"We are trying to improve game by game with the aim that the third game should be our best. Romania plays in Division 1A and at home, so it is a hard opponent. But we want to take a step forward. In April we are hosting the World Championships in Reykjavik and we now also have the chance to progress at the Olympic Qualification so our ambition is to move forward," said Iceland head coach Vladimir Kolek.
Iceland blanked Israel 5-0 in their second game at the 2019 Men's Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 2 in Brasov, Romania.
Axel Orongan led the way with a brace as Iceland outshoot their opponents 64-9. Miloslav Racansky, Johann Leifsson and Olafur Bjornsson were also on target for Iceland in their water-proof win.
Johann Ragnarsson, who turned 16 in September, got his first start for the senior national team and recorded a shutout.
"Making your senior debut is a pretty big deal. I was pretty stressed before the game, but as soon as I stepped out on the ice it got better and the defense was very good today," said Ragnarsson
Israel finished in top spot ahead of Iceland at the 2019 IIHF World Championships in Divison IIB in Mexico City earlier this year. Joshua Greenberg is one of only six players remaining from that team playing Olympic Qualification in Romania. At 30 he is the older statesman of a national team with an average age of 21.
"I am here to teach the future of Israeli hockey. We try to test our U20 and U18 players and give them experience. We are super proud of their effort.They are the ones who will play for Israel and if there is anything I can do to help them from my years of playing, then it´s what I am here to do," said Greenberg.
Three minutes into the contest in Group K in Brasov, Iceland got in front. After Israel´s netminder Yehonatan Reisinger was unable to hold on to Sigurdur Thorsteinsson´s wrister, Racansky whacked the puck into Israel´s net.
Iceland´s settled roster, with 15 out of 20 players having represented Iceland at the previous World Championships last spring, turned up the heat in the second frame. They doubled their lead on a two-man advantage courtesy of a Leifsson´s wrister from the slot with traffic in front of Reisinger. Winning the shots 32-3 and parking in Israel´s defensive zone for long spells of the period, Iceland scored their third when Orongan slipped the puck through Reisinger from close range at 27:58.
The energetic Orongan netted his second after fine work by Bjornsson at 47:34, before a top shelf finish from Bjornsson from the right faceoff circle with 6:03 left meant 5-0.
With less than a minute left to play, Israel´s Maor Sherf hit the post, but Iceland stood firm and 16-year-old debutant Ragnarsson was able to celebrate his debut in style with a shutout.
With Iceland now going head to head with Romania on Sunday for a place at the 2019 Men's Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 3, there is room for improvements ahead of a tricky decider in Brasov´s Olympic Ice Hall.
"We took a big step in our defense play today against Israel, but other aspects need to improve such as sharpness in front of the goal, one-on-one battles and making the right decisions a bit quicker," said Iceland´s head coach Kolek.
Meanwhile, Israel will enter their final game against Kyrgyzstan on Sunday afternoon, aiming to get first points and goals onboard in Group K in Brasov.
"We never played them before and have nothing but respect for them, but I think we can compete with them. The first two games didn´t go our way, but we will give it our best effort, get prepared for it and go for the three points," said Greenberg.