INGOLSTADT, Germany – The Inline Hockey World Championship opened with bang as six of the nine opening games were settled by two goals or less. In the top division, Germany has two wins in two games and USA, Slovenia and Sweden all survived close calls, while in Division I, Austria was the only team to earn a lopsided win. Brazil came from behind and Australia hung on in a shootout.
United States – Czech Republic 6-5 (2-3, 1-0, 1-0, 1-2, 0-0, 1-0)
The U.S. and Czech Republic went the distance to settle the winner on opening day action as the Americans earned a 6-5 shootout win and took two points.
Gerald Osterkamp put in the official game-winner on the last shot of the five-man shootout, but it was Patrick Lee’s shootout goal that got the 900 fans on their feet as he held the puck until the last minute and went top shelf on Czech goaltender Ondrej Jurkuv.
The back-and-forth shootout was much like the game, with both teams evenly matched. The first quarter alone saw a combined five goals scored as the Czechs took a 3-2 lead on the strength of two goals from Ludek Broz. Brian Yingling netted the only goal of the next 12 minutes, making it a 3-3 deadlock at the half.
USA took a 4-3 lead in the third quarter when Walter Sweatt put in his second goal. But the Czechs bounced back with a pair of markers coming 1:28 apart to reclaim the lead. It looked like the Czechs would take three points until Charles Yoder scored with just under three minutes left, tying the game at five and sending the game into overtime and the eventual shootout.
The U.S. will take on geographic rival Canada tomorrow, while the Czechs face Slovenia.
Slovenia – Slovakia 8-7 (2-0, 2-1, 1-2, 2-4, 1-0)
Another opening day game at the Inline Hockey World Championship went down to the wire was Slovenia edged Slovakia, 8-7 in overtime.
Inline hockey is a game played in halves and today’s match was definitely split evenly down the middle. The first half belonged to Slovenia, which took a commanding 4-1 lead in the first 24 minutes. Matic Kralj scored just 48 seconds into action and Nejc Slotar doubled the lead midway through the first quarter.
The Slovenians built their lead to 4-0 before Slovakia netted its only goal of the half at the 19:25 mark to make it a more respectable 4-1.
The Slovaks came out fighting in the second half, opening with a shorthanded goal 1:06 into action. The teams exchanged power-play goals late in the third quarter as Slovenia saw its lead trimmed to 5-3 heading into the fourth.
Slovakia continued to improve and they dominated the fourth quarter, putting in four goals and out-shooting Slovenia 11-5. Peter Staron put in his first of two goals to open the scoring and 15 seconds later Tibor Varga put in the game-tying tally. Slovenia reclaimed the lead on a power-play goal, but 13 seconds later, Slovakia again tied it up when Marek Horsky scored.
Staron gave Slovakia its first lead with 35 seconds left in regulation, but as the Slovaks celebrated the go-ahead, and potential game-winning goal, Soltar put in the 7-7 goal for Slovenia 12 seconds later.
In the overtime, Eric Pance put an end to Slovakia’s bid for the ultimate comeback when he scored the game-winner for Slovenia, giving his team two points for the effort.
Canada – Sweden 4-6 (2-0, 2-3, 0-1, 0-2)
Defending champion Sweden had its hands full against newly promoted Canada, but in the end the Swedes were able to overcome the North American newcomers with a 6-4 win.
Canada gave Sweden a tough wake-up call, jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first 15 minutes. Canada’s scoring efficiency was impressive as they took the lead despite being out-shot about two to one in the first half. Four different Canadian players scored the quartet of even-strength goals.
Sweden spent much of the second quarter in the Canadian zone and they were finally successful after coming to life with a power-play goal. Henrik Hoglund opened the floodgates midway through the period with the extra-man goal. Within a minute, Sweden cut the lead to 4-3 after Dick Axelsson and Mattias Luukkonen scored follow-up goals.
Canada came out flat in the second half, getting out-shot 19-1 in the first 12 minutes. Sweden took advantage of the momentum shift and put in the 4-4 goal midway through the quarter. Canada was a little stronger in the last quarter, bur ultimately Sweden had more energy and earned the win when Hoglund and Axelsson put in the only goals of the quarter, pulling Sweden through to the 6-4 win.
Sweden will take on the Czech Republic tomorrow, while Canada has another tough test against neighbor USA.
Germany – Finland 7-1 (1-1, 2-0, 1-0, 2-0)
Host Germany won its second game at this year’s Inline hockey World Championship with a 7-1 win against traditional powerhouse Finland.
Cheered on by more than 2,500 fans for the second consecutive evening, the Germans had a little more energy than the typically high-flying Finns. Patrcik Reimer got the fans on their feet 3:17 into action with the opening goal, but Sami Markkanen silenced the Germans two minutes later. Reimer struck again with a picture perfect goal with 1:18 left in the period and Alexander Duck gave the Germans even more momentum at the end of the half with another goal six seconds before the buzzer.
Thomas Greilinger carried the German energy into the second half, scoring just 1:36 into action, giving Germany a solid 4-1 lead. Finland settled down after the 4-1 tally and held Germany scoreless for the next 13 minutes, but the Finns couldn’t chip into the lead as they generated few scoring chances. Germany pulled out of its scoreless streak at the 38:12 mark when Greilinger scored his second goal. Just over two minutes later Reimer completed his hat trick and gave Germany a 6-1 lead.
