, 1-0, 2-0)
Last year Sweden started with a 10-4 loss to Finland and went home empty-handed after having medalled nine years in a row.
This year it didn’t look good either. Tre Kronor was trailing 3-0 after nine minutes of play, but despite starting with three easy goals the Finns didn’t manage to trip the Swedes up. Sweden turned the game and won 5-3.
“We started really bad. I think they had three very simple goals,” said Swedish team captain Daniel Wessner, who scored the game-winning goal. “We kept working hard and eventually scored our goals. I think this year we have a good team. We’re aiming for the gold medal.”
The Finns upset the Swedes in the beginning and netted three goals within less than three minutes in the first period.
Kristian Kuusela opened the scoring at 6:44 after a side pass from Cami Miettinen.
With one player each in the penalty box, Jessi Saarinen made it 2-0 for Finland two minutes later. He found the gap in the top-right corner when he approached the Swedish goal from the right side.
Sami Markkanen extended the lead only 27 seconds later. While being interfered, he tried it with a low shot and succeeded. Again goalkeeper Jonas Sparring didn’t leave the best impression and new Swedish head coach Björn Östlund reacted by replacing him with backup goalie Sebastian Idoff.
Sweden reacted with more offensive action and with 17 seconds left in the first period Marcus Nilsson scored Tre Kronor’s first goal of the game on a power play.
At 2:58 of the second period Carl Berglund lowered the deficit to 3-2 by defeating Finnish netminder Juha Taponen with a point shot.
The Swedish storm continued after the halftime break and Kristian Luukkonen tied the game at 2:31 of the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth period Daniel Wessner brought Sweden the lead for the first time and defenceman Johan Lilja made it 5-3 with a long distance shot one minute later.
Canada vs. Slovenia 4-5 (1-2, 0-0, 2-1, 1-1, 0-1) OT
Sixth-seeded Slovenia had a strong beginning against Canada. Although the North Americans tied the game three times, the Slovenes prevailed as winners thanks to Rok Ticar’s goal 80 seconds into the extra time.
Matic Kralj scored a hat trick for Slovenia while Thomas Woods netted a pair of goals for Canada. Already last year Slovenia opened the tournament with a victory against Canada.
“It was a tough game with a one-goal margin for most of the time,” said Ticar, who plays ice hockey in Germany and was one of the key players on the Slovenian team that earned promotion to the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Sweden and Finland six weeks ago on home ice in Ljubljana.
“Luckily we scored in overtime and today it was me. It was very good for us to win the first game.”
Slovenia’s key to win was a strong beginning of the game. They started successfully with the first power play and the first goal by Kralj after only 55 seconds of play. After a quick attack Robert Sabolic converted a drop pass from Domen Vedlin for the 2-0 lead at 2:14.
Canada reacted two minutes later when Hammond capitalized on the first power play for his team. The Canadians tied up the score soon after halftime. At 2:27 of the third period it was again Hammond, who brought the puck past Slovenian netminder Gasper Kroselj with a high shot from the face-off circle.
The teams exchanged more goals in the third period when Kralj defected a point shot from Ales Remar for the 3-2 lead on the power play, but Canada equalized shortly before the buzzer when Adam Ross capitalized on his second rebound.
At 6:33 of the fourth period it was again Kralj, who regained the lead for Slovenia with a shot that went in via the goal post and Canadian goalkeeper Ewen MacPherson. But with 2:08 left in regulation time Thomas Woods tied it up at four with a shot from the face-off circle.
The Canadians took a time-out and teams alternated in creating scoring opportunities, but the 4-4 score remained until Ticar defeated MacPherson through his five-hole 80 seconds into overtime.
“It’s a bit different than on the ice. It’s fun for us to play here instead of being at the gym,” said Ticar, “but at the same time we want to represent our country well.”
New Zealand vs. Hungary 3-7 (1-2, 0-2, 0-0, 2-3)
Last year’s finalist Hungary started with a 7-3 victory over New Zealand, which returned to the event after having had to go through a qualification tournament.
Akos Kiss opened the scoring after 67 seconds, but Lewis Taiapa tied it up three minutes later. Adrian Huffner regained the lead for Hungary before the end of the first period before Kiss and Attila Rafaj opened up the gap for a 4-1 halftime score.
After an entertaining fourth period with five goals, including two from New Zealand’s Jensen Taiapa, the game ended with a 7-3 win for Hungary.
Australia vs. Croatia 4-5 (2-3, 1-0, 0-1, 1-1)
Croatia earned its first three points in a tight match-up against Australia. The Croats earned a 3-0 lead after nine minutes of play with goals from Mario Cunko, Niksa Trstenjak and Tomislav Cunko, but the Australians fought back, tied the game 3-3 and 4-4.
Despite outshooting Croatia 32-24, the team from Down Under never took the lead throughout the whole game.
With 2:36 left to play in regulation time it was Tomislav Cunko who scored Croatia’s fifth goal, and that one remained unanswered. It was his second goal of the game and also Trstenjak netted two.
Austria vs. Japan 14-2 (3-0, 4-0, 3-1, 4-1)
Japan had no chance against an Austrian team that eyes promotion to the Top Division. While the Asians hardly found ways to break through the Austrian zone, the “Eagles” succeeded with pressure and quick attacks. Daniel Oberkofler scored the lead while his team was playing shorthanded at 3:20. After goals from Axel Riegler and Harry Lange it was 3-0 after the first period and 7-0 at halftime.
Teams changed goalkeepers after the intermission, but the direction of the game stayed. Austria ended up winning it 14-2. Oberkofler scored a hat trick and notched six points as did Lange (2+4).
Bulgaria vs. Slovakia 0-21 (0-7, 0-3, 0-9, 0-2)
Slovakia, the team relegated from the Top Division, didn’t give Bulgaria a chance and steamrolled the newcomer 21-0.
The game was basically over after the first quarter, which Slovakia won 7-0. Filip Novak scored four goals and had two assists. Tomas Jasko (3+3) and Lukas Ruzicka (2+4) also collected six points apiece. Marek Horsky scored a hat trick as well.