International Ice Hockey Federation

Poland wins and hopes

Austria to play for gold despite loss

Published 27.04.2016 23:54 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Poland wins and hopes
Polish forward Aron Chmielewski with a scoring chance on Austrian goalie Bernhard Starkbaum. Photo: Miroslaw Ring
Poland earned its first win against Austria in World Championship play in 25 years after edging the other red-and-white team 1-0 on Grzegorz Pasiut’s goal.

It was a tense game and details were here to decide it. A precise shot, a good (or bad) pass or a wrong move of the goalie was able to turn the game into a different direction. In the end it was a giveaway in the first period that decided the game in the first period.

Both teams started disciplined and the Poles had more chances in the first period including a shot on the crossbar but the first goal was scored when Austrian defenceman Markus Schlacher lost the puck to Grzegorz Pasiut in his own zone at 12:34. Pasiut took it, passed to Aron Chmielewski and got the disc back to bring Poland onto the scoreboard. Austrian goalie Bernhard Starkbaum was without a chance with the two Poles alone in front of his net.

“My guys showed character today. We wanted to win today again and did it. Our goalie played a really great match. We knew that no matter which of our goalie plays it will be a good decision as the two games showed,” said Polish coach Jacek Plachta.

Despite the three points Poland still can’t win the tournament. After having lost the first two games they simply don’t have enough points. However, winning the silver medal has now become realistic and second place could eventually also lead to promotion for the first time since playing in the top division in 2002 if Poland beats Japan in regulation time on Friday and depending on the outcome of the other games with Austria and Korea also battling for a medal.

“It was a very hard game for us and we are happy we won it,” said Polish defenceman Pawel Dronia. “We still have a chance to get promoted. We haven’t watched Japan yet but tomorrow the coach will show us how they play.”

For Austria the mission promotion doesn’t become easier with the loss but in the end the game against leader Slovenia is the one that matters most for first place and this hasn’t changed. With a win against the Slovenes – in regulation time, overtime or shootout – the Austrians can win the tournament on Friday. Slovenia will have exactly the same task and goal.

“With a win our position on the last day would have been much better but we don’t have to think about it anymore. We have to rest and have one day off to prepare for the final against Slovenia,” Starkbaum said.

“It’s annoying [to lose this game]. I would any time change all saves for a win. The first two periods we were not really in the game, the Poles put a lot of pressure on us. We didn’t skate enough, we didn’t support each other enough, made too many mistakes and took too many penalties. If you don’t score a goal you can’t win.”

Tonight’s result also means that Japan will definitely finish in last place and be relegated to the Division I Group B. For Japan the 22nd place overall in the World Championship program is the worst since 2007.

Back to tonight’s game. Austria had a weak first period but created more scoring opportunities in the following two periods. The 1-0 score stayed with chances for both teams to make it either 1-1 or 2-0. The game was tense and the atmosphere between the players heated at times. It was far from the last game in a World Championship event between the two teams when Austria beat Poland 7-3 in a game for promotion at the Division I tournament on home ice in Innsbruck in 2008.

The last time Poland had beaten Austria in a World Championship game before was in the B-Pool in 1991 in Ljubljana, at that time still part of Yugoslavia, by the score of 2-1.

Austria had the chance to get a power play early in the third period when Chmielewski was assessed a penalty for boarding against Konstantin Komarek, who had to leave the ice and according to coach Daniel Ratushny is unlikely to play on Friday. At 12:22 Lukas Haudum had a breakaway chance for Austria but was hooked by Pawel Dronia. It was the sixth power play for Austria and like the other ones it wasn’t converted.

It was a game of the goalies with Austria’s Bernhard Starkbaum, until now the statistically best netminder of the tournament, and Przemyslaw Odrobny, who returned in Poland’s net after getting a break yesterday, showing an excellent performance in front of 7,500 fans.

In the end Odrobny earned a shutout with 29 saves, Starkbaum blocked 26 of 27 shots and Poland got the win.

“In the first period we had three shots on the net. We did have some chances later but their goalie played well and our goalie was sharp tonight as well. We have to quickly regroup as a team and learn from the game,” Austria coach Ratushny said.