Germany put one last goal to close the scoring against a stunned Finnish squad. The German fans gave their team a standing ovation for last two minutes of play.
Finland must now regroup and figure out how rebound after today’s sluggish start. They take on Slovakia tomorrow. Last season, Finland finished in an all-time low sixth place at the Inline worlds after earning eight consecutive medals. Germany has the day off tomorrow.
Australia – Japan 5-4 (1-1, 1-2, 1-1, 0-1, 0-0, 1-0)
Australia and Japan opened the Division I tournament with a hard-fought, drawn-out duel with Australia, earning a 5-4 shootout win.
Australia’s Jordan Gavin was the hero of the game, netting both the 4-4 goal late in the fourth quarter and the game-winner in the shootout.
After the first quarter, the teams were tied at one, but Japan had a good start to the second quarter and took a 3-1 lead. It would prove to be the largest advantage for either team as Australia’s Olivier Rozdarz pulled his team to within one to close the first half scoring.
The second half opened with an Australian power-play goal, tying the game at three, but less than two minutes later Japan’s Aguri Suzuki answered with another extra-man goal. Japan held the lead for the next ten minutes and held the Aussies virtually shot-less during that time. But Gavin scored on a rare chance in the waning minutes of the game, sparking his team to life.
Both Japan and Australia finished out of the medal race last year. For Australia today’s two points are a step in the right direction to improve its 2008 fourth-place finish. Australia faces Chinese Taipei tomorrow, while Japan takes on Austria.
Brazil – Hungary 6-4 (2-0, 1-1, 0-3, 3-0)
It was a rollercoaster ride for Brazil in its opening game at the Inline World Championship, but thanks to three goals in a 2:00 span late in the fourth quarter, Brazil rolled away with three points in a 6-4 win against Hungary.
The Brazilians never knew whether to celebrate or despair during the 48-minute match. After taking a solid 3-1 lead in the first half, they saw their lead evaporate in the third quarter when Hungary poured in three consecutive goals to take a 4-3 lead. Amazingly, in all the action seven different players scored and only one goal came on the power play.
Brazil was showing few signs of life in the fourth quarter, but then Jose Guilardi fired in a slap shot with 2:26 left in regulation to tie the game at four. On the next shift Henrique Degani scored on virtually the exact same shot as the Brazilian bench erupted. Hungary was whistled for a penalty about a minute later and Bruno Gomes became the only player to net two goals when he put in the insurance marker with 24 seconds remaining.
Brazil, which won bronze last year, will take on South Africa tomorrow, while Hungary will look to get back on track against Great Britain.
Chinese Taipei – Austria 5-19 (1-5, 1-6, 2-5, 1-3)
Austria gave a special welcome to Chinese Taipei, which is at the Inline Hockey World Championship for the first time since 2005, thumping the rookies, 19-5.
Austria is a traditional top division team, but was relegated last season after Canada won the Division I gold and, under a new rule, earned the promotion. Today, the gap between the two divisions was glaring as Austria, even at half-speed, was simply too much for the brave Chinese Taipei squad.
The point tally for the individual Austrians was impressive as Mario Altmann paced all players with five goals and two assists. Nipping at his heels were Stefan Ulmer, Youssef Riener points and Christian Dolezal and Mark Brunnegger with five points each.
Austria’s 5-1 lead in the first quarter set the tone, while its 11-2 lead by the half made the outcome of the game obvious. Credit should go to Taipei, which, trailing by nine goals, played its best quarter of hockey, putting in a pair of goals in the third. The last quarter was an anti-climatic 3-1 total.
Austria will have a tougher test tomorrow against Japan, while Taipei will take today’s learning experience into tomorrow’s game against Australia.
South Africa – Great Britain 1-5 (0-3, 0-0, 1-1, 0-1)
Top-seeded Great Britain had a strong start at this year’s Inline Hockey World Championship with a solid 5-1 win against South Africa.
Great Britain scored three goals in the first ten minutes and it proved to be enough for the win as neither team really showed much offensive power after the trio of goals. South Africa especially lacked fire power, getting off only four shots in the first half.
South Africa had a good start in the second half, scoring 1:49 into action, but it was only spark from the team. Great Britain restored the three-goal pad just over five minutes later and then added one last insurance goal to bring the final to 5-1.
With the win, Great Britain is off to a good start in its bid to win its first gold medal since 2006. Meanwhile, South Africa has the modest goal to avoid relegation. The two previous times South Africa was at the Inline Worlds in 2003 and 2007 they finished in last place.
OPENING DAY GAME:
Germany - Slovenia 7-5 (3-1, 0-1, 3-2, 1-1)
In front of 2,500 home fans, Germany opened the 2009 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship with a 7-5 win against Slovenia.
Vitalij Aab was the key to the German victory, scoring two crucial third-quarter goals in the win. Aab’s tallies came at just the right moments when Slovenia was showing signs of mounting a comeback.
Germany jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter, but by halftime, Slovenia had cut the lead to 3-2. Aab opened the second half scoring to give the German’s some breathing room with a 4-2 lead, but again Slovenia rebounded. Ultimately, Aab’s 6-4 goal at the end of the third quarter was enough to hold off the persistent Slovenes.
The game was played on the eve of the start of the rest of the championship. All remaining 14 teams in both the top division and division I take to the ice on Sunday.
By IIHF.com staff