Italy stuns host
No opening-day party for Poland
After an opening ceremony with violinists the ice was ready for the players and it was the blue team that had the better start in front of 8,500 spectators at the Spodek arena in Katowice and outshot Poland 33-26 in its first game. Italy already beat Poland one year ago on the opening day, 2-1, in Krakow but went on to a fifth-place finish while Poland earned the bronze medals.
“We are really happy about this first win. We played really well in the first period and didn’t allow them many chances. We were playing the clock, which can be dangerous, but this is a young team and I’m very happy for them,” Italy head coach Stefan Mair said.
“We moved forward last year, went from 12 players with double citizenship to four. We changed players who fit in character-wise and want to go forward with our program. The young players got more experience. Last year they were 21, now they are 22. We are a young team and have a long way to go but we are fortunate to have players in top leagues,” Mair added mentioning goalie Andreas Bernard, who was the starter for Assat Pori in the top Finnish league this season.
Joachim Ramoser scored the first goal after Markus Gander’s diagonal pass to the crease. Ramoser beat Przemyslaw Odrobny on the close post at 12:25. It was a deserved lead with the Italians creating more chances including a post shot in the opening frame. With 28.1 seconds left the Italians even had another great chance after a fast attack from Giulio Scandella but the puck didn’t go into a dislocated net and the officials called no goal after the video review.
“We were better for a long time so it’s a deserved win. It went better than last year, it was a bit surprising for us and it’s fun like that. We have some players with a lot of experience and young and motivated players,” Ramoser said.
Italy continued to play strong in the middle frame but when Marco Insam was assessed a penalty for tripping, the Poles got their best chances and at 10:13 Tomasz Malasinski deflected a shot from the blue line from Pawel Dronia during the power play.
43 seconds later Luca Frigo got another tripping penalty while Patryk Wronka needed to be helped off the ice after the incident. The Poles against had their chances but didn’t capitalize and at 16:19 it was Frigo, who was left alone on the left side and after a pass from Diego Kostner beat Odrobny through his five-hole.
Polish head coach Jacek Plachta was critical with his team’s performance.
“They played better today in every single element of the game,” he said. “It was one of the worst games we have ever played if not the worst. The Italians were very well prepared technically and it is very difficult to play them. We had too many penalties, which decided the game. Today we were too weak to play against them.”
The Poles improved their play in a third period in which the Italians seemed to focus on defending the tight lead. But it worked out for the squadra azzurra and Thomas Larkin scored the 3-1 goal into the empty net with two seconds left on the match clock.
“This game was very important for us and we lost. We tried everything to tie it against but it didn’t work out. Now it will be very important for us to win tomorrow,” said Malasinski.