Bartalis seals OT verdict for Hungary
by Andy Potts|16 MAY 2023
Hungary's players celebrate their opening goal in an overtime victory over France at the 2023 World Championship in Tampere, Finland.
Hungary blew the Group A standings wide open with victory over France. Tuesday’s success lifts the Magyars to two points, and up to sixth place in the table. That changes the equation for several teams battling for top division survival in Tampere.

The opening two games of the tournament yielded some promise for the Hungarians, but no points. Tonight, they put that right thanks to goals from Bence Stipsicz, Vilmos Gallo and an overtime winner from Istvan Bartalis.

Bartalis struck on 1:22 of the extras, snapping a 2-2 tie after Csanad Erdely was denied on the rush. The goal sealed Hungary’s first victory of this tournament – and only its second in the top division of the World Championship since the 1930s.

"We talked about it actually," said Bartalis of his winning goal. "With my linemates we said that if we get the puck out, let's fake it that we're going off and then turn right away. And that's what we did. We got kind of a 2-on-1 opportunity. He shot it short side. The rebound came to me and then I had a wide-open net."

For France, goalscorer Charles Bertrand was left frustrated: "I felt like during all 60 minutes, they played with a lot of anger and grit. It was difficult to match it and they won more battles than us, I feel. So it's a pretty disappointing result."

There were emotional scenes between the Hungarian players and their fans after the game. Before leaving the ice, the team gathered in front of its vocal supporters to sing the Transylvanian anthem together. "That's part of our lives too," said goalie Bence Balisz. "If you understand the words, it's a really beautiful song for us."

However, head coach Kevin Constantine sounded a note of caution. "I’m sure psychologically there’s a little bit of questioning that a win relieves you of and creates maybe a slightly stronger belief that you can," he said. "That is generally helpful.

"At the same time, I’m not sure two points is going to keep you in next year’s pool. From a pressure to perform point of view I don’t think much has changed."

There were few chances in the first period, although Karol Csanyi nearly surprised French goalie Sebastien Ylonen with a vicious wrister from the right-hand circle. The netminder had to react late to get his body behind one of the few shots he faced in the early stages.

At the other end, a power play saw France get in front on 16:28. Charles Bertrand broke the deadlock with a shot from the top of the circle. However, the lead was short-lived and Hungary went into the intermission tied at 1-1 after Stipsicz fired through traffic generated by Gallo and Janos Hari.

The second period saw Hungary threaten to get on top. Gergo Nagy saw his effort padded away and it took a smart intervention from Pierre Crinon to disrupt Csanad Erdely’s look at Ylonen. Then came 76 seconds of five-on-three play for the Magyars. However, Kevin Constantine’s team was unable to capitalize. There were too many wild efforts and not enough composure around the net as the Hungarian power play slipped to 0-for-7 in the tournament.

That failure looked even more costly when France regained the lead in the 30th minute. Tim Bozon got the puck to the net, Bertrand’s shot was blocked but Louis Boudon potted the rebound.

However, Les Bleus failed to build on that and a defensive bungle led to a tying goal. There should have been little danger when a Hungarian hand slapped the puck over halfway, but neither Nicolas Ritz nor Hugo Gallet dealt with the bounce and Gallo nipped in to shoot over Ylonen’s glove.

"Every time they scored a goal, we reacted," said Bartalis. "We answered right away. We were not waiting around to see what they were doing. We took matters into our own hands. We scored a couple goals right away: 2-2 game, overtime, and that's how we won."

Neither team could force a winner in a cautious third period. Indeed, the two goalies made just 11 saves between them as the game went to overtime. In particular, Hungary's continued failure to make an impression on the power play left the head coach frustrated.

"Our power play could have won the game for us in regulation but I didn’t even think we had even any good looks," Constantine said. "The power play should either score or help you gain momentum in the game, but I thought we kinda lost momentum there."

For the third time in three games, France went to overtime. However, after edging Austria in the opener, Les Bleus have suffered back-to-back OT losses to Denmark and now Hungary. Despite this, with four points France faces host nation Finland tomorrow with the teams level in the standings. Hungary continues against undefeated Sweden.
France vs Hungary - 2023 IIHF WM