International Ice Hockey Federation

Helfer’s helping hand

Helfer’s helping hand

Italy edges Poland to start with win

Published 22.04.2018 22:58 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Helfer’s helping hand
Italy's Hofer Armin and Armin Helfer battle for the puck against Poland's Krystian Dziubinski. Photo: Laszlo Mudra
Italy, one of two teams that came down from the top division, started the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A with a 3-1 win over Poland.

After an unlucky start the Italians came back with two unanswered goals in the middle frame en route to the win.

“I’m happy to score but in the end the score is important. Scoring five and losing 6-5 wouldn’t be pretty. But it was a deserved win for us,” said Armin Helfer, who scored the game-winning goal for Italy. “We had a solid goaltender, who deservedly was honoured as best player. We started well in the first period but then we woke up and created more chances and more pressure on the net.”

It’s not the first time the defenceman scored a game-winner from the blueline here at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena. “I remember it. It was in overtime but it was many years ago,” Helfer said. “But it’s nice memories every time we come back here.” In 2011 Helfer scored the game-winner to beat host Hungary 3-2 for a place back in the top division. And that’s where Italy would love to go back again at this tournament.

“We have a young team here so it was important to start well and now we have to see game by game. We started well into the tournament and tomorrow it continues,” Helfer said.

The goalie, that was Marco de Filippo Roia. While better known Andreas Bernhard was backup and gave interviews to Finnish journalists in Finland after the game – he plays in Finland’s top league for Assat Pori – de Filippo Roia had his IIHF debut with the men’s team with a 95.2 save percentage. Italy had 32 shots on goal, Poland 21. After years of NCAA hockey with the Brown University and a minor-league season he’s back in Italy with Cortina since 2016.

“Goaltending was the number-one reason [for the win]. Poland really pushed and had a lot of chances on our goalie,” said Italy head coach Clayton Beddoes. “Our guys battled through some adversity. We were down 1-0. But they battled through. It came down who was going to score the next goal at the end of the day. Both goalies played well but ours was able to stop one more.”

Poland had the better start in the game and made use of the biggest chance in the first few minutes of play. The Italians lost the puck in the neutral zone and Krzysztof Zapala capitalized on a breakaway to beat de Filippo Roia. Before that goal Zapala already hit the game sheet for the first penalty of the game but Italy didn’t create any big scoring chances out of it.

Those chances would come later on, and the first goal midway the third period. It was a lot of traffic in front of John Murray’s goal and a lot of shots until Giulio Scandella eventually shot it in to tie the game at one with 6:39 left in the second period. Raphael Andergassen, who saw his shot saved, was credited for an assist.

The second period had to be terminated for ice cleaning and for an early intermission. Once it continued Italy came out strong and Helfer scored a power-play goal from the blueline to give Italy its first lead in the game. The Poles never managed to come back and Ivan Deluca scored into the empty net with 17 seconds left for the final score of 3-1.

“Hockey is a game of mistakes and unfortunately today we did a few more than Italy did,” Poland head coach Ted Nolan commented the game. “It was an evenly matched game, they had a little bit more brace than we did. I think we didn’t play consistently well throughout the game.”

Good news for Poland is that Adam Borzecki and Aron Chmielewski will join after their club season has ended late with Ocelari Trinec in the Czech Republic and with the Bietigheim-Bissingen Steelers in Germany respectively. They are expected to be registered tomorrow to fill Poland’s roster and Nolan announced that both will play already tomorrow in the game against Slovenia at 16:00. Italy will take on host Hungary at 19:30.

 

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