Following a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands, the Estonians have now won their first two games of this Division I Group B tournament on home ice, but they haven’t made it easy on themselves. After outshooting Serbia 53-15 yesterday but needing a shootout to win, the shots this game were 56-12.
“We struggled with the goal-scoring again today but we just battled through,” said Estonian captain Robert Rooba. “I think it shows our spirit, our toughness, and we had the will to score those goals even though it was tough for us so I’m really happy for my team.”
“We allowed a lot of shots and our goalie played really well,” Dutch forward Kilian Gorp said about goaltender Martijn Oosterweijk. “He saved us a couple of times.”
The Netherlands actually opened the scoring less than five minutes in when Guus van Nes won a battle for the puck behind the net and scored on a wraparound. With the early lead, the Dutch team went into a defensive shell, and for the Estonians it seemed a repeat of yesterday’s game against Serbia where they dominated on the shots counter but lacked finish around the net.
Estonia outshot the Netherlands 19-4 in the first period, and on the 19th shot they finally scored. Andre Linde found Mark Viitanen going hard to the net. Oosterweijk stopped the first attempt but Vittanen scored on his own rebound with 34 seconds left in the first period.
It was more of the same in the second period with the shots 22-3 this time, but not a goal for either side. Rooba got a shorthanded breakaway and tried to go five-hole but was stopped by Oosterweijk – the Estonian captain’s frustration showed as he nearly hit the glass with his stick.
The situation reached an extreme late in the period when two Dutch penalties 39 seconds apart gave Estonia a lengthy 5-on-3. Coach Jussi Tupamaki called a timeout to go over strategy but, despite keeping possession in the zone, the Estonians generated very little in terms of dangerous scoring chances.
“We didn’t expect that it was gonna be easy,” said veteran defenceman Lauri Lahesalu. “It was hard for us, we didn’t score for a long time but we trusted the plan and it worked out today.”
Estonia finally took its first lead of the game at 44:10. Carrying the puck into the Dutch zone, Kristjan Kombe showed great patience to wait for the defenceman and goalie to commit, then fired a shot inside the far post.
Halfway through the third period, a lucy break gave Estonia a bit of breathing room. Oosterweijk tried to cover a loose puck but couldn’t, Rooba then attempted a wraparound to the far post but overextended his reach. However, trying to sweep the puck away from the goal line, Tiest van Soest accidentally pushed the puck with his glove into the net.
“Sometimes it goes like that in sports,” said Rooba, who scored his first goal of the tournament on his 21st shot. “Every shot doesn’t go in and even the best players struggle sometimes. I’m just happy I was able to help the team with the goal and we won, that’s the main thing.”
Now facing an uphill climb, the Dutch got one goal back with 6:03. On the power play, Danny Stempher centred out front to Gorp, who fired it home.
“We didn’t start very well,” Gorp said about the game. “It got a little better as the game went along but it just wasn’t enough. But we learned a lot from this game and hopefully we do better next game.”
That’s as close as they would get, however, as Viirtanen scored his second goal of the game with a breakaway on the empty net to restore the two goal lead and send the Tallinn fans home happy.