International Ice Hockey Federation

Also Poland beats Slovenia

Also Poland beats Slovenia

Tough start for ambitious top seed

Published 23.04.2018 20:08 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Also Poland beats Slovenia
Polish captain Marcin Kolusz scores with his penalty shot against Slovenian goaltender Gasper Kroselj. Photo: Laszlo Mudra
Poland bounced back in the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A with a 4-2 win while top-seeded Slovenia also lost its second game.

“Our players competed harder today [than yesterday] . We played a very good team and had to lift our game to our peak. We also had great goaltending today,” said Poland coach Ted Noland.

Poland bounced back from last night’s defeat to Italy and despite less rest time beat Slovenia 4-2. The team got reinforcement overnight with Aron Chmielewski, who joined directly after Monday’s last game in the Czech final where his team Ocelari Trinec lost to Kometa Brno while Adam Borzecki, who was also announced as late arrivals, will not join the team.

“Aron is a big player in Poland so to get him was got for the moral and for the team,” Nolan said.

Chmielewski had a great game with one goal and an assist while Przemyslaw Odrobny had 36 saves en route to the player-of-the-game prize.

The faces on the Slovenian side were less happy. If you lose as top-seeded team against the lowest-seeded team, it’s what the team rightfully called a disappointment. Now Slovenia also lost its second game and sees its chances for promotion dwindle.

For Slovenia starting with two losses could be the beginning of a minor fiasco if the team won’t find to winning ways. The goal of promotion is theoretically still possible but it will need three wins in the three remaining games against Hungary, Kazakhstan and Italy as well as very favourable results from the other games.

“We didn’t start the tournament very well but it happens. We have to do our best for the turnaround. That’s out plan now. I think we made some stupid penalties and the Poles scored on these. The second reason is that although we had many chances but didn’t score. If we had scored more often, it would look different. But that’s hockey,” Slovenia’s Jan Drozg said.

The coach wasn’t happy about the penalties either and worries about a negative atmosphere after the difficult start. “Every team is fighting 100 per cent against us and we should accept that and stay cool. We don’t have luck with the scoring chances and we played against ourselves. Today we destroyed our own game due to lack of discipline. Every game is important, every period is important, every goal is important,” Slovenia’s head coach Kari Savolainen said.

It was an early lead that helped the Poles en route to their win. New arrival Chmielewski in his first game and Krystian Dziubinski successfully won a puck battle behind the net and brought the puck to Damian Kapica, who from a short angle found the hole in the top-right corner to give Poland the lead. Although Poland got into penalty trouble afterwards, it was the white-and-red team that created more scoring chances and outshot Slovenia 13-8 in the opening frame.

The Slovenes came out stronger for the second period and at 4:30 made it a tied game. Drozg sent off a high shot from behind the right face-off circle to make it 1-1.

A few moments later the Slovenes had a power play and were close to scoring a goal but the puck hit the left goal post from where it went to the right post before leaving the crease. Then the Poles were on immediate attack. After a deflected drop pass Bartlomiej Neupauer got a loose puck and beat Gasper Kroselj to regain the lead for Poland. Or not? The on-ice officials wanted a video review. Not because of Neupauer’s goal but the preceding chance on the other side. There was anxious waiting for the two teams until it became clear which team would go up 2-1. Slovenia’s shot didn’t cross the goal line and consequently Neupauer’s goal for Poland counted.

At the end of the period it got even better for Poland as the Slovenes ran into penalty trouble with three consecutive calls within three minutes. Just after a power play for the Poles had expired and with 4-on-4 players on the ice the team was awarded a penalty shot. Marcin Kolusz skated to the left, deked and then beat Kroselj backhand to give his team a two-goal lead.

Poland’s 3-1 lead after two periods caused disbelief to Slovenian fans. Since for the first time getting to the top division as independent country in 2001, the Slovenes have only one time not gained promotion in seven attempts. That was in 2009 in Vilnius when they lost a tight battle for promotion against Kazakhstan.

Slovenia had to battle back in the third period but didn’t create many scoring chances. On the other side Poland used the room for opportunities and at 11:24 capitalized on one. After a long shot from Mateusz Rompkowski, Chmielewski capitalized on the rebound in front of Kroselj to make it a 4-1 lead for Poland with just a few minutes to go.

It was an eventful time for Chmielewski. He was not on the game roster when Trinec lost the Czech final on Monday and after a six-hour drive with a friend arrived late in Budapest. “I just slept three hours!” the forward said. “I’m happy about how the team played and my play. We played with heart. I think the difference was the penalty kill, Kolusz’s penalty shot and the shots we blocked. That was good.”

Slovenia had more from the game in the third period but had little success. With the goalie pulled during most of the last two minutes, Slovenia got one back thanks to Jan Urbas’ marker with 77 seconds to go but the Slovenes didn’t create more damage and Poland won 4-2.

 

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