Ukraine overpowers Serbia
by Andy Potts|27 APR 2022
Ukrainian players celebrate a goal during their Division IIB victory over Serbia in Tychy.
photo: Michal Chwieduk
Highly motivated and backed by vocal support in Tychy, Team Ukraine opened up its Division IB campaign with a convincing 7-0 victory. Captain Andri Mikhnov had four assists, Olexander Peresunko scored twice and 19-year-old goalie Dmytro Kubrytsky marked his senior World Championship debut with a shut-out win.

For newly-promoted Serbia, meanwhile, this was a second heavy loss in 24 hours. The Balkan nation now has a day to regroup before continuing against Poland on Friday.

Mikhnov, back on familiar ice after helping GKS Tychy to win the 2019 Polish championship, admitted that the emotion around the opening game threatened to become something of a distraction.

"We have quite a young team so it was important that we scored an early goal and calmed everyone down," he said. "After that, we settled into the game, played some good hockey and I think we deserved the win that we got."

When he first joined the national team camp in Hungary at the end of March, Mikhnov said that it was hard to leave Ukraine in the current situation. That is getting easier, but it remains difficult to put the war out of mind even in the thick of an international tournament.

"When we first went to Hungary it was hard to practice because we were all thinking about our families and the people we had left behind in Ukraine," he said. "Right now, we are trying to focus on our game but of course we call our parents and wives every day."
Ukraine vs Serbia - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B
Highly-motivated and backed by vocal support in Tychy, Ukraine opened up its Division IB campaign with a convincing 7-0 victory.
UKR SRB 27 APR 2022
The Zimowy Stadion in Tychy took on a yellow-and-blue hue for Wednesday’s action. A group of Ukrainian fans – many of them now based in Poland after crossing the border to escape the crisis at home – was augmented by locals sympathetic to their neighbour’s plight.

And it didn’t take long for the Ukrainian players to give their supporters something to cheer. On a power play after 50 seconds, Ukraine was in front on 1:24. The experienced Roman Blagy sent the puck into the corner for Mikhnov to chase, and the veteran forward set up Peresunko at the back door for the opener.

"I have to say 'thank you' to our fans," said head coach Vadym Shakhraichuk "It was a great atmosphere and I tomorrow it will be even louder. We'll have a bigger crowd and it should be a hockey festival. Poland and Ukraine are neighbours and rivals, I think both teams will want to put on a show for their fans. It means a lot that some of our fans are able to be here with us."

Serbia, beaten 8-0 by Japan in its first game, was under pressure again. After seven minutes, it was down 10-0 on the shot count but the first penalty of the game offered temporary respite. The Serbs managed a first shot at Kubrytsky and, once back to full strength there was a big chance for Dusan Jankovic on the rush. However, smart defending from Ivan Lytvynov denied the 23-year-old Crvena Zvezda forward. Rather than lunging in and risking a foul, Lytvynov positioned himself to usher Jankovic away from goal and stifled the shooting chance.

However, just as Serbia looked capable of generating some offence, a Ukrainian breakaway brought Peresunko a second goal. Defence was swiftly turned to attack with some neat inter-passing that recalled the style of the Ukrainian teams of the early 21st century when the country was a regular in the Elite Pool. The top line combined well and Mikhnov was again the provider for Peresunko.

The second period began with an early goal for Ukraine, with Mikhnov again involved. This time, he set up Denys Matusevych for a point shot that Vadym Masur redirected home from the slot. Number four came from a similar play, this time on the PP. Mikhnov’s feed to the blue line went to Pylyp Pangelov-Yuldashev, and the shot was tipped home by the bustling Masur in front of the net.

The top line was running riot, but Ukraine demonstrated there is depth to its scoring. The fifth goal came from Dmytro Nimenko, whose attempt to pick out Felix Morozov at the back door took a kind deflection off a Serbian stick and slid past the wrong-footed Arsenije Rankovic.

Goal number six rather summed up Serbia’s tournament to date. Pushing for a power play goal, everyone surged forward only to be caught out by a turnover and a stretch pass from Olexi Vorona sent Felix Morozov clear of the defence. He converted his de facto penalty shot with great confidence to claim a short-handed tally. Then another turnover ended with Vitali Lyalka’s one-timer ripping past Rankovic to make it 7-0 with nine minutes still to play.

That was the end of the scoring, and the day finished with an emotional rendition of the Ukrainian anthem after a winning start to the tournament. But for head coach Shakhraichuk, this is only the start.

"We didn't come here just to win one game against Serbia," he said. "Today was our first game, and maybe we found it hard psychologically. In the first period we were nervous, we made some mistakes, but we put that right and scored some well-worked goals. Best of all, we got the shut-out."

And for Mikhnov, victory can offer some comfort and happiness to his compatriots back home. "Our army is at war right now, our women and children are under the bombs," he said. "I hope that every game we can win here brings a little bit of happiness and pride to our people, gives them a bit of hope."
Ukraine vs Serbia - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B