Japan writes history v Slovenia

Hungary spoils Korean party, Austria beats Ukraine

20.04.2014
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Daisuke Obara, who scored the 1-1 goal, tries to defeat Slovenian goalkeeper Andrej Hocevar. Photo: Kim Soohan

GOYANG – Japan defeated Slovenia 2-1 in its first-ever World Championship win against the opponent Denis Akimoto scored the game winner in his first-ever World Championship game with the senior national team. Hungary took revenge for last year’s historic loss against Korea with a 7-4 victory in a hard-fought game against the host while Austria needed overtime to beat recently promoted Ukraine 3-2.

Korea vs. Hungary 4-7 (0-2, 1-3, 3-2)

One year ago Korea celebrated its first win over Hungary on the opponent’s ice. Now the Hungarians took revenge with a 7-4 victory in Goyang.

Like one year ago it was an entertaining game with many scoring chances and heavy work for both goalkeepers but this time with the better ending for Hungary. And with a hat trick from Istvan Bartalis.

“Everybody is happy after a win but we shouldn’t get so many penalties,” Bartalis said. “We let them come back into the game.”

It was an important game for both teams. One that may well determine in which direction the tournament will go for them as 150 loud Hungarian fans at the arena have hopes for promotion while Korea hopes to avoid relegation like last year while improving their fifth-place finish in 2013.

Midway through the first period the Koreans ran into penalty trouble. First Brock Radunske was sent to the penalty box for interference, 15 seconds later Kisung Kim shot the puck over the plexy and was assessed a penalty for delaying the game.

The Hungarians had several scoring opportunities including a shot on the crossbar and had yet to wait for their first goal. Once the 5-on-3 was over, Radunske was assessed another penalty for charging and this time the Hungarians capitalized. Bartalis scored on a rebound after a distance shot from Marton Vas at 14:18.

Then the Koreans had an opportunity to perform on a power play and Hungarian defenceman Bence Sziranyi almost deflected a shot from Don Ku Lee into his own net. But with 2:17 left it was Hungary who scored again. The Koreans lost the puck in their own zone to a hard battling Hungarian forward Balazs Sebok, who passed the puck to Andras Benk whose shot went into the net deflected by Zsolt Azari.

Hungary made the best of a nervous start with 11 shots on goal for each team in the first period.

“The penalties cost us some goals but All players skated hard and I’m satisfied with the players,” Korean coach Sun Wook Byun said.

“Everybody will fight hard. We started slow against Hungary but we will work hard and see the result. Every game will be very important for us. We have to prepare for a good game tomorrow.”

Korea hoped for a comeback in the second period but beat itself again with an unnecessary penalty. Canada-born Michael Swift surely had a different idea of his debut in an official IIHF championship game than being assessed a major penalty but that’s exactly what happened after his check against the head and neck area of Hungary’s Sebok during a battle for the puck at the boards. Midway through the penalty Azari scored with a precise shot from the left face-off circle while team staff took care of Sebok.

Despite the 3-0 deficit the Koreans didn’t give up and created one or the other scoring chance like Hyunmin Ahn’s shot from a short distance 12 minutes into the second period. But then Hungary extended the lead again. Istvan Sofron scored the 4-0 goal after skating through the Korean defence following a drop pass from Janos Hari.

However, it was too early to think the game was already decided. With 4:44 left and 11 seconds into a power play, the Koreans eventually scored the long-awaited first goal. Brock Radunske found the hole when shooting just in front of Hungarian netminder Zoltan Hetenyi but two minutes later Csaba Kovacs made it 5-1 after a pass from the end boards from Janos Hari. And in the third period it took only 46 seconds until Bartalis netted his second goal to make it a 6-1 game with his shot into the top-right corner. Still, the game was far from done as the Koreans didn’t want to disappoint their home crowd.

At 2:52 the Koreans had reason to cheer when Radunske scored his second goal of the night on a rebound after a Kisung Kim shot. Korea took out goalkeeper Sungje Park and brought in Hoseung Son and five minutes later Sanghoon Shin had a breakaway and put the puck between Hetenyi’s five-hole after fine stickhandling, forcing Hungary coach Rich Chernomaz to use his time-out. Too present was last year’s game when Hungary blew a 4-1 lead against Korea to lose 5-4. It was the first loss in 11 head-to-head games and Chermonaz wanted to make sure history wouldn’t repeat.

“I was very satisfied with our performance in the first two periods. We put a lot of pressure in Korea’s end. They took some penalties that were costly and gave us a 6-1 lead,” Chernomaz said.

“We knew they’re not going to quit and they showed a lot of character. We stopped doing things that made us successful in the first period and had unnecessary penalties. We have to play more determined and with more strength than what we showed in the third period tonight. The third period cost as way more energy than I expected.”

Don Ku Lee’s power play goal from the blueline made it 6-4 with four minutes left in regulation time. That gave Korea’s players and fans energy and hope.

With 1:44 left and a penalty call against Tamas Pozsgai, Korea coach Byun also took his time-out and pulled goalkeeper Son. But 41 seconds later Bartalis completed his hat trick with a shot into the empty net. History didn’t repeat and Hungary did an important step towards the battle for promotion while Korea needs to earn much needed points in the upcoming games.

“We have to play well in each game and then anything can happen,” Bartalis said.

