WM18 1B: France and Slovenia get off the mark
by Henrik MANNINEN|16 APR 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Catherine Kõrtsmik
Lithuania edged Italy in overtime to remain the only undefeated team at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B in Tallinn, Estonia. France and Slovenia both recorded their first victories while Estonia remains winless.

The tournament will resume on Wednesday with Slovenia facing neighbours Italy, Lithuania squaring off against Korea, and hosts Estonia taking on France.

Italy 1 - Lithuania 2 OT

photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Catherine Kõrtsmik
Roaring back from being a goal behind, Lithuania defeated last year´s bronze medalists Italy in overtime. Pijus Pranskevicius needed just eleven seconds to fly past Italy´s blueliner Josef Prast and dispatch Lithuania´s game-winning goal.
Having most recently competed at these heights in 2015, Lithuania´s next generation appears very conformable at this level. Following last year´s promotion from Division 2A, Mario Durocher´s coached Lithuanian youngsters are undefeated after two rounds in Tallinn.

A goal-shy and evenly matched contest between two teams earning victories on day one, Italy´s Marco Niccolai muscled himself past a couple of Lithuanians along the right boards to pick out Stefano Piechenstein in the slot to open the scoring at 12:05.

In a penalty laden game including two game misconduct calls for each team, Lithuania clawed themselves back in the game with 7:23 left of the third stanza. Playing 4-on-4, Danielius Cecekovas levelled the game with his third goal of the tournament netting on a rebound from Kajus Zeynalov´s drive from the point to take the game to overtime.

France 3 - Korea 1

photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Catherine Kõrtsmik
Second-period goals by Maurice Zwikel and Felix Gaultier lift pre-tournament gold medal hopefuls France to victory on day two.

Emphatically outshooting Korea 44-16, France got ahead when Ylhan Leprieult buried his effort from the slot at 6:48 past Taeyi Koh in his first World Championship start in the Korean net.

Korea´s lethal powerplay had proved decisive in their opener versus Slovenia. On their second attempt against France working on a one-man advantage, Korea levelled the score. Louison Gabard sat out a tripping minor as Junsu Kwak displayed silky stickhandling skills before unleashing a wrister the left face off circle high past Guillaume Schoch to tie the game at 11:37.

But a keyed-up France team stepped out in the second frame to outshoot the Koreans 17-3 and saw their endeavour rewarded with two unanswered goals. 2-1 arrived after blueliner Zwinkel had initially carried the puck into Korea´s zone before finishing off a neat move beating Mingi Jang to the rebound of Noa Besson´s shot.

Gaultier then gave France a two-goal cushion blasting home a one-timer on a feed from Matteo Bertrand with just 52 seconds left of the middle frame. With Korea venturing forward with more purpose France held sway in a goalless final frame to return to winning ways.

Slovenia 6 - Estonia 2

photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Catherine Kõrtsmik
Nik Christian Petrovic leads the way for Slovenia scoring a brace and notching a couple of assists. Aljaz Hrobat Plemelj tallied a goal and three helpers as four unanswered goals sparked Slovenia to an opening win of the tournament.

Hosts Estonia remains without a point at the bottom of the standings after two games. Against the Slovenians, they were rewarded for their spirited start. Slovenia´s netminder Bor Glavic had made a fine double-save before Akim Frolkov dispatched the puck for Estonia to go in front on the powerplay at 7:34.

The joy turned out to be shortlived with Slovenia going level just 46 seconds later when Gal Sodja Zalokar tipped a Bruno Kuret shot past Hans Kristjan Tisler in Estonia´s net.

Slovenia then kicked into gear as the game wore on. Midway through the second frame, Petrovic chased down Nikita Antonov behind Estonia´s net to win back the puck paving the way for Maj Tursic Seckar´s scoring through traffic for 2-1. The same Petrovic was once again involved notching an assist as Hrobat Plemelj stretched the lead to 3-1 at 36:04. 

Early in the third frame, Petrovic opens his goalscoring account when finishing off a solo effort from the slot for 4-1. Estonia´s Maksim Burkov nets a consolation goal after fine work by David Timofejev behind Slovenia´s net at 43:05. Jan Golicic then adds a fifth for Slovenia before Petrovic rounded off the scoring with his second of the evening 1:16 before the end.