NEW PLYMOUTH, New Zealand – New Zealand will be back in the IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship after winning the second qualification tournament in front of its home crowd.
Ten weeks after Bulgaria had won the European qualification event, the tournament for applicants from other countries took place in New Zealand.
The tournament included New Zealand and South Africa – the two last-ranked teams of the 2011 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship – as well as Chinese Taipei.
The New Zealanders were able to cope well with the pressure. They netted four goals in the first period of the first game against Chinese Taipei and continued the performance until the very end to earn an 11-1 victory. Alexander Novak was the most successful goal scorer with a hat trick.
“We played well and we kept the fire in the game all the way,” said New Zealand goalkeeper Michael Hopkinson, who had more work than the score indicates having saved 31 shots.
Chinese Taipei bounced back on the second day in a head-to-head race with South Africa. The Africans must have been surprised about the pesky opponent after their first performance. As soon as South Africa had taken the lead, Chinese Taipei turned the score around and went on to 2-1 and 3-2 leads. Later the South Africans came back and the game went into the last quarter tied at four.
Shen Yen Lin scored the 5-4 goal after four minutes, but Michael Fraquet tied it up with two minutes left in regulation time. The South Africans had their big chance to claim victory with a power play in the end of the game, but it wasn’t to be. Shen Yen Lin had a breakaway with 22 seconds left to score his hat trick and the last goal in a 6-5 win for Chinese Taipei.
After the defeat South Africa had slim perspectives in its last game against New Zealand. Only by winning with a margin of at least six goals could they have won the tournament. After the first few minutes, however, it didn’t look that impossible. The South Africans played tactically strong and went on to a 2-0 lead after seven minutes, but eventually the New Zealanders were playing more confident after the nervous beginning. They scored five goals within an eleven-minute span and ended up winning 7-3.
Following the success New Zealand will travel to the 2012 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship in Ingolstadt, Germany, 1-7 June 2012.
The 16 participants will be split into two tiers:
Top Division: Czech Republic, USA, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Germany, Great Britain.
Division I: Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Australia, Croatia, Japan, Bulgaria, New Zealand.
The exact groups will be published on IIHF.com under Championships/InLine in the upcoming days.
More information on the qualification tournament in New Zealand:
HARALD SPRINGFELD (New Plymouth)
MARTIN MERK (Zurich)