Both teams came to Jesenice with reduced rosters as some of their key players were missing, which was seen as the main reason on both sides why they couldn’t keep up with the other teams.
It was a deserved win in which the Lithuanians in yellow outshot Croatia 33-22. The basement was laid in a strong first-period showing of the Lithuanians.
“At least one win, still something in the hand. It was easier for us than against Slovenia and Japan, we were able to play with the puck more than in the previous games and were the better team today,” said Lithuanian forward Arnoldas Bosas.
The Lithuanians had the chance to play on a man advantage for almost six minutes early in the game and capitalized on the third penalty when Bosas netted the puck on a rebound.
His linemate Ugnius Cizas had a nice show nine minutes later when with a nice deke skated between Marko Tadic and Fran Srketic. The latter tried to interfere from behind but Cizas scored the 2-0 goal while falling to the ice.
The Croats had more chances in a second period that gave them three power-play opportunities but they didn’t manage to bring the puck behind Laurynas Lubys.
Eventually Tadic managed to score at 12:27 of the third period and with a few minutes left in regulation time the Croats were looking for the equalizer, however, Paulius Rumsevicius scored the last goal of the game into the empty Croat net with three seconds remaining.
Both teams now hope that the situation will improve for spring when they play the World Championship tournament. Lithuania will play in the Division I Group B in Katowice, Poland, where they will meet Japan again. Croatia will play one tier below and host the Division II Group A in Zagreb.
“We didn’t have half of our team we usually have, so we had new guys who were on the national team for the first time. We will have some guys back and prepare for the World Championship,” said Bosas, who led the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in scoring.
Even long-time NHLer Dainius Zubrus, who was here “only” as President of Lithuania’s ice hockey body Hockey Lietuva?
“He always decides just before the championship,” he said with a smile. “He’s still thinking about it.”