Romania beat the Netherlands 3-1 in their final game at Tondiraba Ice Hall to surge through the tournament undefeated and take a significant leap upstairs in the international world of hockey.
Power-play goals by Gergo Biro and Attila Goga put Romania two goals in front against the Netherlands. It was to be a lead they never relinquished. Outshooting the Netherlands 32-15, Balasz Peter lobbed Romania’s third in the empty net with 44 seconds to go.
“This is incredible for us. We came here to try and stay in the group and here we are, winning all five games,” said Romania’s Daniel Tranca, voted Best Player of the Game against the Netherlands and played an integral part in the turnaround in fortunes in a team that last year survived in Division IB during the last day.
Having opened their sensational gold winning campaign in Tallinn by beating Estonia on penalty shots (4-3), they then downed Japan (3-2) which was followed up by an overtime win against Poland (3-2). Romania rolled on to topple Ukraine (5-1) before brushing aside the Dutch (3-1).
“We took it game by game. We have a really good group and knew if we kept on playing really good defensively and be efficient we had a chance. The key game was against Poland. They were the big favourites and after beating them, we knew we had to do whatever it takes to win our final games,” said Gliga.
While Romania celebrate their shock gold, newcomers Netherlands will head straight back down and compete at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group A.
“I am disappointed that we were not able to stay in the division, but also on the other hand proud of the guys and how we played with a short bench. Everyone put everything out there, but it didn’t last,” said Dutch captain Joey Oosterweld as he is confident for a swift return to Division IB.
“We did it last year and we showed during big parts of the tournament what we can do, so we have full trust and confidence to try and get up next year.”
In their previous meeting at this level, the Netherlands had pulverised Romania 9-1 at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was a defeat which sent Romania down. Five years later, it was payback time.
46 seconds into the second frame and from behind Oosterwijk´s net, Anton Butochnov fed Goga, who from the hashmarks of the right faceoff circle one-timed it home on the power play.
The Netherlands clawed themselves back into the game with 2:34 left of the middle frame. Levi Nord and Jasper Nordemann won battles behind Romania´s net, before the latter rounded Romania´s cage before Nord converted his effort past Zoltan Toke.
With Poland´s team and fans watching on from the stands, Romania survived three straight minor penalties in a nervy final period as the Dutch went for bust.
Desperately needing goals and points onboard, Oosterwijk was pulled with 2:33 left. But 49 seconds later and with Dutch pressure mounting, Balazs Peter snapped up the puck and coolly lobbed in into the empty Dutch net.
Frantically searching for a way back into the game, Oosterwijk was pulled once again with 1:14 left, but Romania held out for a sensational ending and hopefully also a start for a new exciting chapter in their hockey history.
“I just hope that with this win, we somehow can convince our authorities that they have to invest in our hockey. We have big potential, but if we and the next generation don’t have the facilities, we are not going to be consistent and won’t be able to fulfil our full potential,” said Romania’s captain Gliga.