BELGRADE – Estonia won the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B and will move up to Group A next year after defeating Korea 8-3 in the deciding game.
Both teams went into the last game on Friday with a 4-0 record, and it was the Estonians who held on to first place after rolling through their previous opponents – Australia (8-0), Serbia (9-0), Iceland (12-1) and Belgium (25-2).
The Estonians tried to decide the last game of the two top-seeded teams as fast as possible. Although shots on goal in the first period – 11-10 in Korea’s favour – suggested a close game, the Estonians already took a clear lead after 16 minutes of play with two goals at equal strength followed by a power-play goal and a shorthanded marker for the 4-0 lead.
The Korean comeback attempt in the following 40 minutes was held back because of too many penalties. The Asians came within two goals but eventually lost 8-3.
After failing to earn promotion the year before, Estonia had a convincing performance throughout the whole tournament with players who were mostly born in 1993 and 1994.
Thanks to the win the Estonians will be ranked 29th in the U20 World Championship program – the best placing of an Estonian junior team in the last four years. For the Koreans, however, 30th place comes as a blow considering their Olympic ambitions for PyeongChang 2018. It’s the worst placement in the U20 program since 2007.
Estonian forward Robert Rooba was the tournament’s scoring leader with seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points including a five-point performance in the final game against Korea. The 19-year-old Tallinn native moved from Estonia to the Finnish city of Espoo four years ago where he plays for the U20 team and even had one game with the Espoo Blues’ senior team in the SM-liiga.
Other high-scoring players include forwards Artjom Gornastajev and Stanislav Gruznov with 17 and 14 points respectively. Gornastajev will also likely end up as the tournament’s top goal scorer with ten markers when the tournament ends tonight with two other games.
19-year-old defenceman Mark Taru, who also plays for the Espoo Blues, was the event’s top scoring defenceman with eight goals and five assists.
The best non-Estonian scorers were Korea’s Sanghoon Shin (9+5=14) and Sang Won Yoon (5+7=12), who both play for Yonsei University.
The tournament will end with two more games on Friday evening. Winless Belgium will be in desperate need of three points against Australia to keep hopes alive to stay in Division II while Australia needs at least one point from the game to eliminate the danger of relegation.
In the evening game Iceland will play for a bronze medal against host Serbia while for Serbia anything between third and fifth place is possible depending on the score of the two games. The Serbs played their games at the Ice Rink Pionir in front of up to 1,500 fans in the stands.
Click here for scores, stats and photos from Belgrade.