Italy’s hopes alive
Beats Korea 2-1 to open exciting final day
Bernard credits the strong defensive play, many blocked shots and a great penalty kill to the win while up-front Joachim Ramoser, his third of the tournament, and Daniel Tudin scored the goals.
“I feel great. To win is a great thing. Now we have to see how it continues. We thought we’ll improve here but that we improved that much astonishes all of us and makes us happy,” Ramoser said.
Thanks to the victory Italy will win at least the bronze medals and keeps its chance for a second-place finish and possible promotion to the top division alive but they need Slovenia to beat Austria in regulation time in the next game to claim the silver medals. Even Poland still has a slim chance for promotion if Austria beats Slovenia in regulation time and they beat Japan in regulation time in the last game.
“We cannot influence what’s not in our hand anymore. We have a medal for sure and will celebrate it and if we can move up that would be beautiful,” Ramoser said.
For Italy promotion would be a big success since the “Italians first” principle was introduced last season and less players developed outside of the country were named to the national team than in the past. The strategy change ended with a disappointing fifth-place finish last year but this season the young team improved, won the Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round on home ice in Cortina and now moved up to past performances in Division I Group A play.
Korea came to the game knowing that a win would keep their chances of going to the top division alive. The team made progress in international hockey and this could be seen in the head-to-head games against Italy too. In the last games Italy beat Korea 4-0 in 2013, 6-0 in 2011 and 7-1 in 2004. This year’s result is a clear improvement but it wasn’t not enough to get promoted.
That wasn’t expected though before the tournament and with the fourth or fifth-place finish the Koreans reached their goal. If they finish fourth (and 20th overall in the World Championship program) it would even been the best placement ever for the Korean men’s national team.
Despite the loss disappointment was written all over the players’ faces. “That’s hockey,” a speechless Korea coach Jim Paek said before going to the dressing room. “They scored a power-play goal early and stood pretty good defensively. We couldn’t find a way to get the goal needed,” forward Brock Radunske added.
Italy capitalized on a successful start into the game. Five seconds into the first power play Joachim Ramoser opened the scoring for Italy at 2:38. Daniel Tudin won the face-off, the puck went to Giulio Scandella and Thomas Larkin, whose long shot was blocked but Ramoser capitalized on the rebound.
Korea had its chances to come back – Italy had a 29-27 shot advantage – but many of the chances were not dangerous enough and the Italians showed a strong defensive performance as in most of the games here in Katowice.
With 5:25 left in regulation time Tudin seemed to seal the win for the squadra azzurra. He skated from the side board along the goal line without being attacked and beat Matt Dalton from close distance.
But then coach Korea Jim Paek took his time-out and pulled goalie Matt Dalton when Italy was assessed a penalty while Korea already had a player in the penalty box. With five-on-four Radunske fired of a slap shot that went in for the 2-1 goal with 3:47 to go and spoiled Bernhard’s shutout – but not more than that.