KYIV – Ukraine vs. Poland will predictably be the deciding game at Olympic Pre-Qualification Group H. Both teams had two high-scoring wins and haven’t conceded a single goal in two games against the two underdogs, Estonia and Spain.
Estonia vs. Ukraine 0-10 (0-4, 0-4, 0-2)
Host Ukraine took the lead in Group H of the Olympic Pre-Qualification thanks to a 10-0 win over Estonia before facing Poland for the deciding game on Sunday evening.
Nine different players shared scoring duties with Ruslan Borysenko hitting the back of the net twice. Ukraine converted five of its seven power plays into goals, but was also dominating with out the man advantage.
The game was already beyond Estonia's reach before it had really begun. The Estonians tried to defend their zone aggressively in the beginning of the game but the Ukrainians turned out to be too strong, too fast and too skilled.
Andri Mikhnov opened the scoring after two minutes of play before the Estonians fell victim to undisciplined play. First Ruslan Fedotenko and later Borysenko netted the puck when Ukraine enjoyed man advantages.
Motivated by the “Shaibu” chants from the stands the Ukrainians didn’t sit back and after several attempts the puck again landed behind Anton Sizov, who got the start in the Estonian net, by Vitali Donika’s goal. The period ended with a four-goal lead for Ukraine and it could have been even higher.
The Ukrainian train was also on track in the second period. At 3:04 Sergi Varlamov converted his team’s third power play into a goal, as did Olexander Materukhin six minutes later.
The Estonians at least killed off their fifth minor penalty, but Borysenko scored his second goal of the night on a man advantage with 80 seconds left in the second period. And with 19 seconds left Yuri Navarenko made it 8-0.
In the last period the only question for the fans was whether their team will reach the two-digit mark. And it did. Olexi Ponikarovsky and Artem Bondaryev scored the last two goals of the game for the 10-0 blanking of Estonia before the fans had the chance to loudly sing “She ne vmerla Ukraina”, the host country’s national anthem.
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Poland – Spain 5-0 (1-0, 0-0, 4-0)
Fans in Kyiv might have expected another blowout score after the first two games when Poland took on Spain, but the underdogs fought hard. Eventually Poland got the three points it wanted. Four third-period goals led to a 5-0 win.
The Spaniards showed a pesky performance and regrouped after the 7-0 loss to Ukraine last night.
Ander Alcaine, who saved 62 of 67 shots against Ukraine, was back in the net and didn’t seem tired. Neither did his teammates for the first two periods.
Alcaine (see featured story on the goalie) saved 35 of 36 shots in the first 40 minutes of play and 56 of 61 shots in the whole game.
Poland struggled in the early minutes. A penalty against Spain could have been the perfect opportunity to score, but Pawel Dronia took another penalty for tripping 14 seconds later followed by a team penalty for too many players on the ice.
Maybe these minutes were symbolic for most of the game. Although the Poles showed more skill and had more scoring chances, too many shots endedstraight at the goalkeeper or the boards and too many passes didn’t reach their intended recipient.
Finally Grzegorz Pasiut succeeded at 15:49 of the first period to bring Poland on the scoreboard.
The 1-0 score remained throughout the middle stanza thanks to 20 more saves by Alcaine, but coming in for the third period the Poles increased the intensity.
At 3:44 Tomasz Malinski had the chance when the puck landed before his skates in front of the net. He turned around to shoot the puck into the top-right corner.
After the ensuing face-off the Poles remained in the Spanish zone and half a minute later Pasiut scored his second goal of the game.
Spain took a time-out, but while the Southern Europeans defended hard during most of the game, they seldom created dangerous scoring opportunities. Jakub Witecki made it 4-0 at 11:18 after coming from the penalty bench. Before scoring he saw for two minutes a Spanish team that tried to come back, but didn’t have a shot on goal during the power play.
With less than three minutes to play Malinski scored his second goal on a breakaway.
Ukraine will play Estonia in the evening game before the four teams will have a day off. The tournament resumes on Sunday with Ukraine vs. Poland as the final.
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