It was expected to be a close game and it was that. In a huge opening-day game between two teams expected to be in the hunt from promotion, China fell behind by two goals, came back to take a two-goal lead, blew the lead but won 5-4 on an overtime goal by An Jian (Cory Kane).
“It was a rollercoaster,” said Jian. “We bounced back and that was good on us, even though we took a couple penalties late and they tied it, we were able to finish what we needed to do.”
Describing the winning goal, Jian said: “Yipper (captain Jinguang Ye, Brandon Yip) made a nice pass through the guy’s feet, I was able to push to the middle and I had a lot of ice. I saw low blocker side and I was able to put it away.”
Taile Wang (Tyler Wong) led China offensively with three points, while Olexi Vorona and Igor Merezhko each figured in on all four Ukrainian goals, which were all on the power play. Vorona scored three and Merezkho the other.
“It’s all smart players and everybody knows his role,” Vorona said about the Ukrainian PP, which went 4-for-4 in the game. “It’s all about teamwork and it’s fun to play with them. I hope it continues to work the rest of the tournament.”
Vorona scored both first-period goals. The first came 6:19 in when an ill-advised attempt to change PK units sent Vadym Mazur and Vorona in alone, leaving Yongli Ouban (Paris O’Brien) in a helpless situation. The second came in the last minute of the opening period, with Vorona tapping in Olexander Peresunko’s pass on a backdoor play.
China got on the board just 49 seconds into the second period. Off an attacking-zone faceoff, Kelin Zhou (Colin Joe) went wide and Shuai Fu (Spencer Foo) found him open with a cross-ice pass.
Then China got a five-minute power play when Nazar Rushnikov was penalized for checking Zhou from behind into the boards. The Ukrainians killed most of it off but Ye chipped in a loose puck over Zakharchenko’s glove.
With the score tied, Ukraine tried to turn the tide back and put on some pressure, but Ouban held the fort until his team went back on the attack and took the lead. First it was Wang re-directing in a pass from Sipulaoer Ruian (Ryan Sproul). And then with 1:15 left in the middle frame, Kailiaosi Jieke (Jake Chelios) intercepted a clearing attempt along the boards and fired a shot to the top corner to make it 4-2.
To open the third period, Ukraine made a goaltending change, lifting Zakharchenko in favour of Bogdan Dyachenko.
Merezhko brought Ukraine back to within a goal on his team’s third power-play goal of the game, one-timing a shot from the point with 13:27 to go.
Ukraine kept pressing and tied it with 4:11 to go, on yet another power play. Vorona completed his hat trick, tipping in Danil Trakht’s one-timer. The Ukrainians kept pressing and almost won in regulation time, but the game eventually went to overtime where the Chinese prevailed.
“It’s huge,” Ye said about getting the second point. “I’d say we’re fortunate to get the win tonight and we’ll learn a lot for tomorrow night’s game against Japan. It’s going to be a good one.”
“We’re not satisfied because we came to this tournament to listen to our anthem at the end and we need to win every game,” said Vorona. “It’s already history. We’re not thinking about this one point. We’re already thinking about tomorrow.”