Ukraine will be playing for promotion on the final day of the IIHF World Championship Division I Group B on Saturday. That much is known after the team’s convincing 14-2 victory over the Netherlands in the penultimate game for both teams.
Leading Ukraine’s offence with five points each were Danil Trakht (four goals and one assist) and Illia Korenchuk (three goals and two assists). Also, captain Igor Merezhko had four points and now leads the tournament with 12 points overall.“It was a pretty good game on offence but our PK still allowed two goals, which isn’t good because we want to play good defence too,” said Merezhko. “We know that special teams are a big part of these tournaments.”
Ukraine was 3-for-6 on the power play while the Netherlands was 2-for-3. Ukraine outshot the Netherlands 60-11.
“I think everybody’s happy that’s done,” Dutch captain Danny Stempher understated. “They showed in the first minute that they weren’t going to underestimate us like China and they kept working hard, they all wanted some points tonight.”
Having witnessed the Dutch team upset China yesterday, the Ukrainians left nothing to chance and took quick control of the game as Korenchuk opened the scoring at 1:18, putting in a rebound after Dmytro Ninenko’s initial shot was stopped. Korenchuk also scored Ukraine’s second goal with a shot along the ice that beat Martin Oosterwijk between the legs at 8:08.
“Everybody was focused and we wanted to really come out and play our best game so that we’re as ready as we can be for that last game on Saturday,” said Trakht.
Then just shy of the 12-minute mark, Trakht made it 3-0 and the Ukrainians were off to the races. The score was 4-1 after one period and 10-2 after two.
It took them just 19 seconds to capitalize on their first power play in the first period, with defender Jordy Verkiel finishing on the rush with a shot over the glove of Bogdan Dyachenko to make it 3-1. Late in the second period, with the Dutch now trailing 8-1, they were back on the power play. Gus van Nes took a pass down low from Stempher and made a nice move in close to finish off the play.
I’m happy the power play started working a bit. That’s a positive we can take from it,” said Stempher.
Already in control of the game, Ukraine added four more goals in the third period.
“There were a few bad bounces but 14-2 is not the result we wanted,” said Oosterwijk, who made 46 saves. “It’s very frustrating, you want to be the guy who keeps your team in it and they capitalized on the rebounds, on the shots. I don’t know how many shots they had but it was a lot."
Looking ahead to a do-or-die game against Serbia, the goalie said: “Of course, Saturday is very important for us if we want to stay in this division. Tomorrow is an off day, we have practice and we want to get our minds right for the next game.”
The win temporarily moves Ukraine into the group lead with 10 points, but Japan has a game in hand against host Estonia this evening. Japan can take back the lead with a win but, regardless of the outcome of that game, both Japan and Ukraine will enter the last game with a chance to finish first.
“It’s going to be them or us,” said Trakht. “I think it’s going to be all about our discipline and how well we stick to our game plan.”