International Ice Hockey Federation

Hungary battles back

Hungary battles back

Hosts beat Italy to get first win

Published 23.04.2018 23:37 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Hungary battles back
The Hungarian players and fans sing the national anthem after the team’s first win. Photo: Laszlo Mudra
Hungary is back in the battle for promotion after beating second-seeded Italy 3-2 on Monday at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Budapest.

Italy looked like the better team for two periods but Hungary always found its way back into the game and when Balazs Sebok scored the host’s first lead in the third period they defended it smartly.

“We didn’t have the best start and we didn’t score for four periods, which is hard for the confidence but after the first goal the momentum just changed a bit. We have to keep this momentum going and forget the game although we’re happy that we won, because there are more important games to come,” Sebok said after the win in front of 7,150 spectators who created a great atmosphere at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena.

“It’s amazing to play home and we want to give something back to the fans. Three more games and we want to do the most out of it.”

Italy had started the tournament with a win and Hungary with a loss. Both teams were determined to get three points to keep their chances for promotion to the elite nations alive but for most of the game it was the Italians who created more opportunities. It could in the end be a pathbreaking game as in their last encounter in Krakow in 2015 where Hungary beat Italy 4-1 and paved the way for promotion while Italy fell down to fifth place in the final ranking.

This time the Azzurri had a strong start with many shots on the Hungarian net in the first few minutes and were rewarded for the pressure after less than five minutes of play. A long shot from Simon Kostner was deflected as his teammate Tommaso Traversa and Hungary’s Kevin Wehrs battled for position in front of the net. Traversa was credited for the marker that remained as the lone goal of the opening frame.

“Italy was very strong in the first period, there was basically only one team in the first period, Adam Vay helped us to stay in the game,” Hungary’s national team coach Jarmo Tolvanen said. “In the second period it little by little started to go our way too. In the third period we played our smartest hockey after we scored our third goal. It was a character win after we had huge problems in the beginning.”

In the second period it was the Hungarians, who came out red hot and scored after 77 seconds. Andrew Sarauer converted Istvan Sofron’s pass to the slot to make it 1-1. But the Hungarians couldn’t create the momentum, yet.

Midway the second period Italy brought the puck into the net for a second time through Tommaso Goi shooting the puck over his opponents but the officials assessed an interference penalty to Armin Hofer and the game continued at one each.

However, the Hungarians initially made little out of the man advantage and Thomas Larkin scored a shorthanded goal to give Italy the lead. But the power play was not over yet and captain Janos Vas in central position converted a pass from Sebok to tie the game at two.

Sebok gave the game a new direction 66 seconds into the third period. His ten-metre shot from the right face-off circle went in through traffic and brought host Hungary for the first time in front. The Hungarians seemed to feel perfectly comfortable with this scenario and defended well. It was their best period and the one with the fewest shots.

“The atmosphere was incredible, to be the away team is also exciting but the support for Hungary was tremendous. We had to battle the atmosphere as well. I think that played a role when they scored the goals. I’m proud the way the guys played. They battled. But we came up against team that battled and defended very well when they got the lead,” Italy head coach Clayton Beddoes said.

Italy pulled the goaltender and took a timeout in the last minute but wasn’t able to score. Adam Vay, who saved 37 of 39 shots, was a wall the Azzurri didn’t overcome anymore. The night before the fans celebrated their team by singing the anthem despite the loss, as they often do. This time the passionate Hungarian fans were able to sing their anthem with their players as winners.

 

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