International Ice Hockey Federation

Italy wins empty-net clash

Italy wins empty-net clash

Crazy game eliminates Slovenia last minute

Published 15.08.2018 07:31 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Italy wins empty-net clash
Photo: Laszlo Mudra - HIIHF
With a tie not helping either team first Slovenia then Italy both pulled their goalie for a sixth skater. Diego Kostner scored the game-winner for Italy.

It was one of these curious moments in this tournament where all six teams are close and five teams remained in contention for promotion with two games left. Now only four teams are left as Italy beat Slovenia 4-3. Because only a regulation-time victory would help either team both pulled their goalies when it was 3-3 in the last minute to battle for the game-winner. Diego Kostner got it for Italy with 2.3 seconds left before the buzzer.

“We’re glad. It was a great team performance. When they pulled their goalie we wanted to try to score. It was a great game for us and now we have to wait and hope. There were chances on both sides and it was a good game from both teams with good goalies and the luck on our side,” Kostner said. “I hope we will be promoted. We can just hope but we can’t do anything.”

“We had an excellent performance in all game, maybe against not so good. Against Great Britain we would have deserved more but that’s hockey. Overall we showed a good tournament.”

While Slovenia missed promotion, Italy now has to hope for a favourable outcome in the last game. If Great Britain gets at least one point against Hungary, the British and Italy will go up to the top division. If Hungary beats Great Britain in regulation time, there will be a four-team tie for first place with Kazakhstan and Hungary earning promotion.

“It was an open game but we knew we needed three points and put everything in the third period and didn’t care whether we get one point or two points, we needed three. We had a lot of chances but unfortunately we didn’t score,” Slovenian defenceman Sabahudin Kovacevic said.

“This was a special game. Some day you win this kind of game and some time you lose but you have to respect the result. It’s unusual. Both teams needed three points and you needed to do something as a coach, both took the goalie out. We had our momentum in the game to score more goals but sometimes it’s like this,” said Slovenia head coach Kari Savolainen.

“For our team this tournament was a little difficult. The start was not the best possible but we came back. We got two victories and I respect the players and am grateful for the players, team staff and fans. Unfortunately we didn’t have luck today.”

For Italy it was the first win against Slovenes in 27 years. Since 2010 Slovenia has always been ranked before Italy whenever the teams played in the same division. Italy had never beaten Slovenia in men’s World Championship play. The best result was a 3-3 tie at the 2006 Worlds in Latvia. The last win dates back to times when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and Italy won on the opponent’s soil in Ljubljana 13-3.

Italy had the luckier start into the game. When Bostjan Golicic was sent to the penalty box for holding in the first minute of play the Azzurri converted their first power play. Diego Kostner saw Markus Gander free on the left side, who one-timed the puck top-shelf for the opening marker at 1:39.

Slovenia made pressure but didn’t have luck with their shots until 17:11 when Matic Podlipnik was fortunate with his shot from the left boards that went through Marco de Filippo Roia’s five-hole to make it 1-1.

Slovenia got its first lead early in the second period during a power play. Jan Urbas sent a horizontal pass to the left side where Rok Ticar converted it with a top-shelf shot at 3:55. But also the lynx’s lead was only short-lived joy once Italy had its next power play. With the penalty almost expired, Michael Sullivan skated himself free on the right of the net and tied the game at two.

Of course that wasn’t enough for either team and in an open game it was the Italians who scored next after killing a penalty. Ivan Deluca on the left side skated around Aleksandar Magovac to skate to the crease. Gasper Kroselj blocked the shot but Alex Trivellato scored on the rebound.

The goal still didn’t define the direction of the gam as with 68 seconds left the Slovenes came back when Sabahudin Kovacevic sent off another hammer of a shot from the blueline – the third goal of the tournament for the defenceman.

Both teams had their scoring chances in the third period to with a shot advantage for Slovenia but Italy having a post shot with eight minutes left in regulation time.

Slovenia got its big chance when Italy’s Luca Felicetti lost a puck battle with Ken Ograjensek and was assessed a penalty for high-sticking. Slovenia took its time-out but had trouble setting up its power play.

The teams entered the last minute with a tie, which would finish the dream of promotion for both teams and send Kazakhstan up instead. The Slovenes were the first team to be brave enough and pull their goalie, then Italy pulled their goalie too in order to play 6-on-6!

The teams didn’t give each other anything and eventually the Italians had the puck in the last seconds of the game. While their goalie was on his way out to make room for a sixth skater, Diego Kostner scored the game-winner into the empty net with 2.3 seconds left on the game clock!

Slovenia has now missed out on promotion in Division I play for the first time since 2009 while the Italians will have to cheer on Great Britain in the last game.

“Both teams played well, Slovenia was probably better than us tonight and probably deserved the victory based on stats but that’s hockey, last night it was us who were unlucky. Both teams battled and showed character. It was very difficult to play Slovenia, they got stronger and stronger during the tournament and luck was on our side,” said Italy head coach Clayton Beddoes.

“This is one of the best tournaments I have seen Italy play. Possibly we could have won four out of five but it didn’t happen that way. It’s also about winning the right games and today was the right game for us.”


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