The result didn’t change much in the standings as it became already clear yesterday evening that Hungary would finish in second place while Romania would remain in last place and be relegated.
Media representatives at the Tivoli Hall were therefore more interested in what the ice hockey associations of Hungary and Slovenia announced after the game. Hungary and Slovenia, both promoted to the top division as the top-two ranked teams here, announced a joint bid for the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship that was originally planned in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The bid was presented under the motto “extreme circumstances require extreme decisions”. Since the countries have a tough time to bid for the tournament years in advance as “elevator teams” that move up and down between the top level and the Division I, they want to seize the chance with the 2023 edition to be reassigned just one year in advance and both teams being qualified. The bid includes the original game days of 5-21 May 2023.
The two countries bid with the brand-new MVM Dome in Budapest as the venue for one preliminary-round group, two quarter-finals, both semi-finals and both medal games. The arena was opened last December and hosted the 2022 EHF European Men’s Handball Championship with a capacity of 19,182 spectators in an ice hockey configuration.
Slovenia’s venue would be Arena Stozice, which hosted the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A with up to 10,500 fans filling the venue at that time. It would host the other preliminary-round group and two quarter-final games.
Hungary has never hosted a top-level men’s World Ice Hockey Championship but Budapest staged the top-level U18 Women’s Worlds in 2014. Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana was host of the 1966 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. The event took place with three tournaments in former Yugoslavia with Ljubljana hosting the top division, Zagreb the B-Pool and Jesenice the C-Pool.
Indeed, on the stands the loud Hungarian fans who travelled to Ljubljana made some advertisement for themselves creating a loud atmosphere while on the ice their heroes did what the fans expected from them – beating Romania and ending the tournament with a 3-1 record.
“It is important for Hungarian hockey to be back in the top division and we’re looking forward to it. For the team not much will change. The team is mostly together, some were missing here due to injury. We have to work hard and want to compete with the top nations,” said Janos Hari for whom playing the Worlds in his hometown would also be a dream come true. “If we had it in Budapest that would be amazing. Already here in Ljubljana our fans created a home atmosphere. I hope our federation will make it happen.”
On the ice the Magyars had the better start into the game. After Bence Sziranyi’s trip to the crease ended at Romania goalie Zoltan Toke, captain Gergo Nagy’s shot opened the scoring at 8:26.
Four minutes later it was already 2-0 Hungary. After a successful puck battle at the boards behind the net by Rasmus Kulmala and Balasz Sebok the puck came back to Balint Magosi whose slapshot from the face-off dot went in.
Even though the game didn’t matter in the standings it was for pride between two national teams with many connections. The majority of Romania’s players come from the Harghita county mostly populated by the Hungarian-speaking Szekelys people. Also three players from the Hungarian team – Nandor Fejes, Tamas Sarpatki and Istvan Sofron – were born there and have played there.
However, it wouldn’t take long until Hungary regained the lead. After a long Magosi shot Kulmala capitalized on the rebound to regain the lead for Hungary.
While Hungary outshot Romania 14-5 in the first period it was 11-8 in shots on goal for Romania in the middle frame.
“It’s always special for us to play Hungary. We played better than in the last games so it was good for us to finish with our heads up,” said Romania forward Csanad Fodor.
The Hungarians controlled most of the third period and didn’t let Romania back in the game. Sofron scored on the power play with 3:01 left to seal the win.
“I’m proud of the team. They played together and played well,” said Hungary head coach Sean Simpson.
“The promotion was made a little bit easier without Austria and France being here but having said that all the opponents were tough, also Lithuania was tough to play for everybody here and Romania today too. Slovenia won the tournament, they were a fantastic team. It was a tough tournament and we reached our goal. Hopefully this can bring a lot for Hungarian hockey.”
For Hungary it will be the 11th participation at the top-level IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. The Hungarians regularly played among the top nations between 1930 and 1939 and then after a long break got promoted to play in 2009, 2016 and 2023. The Hungarian men’s national team also played at Olympic Winter Games three times.
Slovenia played at the top-level Worlds nine times between 2002 and 2017 and at two Olympic Winter Games. The Slovenes also played in the top division as part of Yugoslavia in 1939 and in five Olympic Winter Games.
Being back in 2023 will be big for ice hockey in both countries no matter what and with the co-hosting bid the two ice hockey associations are looking for a bonus.