Italy and Slovenia provided an exciting finish to day two of qualifications in Slovenia with a 4-4 draw.
Both teams were looking for their first points of the tournament and this was a vital match in terms of the possibility for them to qualify for the WFC final round. A loss today and their chances were most probably over.
Early on in the game both teams played strongly but neither wanted to make any mistakes that would cost them a goal. Not until the 10th minute did the score keeper´s work begin when Thomas Ilmer scored the first of his three goals for the game, and put Italy into the lead.
The second period began with a long delayed penalty played by Slovenia which resulted, after over 1 minute of controlled ball possession, with a goal to Anze Pristavec. After another 10 minutes, Slovenia had extended their lead to 1-3 and the Italian coach took a time-out to talk to his players and try to break the Slovenian momentum. Tomaz Triler was penalised at 35.36 and Slovenia were able to successfully defend the Italian powerplay, but when he returned to the court and was immediately penalised again, their luck had run out and Ilmer scored directly from the free hit to bring the score back to 2-3.
Rok Korosec´s goal got Slovenia got back out to a two goal lead early in the last period, but Simone Pellegrini made a quick reply for Italy. With about 8 minutes left in the game it was the two goalkeepers who began to shine. Marco Mangia was put under great pressure in the Italian goal but was able to continually make important saves. At the other end, Jure Krzisnik, Slovenia´s best player, was also doing his best to keep the Slovenian´s one goal advantage, but it was again Thomas Ilmer who was able to score from a tight angle to even the scores to 4-4. In the last minutes Krzisnik made a vital save in a 2 v 1 situation, and the score remained 4-4 until the end.
A thrilling game that gives one crucial point to each team. It will probably not be enough to get either of them one of the top two qualification places from this group, but it may prove important when the ´Best 3rd team´ from the EUR qualifications is calculated.
Slovenia: Jure Krzisnik
Italy: Thomas Ilmer
SERBIA v SLOVAKIA
Slovakia were lucky to come away with a 6-4 win against lower-ranked Serbia, after giving away a three goal lead.
The first period was very even with both teams having a good share of the play and both trying to get control of the game. When Slovakia (ranked 18) scored their third goal after just 18 seconds into second period it seemed as though they would be able to comfortably increase their lead as the game progressed. They did not, and as the second period came to an end with the score at 3-1, the intensity of the game had grown considerably.
The Serbians (ranked 28) came out in the third period determined to turn the game around, and within three minutes the scores were even. A missed penalty shot by Slovakian capatin, Juraj Matejka, at 49.03 proved very costly when shortly after, the Serbians took the lead with a short-handed. Serbia´s best player, Alexander Zoric, intercepted a Slovakian pass and under pressure from a chasing player was still able to calmly slot the ball past the goalkeeper to give Serbia an unexpected lead.
The game was very physical and both teams moved the ball from end to end quickly. Neither team was prepared to hold possession in their own areas, preferring to play the ball near the opposition´s goal. Slovakia pushed hard and evened the score to 4-4, through a goal from Peter Heles. Then just a minute later, they pressured the Serbian goal again and there was a disputed no-goal decision, but as play went straight on, their hard work was rewarded with the game-winning goal going to Marek Bulko.
In the final minutes, even with a player advantage in the powerplay, Serbia took their goalkeeper off. Their defenders had to fight to keep the ball out of the empty net and with the goal completely out of place after one desperate save, Matejka was forced to practically run the ball over the goal line to make sure of the final goal of the game. An exciting game for the spectators, but a close call for Slovakia.
Serbia: Alexander Zoric
Slovakia: Gál Ladislav
NETHERLANDS v ESTONIA
Another easy win for Estonia puts them in a good position to secure one of the two qualification spots from the EUR2 group.
Today they played against Netherlands and the final score of 14-1 clearly showed the difference in the skills and experience of the two teams. Even though the Estonians rested several of their first line players they were still impressive in their dominance.
The Netherlands started poorly and some loose defence in front of their goal meant the Estonians got off to a quick 3-0 start. It seemed like it would be a busy game for the scorers, but to the credit of the Dutch team they were able to gather themselves and were the next to score, with a goal from 18yr old Thomas Rietveld, who was also chosen as their Best Player. They fought hard the whole match and tried their best to make up what they lacked in technical skills with some strong physical play.
Estonia controlled the game from start to finish and the score was always going to be in their favour. They passed the ball extremely well and were at times patient in their attack, but at other times also off-target with their finishing, missing many more opportunities to score. Elvis Aug (0+3) and Oskar Salm (2+2) were two of their strongest players.
Estonia: Rein Kivi
Netherlands: Thomas Rietveld
Find more information about the tournament here.