Japan vs. Slovenia 2-1 (0-0, 0-1, 2-0)

Japan defeated Slovenia 2-1 to earn its first victory ever in a World Championship game against this opponent. Slovenia had previously held a 5W-1T record against the Asians. Austria beat Ukraine 3-2 in overtime in the early game.

The game-winning goal was scored Denis Akimoto. The son of a Japanese father and a Russian mother grew up a ferry-ride away in Russian Far East city Khabarovsk before his family moved to Japan where the 22-year-old defenceman has been playing for seven years – since this season for Asia League champion Nippon Paper Cranes after graduating at Toyo University.

“I’m so excited!” Akimoto said about scoring the game-winning goal in his first IIHF game with the senior national team. “It’s my first goal for the national team. We played a good game.”

It was a north-south game for the start in which any team could have opened the scoring. The best chances came on breakaways like Daisuke Obara’s after seven-and-a-half minutes of play or a two-on-one with Slovenia’s Tomaz Razingar and Bostjan Golicic with two minutes left in the opening frame.

The result after one period: a 7-5 shot advantage for Japan and a goalless score.

Slovenia came out stronger in the second period in which the top-seeded team started to play like a favourite but didn’t seem to be rewarded until late in the period after a power play. Jan Mursak circled around the cage and fed Ziga Pavlin with a drop pass that led to the 1-0 goal.

But the Japanese are known for never giving up and they created more offensive action for the start of the third period. At 4:47 Seiji Takahashi tried it with a wraparound. Andrej Hocevar made a block save but Daisuke Obara capitalized on the rebound.

“Our game is to play solid on our own end and catch them on counter-attacks,” said captain Aaron Keller. “Everybody is pretty happy.”

For Slovenia it came even worse. Although the Japanese weren’t efficient in their power plays before they made use of an important one when Akimoto hammered the puck into the net at 13:13 with a distance shot that shocked Slovenia.

The favourite recovered but was without luck in the offensive zone. Also a time-out and replacing the goalkeeper for a sixth player didn’t help prevent the first-ever loss against Japan.

“We played simply not well enough. We did too many mistakes,” Slovenian defenceman Miha Stebih said. “It is what it is now. We need to analyze this game and see what we did wrong. We are good enough to earn promotion.”

The last time Japan won against Slovenian players was during the era before Slovenia’s independence when the Japanese defeated Yugoslavia 6-1 at the 1978 World Championship B-Pool in Belgrade.

Ukraine vs. Austria 2-3 (2-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1) OT

Austria started into the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A with a 3-2 overtime win against Ukraine.

It wasn’t a beauty of an overtime goal that decided the game but the puck went in. An Austrian shot bounced back from the end boards and Brian Lebler tried to put it in between goalie Sergi Gaiduchenko and the goal post with lot of traffic to prevent that. The refs were first not sure whether it was a goal or not because it was hard to see whether the puck crossed the line and whether it did before or after the goal was dislocated. Tenths of seconds decided and after getting the pictures from the overhead camera the officials were sure, Austria celebrated and Ukraine’s chance for an early upset in this tournament was missed.

“I was 95 per cent sure it went in,” Lebler said. “It was pretty dramatic. We were fortunate enough to get a power play and that the puck went in.”

Everybody who expected Austria against Ukraine to be a lopsided affaire because of the seeding, because of the fact that Austria made it to the Olympics and every two years to the Worlds’ top division, or because Austria has been ranked better than Ukraine every year since 2007 – when both were relegated at the Worlds in Moscow – found themselves watch a pleasantly tight game.

Second-seeded Austria had the expected better start into the game and had more puck possession. Dominique Heinrich capitalized on the first power-play opportunity to open the scoring with his shot from the blueline at 9:48.

However, the Ukrainians didn’t need much time to react thanks to a giveaway behind the Austrian net co-produced by goalkeeper Bernhard Starkbaum and defenceman Mario Altmann. The Ukrainians capitalized on the misunderstanding and Andri Mikhnov passed from the end boards to Roman Blagy, who found the net 16 seconds after the Austrian goal.

The first period remained an open contest and Matthias Iberer had a chance to tie just 40 seconds later in front of Gaiduchenko, who made the save in a critical moment. However, two minutes later the Austrians had another man advantage and again Heinrich on the ice. And he scored again, this time from the outer face-off circle, after a horizontal pass from Lebler at 12:29.

Heinrich isn’t too cocky about being the scoring leader of the tournament after one game. “I had a good game but it was my teammates who helped and did a great job,” he said.

“We had a good start into the game. We wanted to avoid a bad start into the tournament but Ukraine came back into the game. We have to take care that we don’t take too many penalties at this level.”

Maxym Kvitchenko and Oleg Tymchenko were among the players who put pressure on the Austrian net with their chances and power plays in the second period when the Ukrainians played their best game. Eventually, at 12:48 of the middle frame, the efforts were rewarded when Olexander Materukhin hit the back of the net with a shot from near the face-off dot into the top-right circle during a power play.

The game remained open and entertaining and after a scoreless third period overtime was needed. Austria had the upper hand enjoying a power-play during the extra frame because the Ukrainians had too men on the ice and was pushing for the game winner. One time they pushed so hard at a Lebler shot from a short distance after bouncing back from the end boards that the officials that the goal was dislocated but the video review revealed that the puck was in and that the Austrians started with a win.

MARTIN MERK

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