A 6-0 victory against hosts Iceland in Reykjavik seals progress into Round 3 with a perfect record.
Next up for Estonia will be a trip to Poland. Playing in Group J they will face hosts Poland, Korea and Ukraine in Sosnowiec between 8-11 February 2024.
ESTONIA 6, ICELAND 0A four-goal afternoon by Robert Arrak lifts top-seeded Estonia past hosts. It also marks a winning competitive start for new head coach Petri Skriko.
Barely had an expectant home crowd found their seats before Arrak clicked into gear. Sailing down along the left boards, he first slipped the puck between the legs of Iceland´s defenceman Bjarki Johannesson before firing Estonia ahead after just 51 seconds.
Arrak was one of ten players on the plane to Iceland who represented Estonia at the most recent World Championship. Two hopefuls targetting a place for this season´s roster combined for Estonia´s second goal. Iceland´s Andri Mikaelsson first spurned an opportunity to level from the slot, before Estonia went on attack. Jegor Romanov muscled himself past Johannesson towards Iceland´s net to feed Nikita Fedorovits who doubled Estonia´s lead after 2:47.
Estonia had earlier in their two Group K games beaten Bulgaria and South Africa with a combined scoreline of 30-2. Midway through the first frame in the decider against Iceland, they stretched their lead to three. Vadim Vasjonkin worked along the boards to pick out Arrak who dispatched his second of the evening.
Back in the 2004/05 season, Estonia´s Lauri Lahesalu skated at his first Olympic qualifiers for Estonia. Now aged 44, the Tallinn-born blueliner is still going strong. 58 seconds into the second period he made it 4-0 after venturing unguarded into Iceland´s defensive zone before unleashing a wrister past Johann Ragnarsson. Arrak then added a fifth to complete his hat-trick at 28:11.
Heading into the third frame, Iceland replaced netminder Ragnarsson with Jakob Johannesson. With Estonia in full control, they added further gloss to the scoreline. Arrak netted his fourth and Estonia´s sixth after his shot deflected into the net from a tight angle.
Stopping all 25 shots, Estonia´s netminder Villem-Henrik Koitmaa enjoyed a shutout upon his return to Reykjavik. Following a hiatus of 11 years, Koitmaa together with Lahesalu are the two remaining members of this current Estonian national team that celebrated gold at the 2012 World Championship Division IIA at the Laugardalur Arena.
SOUTH AFRICA 4, BULGARIA 1Joaquim Valadas tallied a double and an assist as South Africa stunned Bulgaria in the closing game of Group K.
38-year-old Valadas with 19 IIHF Men´s World Championship tournaments under his belt, thrived as South Africa´s debut at the Olympic qualification came to a close.
Following a goalless opening frame, South Africa stepped out in the second period to emphatically outshoot their higher-ranked opponents 20-5. Captain Uthman Samaai led by example when cutting around Andrea Karabadjakov´s net, weighed up his options, and sent a pass to Valadas who converted for South Africa´s opener at 31:26.
South Africa doubled their lead just 41 seconds into the third frame. Luke Carelse snatched up a puck following sloppy Bulgarian defending and fed Valadas who scored his second with a wrister from the top of the face-off circle.
Dion Phakathi then broke through the Bulgarian rearguard and 1-on-1 with netminder Andrea Karabadjakov the 24-year-old stretched South Africa´s lead to 3-0 at 47:07.
Carelse added a fourth with less than four minutes left of the frame. Ryan Boyd enjoyed another fine game in Reykjavik blocking 26 shots. His shutout bid was denied with just 11 seconds left to play when Daniel Dilkov scored Bulgaria´s lone marker.