International Ice Hockey Federation

Poland stops Slovenia

Host gets first win in Katowice

Published 26.04.2016 23:25 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Poland stops Slovenia
Tomasz Malasinski scores one of his three goals in Poland’s 4-1 victory against Slovenia. Photo: Miroslaw Ring
Host Poland won its first game and landed a 4-1 upset win against Slovenia, the leader after the first two game days, at the World Championship Division IA.

The Poles were under pressure after a miserable start into the tournament with losses to lower seeded Italy and Korea while Slovenia looked like the hardest team to beat here in Katowice after the first two game days. But today the Polish national team came back to life also thanks to Tomasz Malasinski’s hat trick.

“It was a very difficult game for us but after the two losses we were very motivated to win today. All the guys were very motivated and played really well,” Polish head coach Jacek Plachta said.

“We analyzed the game against Italy. We played much better, we played smarter, we used our possibilities.”

It all started with an early goal. At 3:55 the Poles gained the lead for the first time in the tournament. The Slovenes were not able to clear the puck for a while and Malasinski deflected a shot from Pawel Dronia. But three minutes later the Slovenian fans at Spodek were cheering when their team capitalized on the first power play. After first chances and passes Ziga Jeglic managed to be undisturbed on the left side of the net and scored after Robert Sabolic’s diagonal pass through the zone.

Poland became stronger in the middle frame where it early regained the lead when Mikolaj Lopuski scored after a Patryk Wronka shot had gone wide but bounced back from the end boards. Four minutes later the home crowd went wild again when the Poles capitalized on a 3-on-2 attack. Wronka patiently approached the goal from the left side and after a smart horizontal pass Malasinski netted the puck from right of the goal post. With 1:51 left in the period Malasinski completed his hat trick with the 4-1 goal capitalizing on a rebound.

“This game was great. Yes, our line was playing very well but all the team played an extraordinary game and tomorrow another line could score the goal,” Wronka said.

“We motivated each other after the losses because we knew we could play better than in the first two games.”

Slovenia tried a comeback attempt in the third period and had its chances such as in the 9th minute when Polish goalie Rafal Radziszewski, who had 32 saves in his first game of the tournament, did a wonderful glove save on an Ales Kranjc shot. Six-and-a-half minutes before the end the Slovenes made their own life harder with a team penalty for having six players on the ice.

“We wanted to change something. He played very well today,” Plachta said about the goalie change. “We didn’t play bad in the two games before but we wanted to work on our efficiency and also our power play was good.”

For Poland it was the first win in a World Championship event against Poland in 16 years. The last one happened 2000 at the same site, the historic Spodek arena in Katowice. Poland was hosting the same event and beat Slovenia 3-1. After that Slovenia had three wins, 4-2 in the top division in 2002, 4-1 on Poland’s ice at the Division I tournament in Gdansk in 2004 and 3-2 on home ice in Ljubljana in 2010.

“The Polish team showed today how you have to fight for your country. We started really bad. We came back after a power-play goal but over the whole match the Polish team was better. We didn’t do things we did right in the first two games. Our strategy was to put pressure on the Polish team but we didn’t do that. It backfired on us. They used their chances at the right time,” Slovenian head coach Nik Zupancic.

He also denied that the late addition of Robert Sabolic, who played his first game today after losing the Czech playoff final with Sparta Prague on Sunday, had any bad influence.

“No, it shouldn’t interfere with our game. He’s a great player and plays in a good league. He brings our team something extra,” Zupancic said. “Just the team effort wasn’t as it was in the two games before and Robert coming here was not the reason for today’s loss.”

With the win Poland makes the race for promotion to the top division more exciting. Austria took over first place with nine points, one more than Korea and two more than Slovenia. Korea and Slovenia will play a path-breaking game tomorrow.

“Poland outplayed us. That’s not acceptable from our side. We were not at the level we should be. We have to forget that as soon as possible. We have a game tomorrow and have to focus on that,” Slovenian captain Jan Urbas said.

Poland’s chances to earn promotion remain slim but the win was a first step to remain in this tier and battle for a medal in the next two games.