Strong start for Spain
by Andy Potts|13 DEC 2019
photo: Carles Iturbe
Spain enjoyed a winning start to its Olympic Qualifying campaign with a straightforward victory over Chinese Taipei on home ice in Barcelona.

It was a dominant display from the host, which outshot Taipei 42-7 on the way to an 11-0 scoreline. The bulk of the damage came in a devastating burst midway through the third period, when the Spanish scored four times in three minutes. Alberto Martinez and Bruno Baldris led the scoring, each collecting a goal and two assists.

Spain's head coach Luciano Basile took as much satisfaction from the performance as from the convincing final scoreline.

"The thing I'm happiest about is not that we scored 11 goals, it's that we played the way we want to play," he said after the game. "The guys worked hard from the first minute to the last. That's our identity. We played fast, a bit aggressive with and without the puck."

For Chinese Taipei, making its first appearance in Olympic qualification this season, this weekend’s tournament represents some of the toughest opposition the country has ever faced. Since returning to IIHF competition in 2016, Taipei has remained in Division III and secured its first tournament win last month when it topped qualification group O in Sanya, China.

However, the newcomer, ranked 45th in the world, is determined to prove that it is not here solely to make up the numbers. Despite a rough time in the first period against Spain, there was some commendable resilience on offer. Even after the host got an ideal start when Bruno Baldris set up Luis Jose Hernandez for a third-minute opener, Ryan Conrad Lang’s team worked hard to frustrate the host nation.

The resistance was not broken until the 13th minute when Alejandro Carbonell made it 2-0 after putting a redirect on Adrian Ubieto’s shot. That’s a combination that also appears here for FC Barcelona in the Spanish championship; along with the Rubio brothers, Orio and Oscar, they make up the four-strong home-team contingent on the Spanish roster. Within 90 seconds Spain had a third when Hernandez battled down in the corner to recover the puck and popped it up on the doorstep for a goal credited to Patrick Fuentes.

With Spain controlling the game, goalie Ander Alcaine was rarely called into action. Late in the opening frame, though, he showed his qualities when obliged to deal with the first significant piece offence from Chinese Taipei. Wei-Lin Chen’s shot from the deep sparked a crowd scene in front of the Spanish net with Yi-Cheng Pan and Ho-Yun Chuang testing Alcaine’s reflexes as he kept his goal intact.

Early in the second period, Chinese Taipei fashioned another presentable opportunity when Hung-Ju Lin found himself in plenty of space alongside the net. Again though, Alcaine had the answer, although there was noisy frustration among the Spanish coaching staff as the team lost its concentration.

Duly warned, Spain responded with a rush of four goals in three minutes to set the seal on a big win. First, Baldris took the puck around the back and, when the shot deflected back to him, fired home from a tight angle. A minute later, Alejandro Burgos wired a wrister from the deep slot and, with the floodgates truly open, Alberto Martinez and Oscar Rubio added two more goals just seven seconds apart.

"All four of our lines scored," added Basile. "That just shows the type of team we're trying to be.

"It's good to see because Spanish players are not used to playing this way at club level. In the Spanish league, often they play two or three lines, big gaps between defence and offence, long passes. We are trying to make them play in a way that is a bit simpler, a bit faster.

"We don't just want to win this type of game, when there's an obvious difference between the two teams. We want to prepare for higher level opposition."

The outcome already determined, Spain was able to give some game time to 19-year-old goalie Raul Barbo. He’s currently playing for the Seaforth Generals and leads the goaltending charts in the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League. His most anxious moment in the second period came when Hung-Ju Lin had a shooting chance but put his effort wide of the target.

The third period saw team captain Oriol Boronat score an eighth goal for Spain, rifling home a one-timer off a Dorian Donath feed. That goal marked the end of the evening for Chinese Taipei goalie Yu-Cheng Liao, with Wei-Chih He coming in for the remaining 10 minutes. He was beaten three minutes into his shift when an Alfonso Garcia point shot caused confusion and Donath profited on the rebound. Oriol Rubio took it into double figures with a coast-to-coast effort and Imanol Lasuen wrapped up the scoring when he redirected a shot from Adrian Ubieto to make it 11-0.
Spain vs. Chinese Taipei - 2019 OQM Gr. L