Sweet revenge

Poland advances after rare win vs. Hungary


The Polish team poses for a group photo after edging Hungary 1-0 in shootout. Photo: Laszlo Mudra

BUDAPEST – Ten month ago Hungary won 2-1 on Poland’s ice in Krakow in a game for promotion to the top division. Today Poland avenged the loss and beat Hungary 1-0 in shootout in Budapest to advance to the Final Olympic Qualification.

Click here for a video with the game-winning goal, celebration and post-game interviews.

It was the first win for Poland against Hungary in 13 years in an IIHF-sanctioned game. Krzysztof Zapala scored the game-winning goal while all three Hungarian shooters missed the net.

“It was a very balanced game but we played well and battled hard and I was happy to score with my shot,” Zapala said.

Przemyslaw Odrobny was the other hero for Poland with a 38-save shutout as Hungary outshot the Poles 38-27.

“I’m pretty excited like all the team. It was a hard game for 65 minutes. It was war on ice. We beat them on their own ice like they did last year in Krakow, so it’s 1-1,” Odrobny said. “Both goalies faced a lot of shots, there were many fans at the arena, so it was very hot on the ice.”

It was hot for the fans either. Like ten months earlier the 9,000 spectators at the sold-out Laszlo Papp Sportarena saw a tense game with strong goaltending and disciplined play on both sides that remained exciting until the very end.

Although these two countries haven’t played each other that much in recent years, the clash has a long history in which Poland was ranked better between 1938 and 2006 while Hungary overtook the Poles in the World Championship program in 2007 and hadn’t lost to Poland in IIHF play since 2003 until this day.

The first minutes of the game belonged to the home team. After 30 seconds the Hungarian fans’ breath caught. Istvan Sofron was on a breakaway but Odrobny made a stick save to prevent an early goal. Odrobny remained in the spotlight as Hungary created the scoring chances and was awarded the first power play, although without the desired outcome. Only after more than six minutes did Poland have its first real chance with a long shot from Krystian Dziubinski.

The first period ended with 11-4 shots on goal in Hungary’s favour but the game remained scoreless as the Poles became defensively more stable and started creating more chances.

The second period was more balanced with the biggest chance coming after 11 minutes when Andras Benk had two shots right in front of Odrobny. But the 30-year-old netminder, who plays his first season abroad with Morzine-Avoriaz of the French Ligue Magnus, also mastered this situation.

On the other side Mateusz Bepierszcz had a great chance late in the middle frame with a shot while turning around but the puck went a few centimetres wide the net.

In the third frame Mikolaj Lopuski had the biggest opportunity for Poland to gain the lead after nine minutes of play when he got a loose puck in front of the net but he didn’t capitalize.

The Hungarians had more penalties which offered chances for the visiting team. At 15:39 only a huge block prevented Lopuski from scoring a late goal.

The Hungarians put more pressure on the Polish net in the dying minute of regulation time after a time-out. In overtime they had the chance to play 4-on-3 with Lopuski in the sin bin for slashing while Poland had two good shots after killing the penalty, however, the goaltenders kept the 0-0 score on the board and a shootout had to decide.

“The game was very evenly matched. We got off to a very good start. We got a lot of pucks to the net. They played well defensively, there were no blatant 1-0 opportunities,” Hungary coach Rich Chernomaz said.

“We had our chances in overtime on the power play but we didn’t succeed. I’m very proud of our players, all of them. The one thing that hurt us a bit tonight is that we were missing two defencemen in [Balazs] Goz and [Bence] Sziranyi so we had to play with six defenceman for the majority of the game.”

After Marton Vas missed with the first shot, Zapala decided the first round for Poland. Both Andrew Sarauer for Hungary and Aron Chmielewski for Poland didn’t score in the second round and when Frank Banham hit the metal from a sharp angle the Poles’ victory was sealed.

Estonia-Lithuania 4-1 (3-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Estonia finished the Olympic Qualification on a high by beating Lithuania 4-1 after having suffered to high losses.

Andrei Makrov with a pair of goals and Villem-Henrik Koitmaa with 55 saves were the heroes for the Estonians in their first win in 16 years against Lithuania.

The Lithuanians had won the last five games in the Baltic clash, most recently 6-1 and 12-3 at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in 2015 and 2013 but missing out on some national team mainstays such as Tadas Kumeliaskas from TPS Turku or Nerijus Alisauskas, busy in the Russian VHL, seemed to prove costly.

“It’s pretty amazing. Before the game I was thinking of our game in Donetsk three years ago where I got five goals from nine shots,” Koitmaa said after the game when told that the last win happened in 2000, also in the Olympic Qualification.

“Everything went great for us. I had some easy saves in the beginning. That helped to relax. Before the game we were really focused to win and the team looked confident. Despite some stupid penalties we managed to win the game.”

Estonia was outshot 56-26 but was sharper when it mattered in front of the net and defended an early led well.

Estonia had a great start and capitalized on its first two shots of the game. After 43 seconds of play Andrei Makrov opened the scoring and two minutes later Filipp Shvarogin capitalized on a man advantage for the early 2-0 lead.

Lithuania improved and dominated the rest of the period. At 13:24 they were eventually rewarded when Danielius Nomanovas scored on a rebound during a power play. But two-and-a-half minutes later the goal song “Welcome to Estonia” was back as Deniss Konyshev restored the two-goal lead.

Lithuania wasn’t able to build up the same pressure in the second period. The game remained scoreless for a while and Emilijus Krakauskas missing out on a breakaway was the best chance for the team in red. Four power plays didn’t help the team either as it didn’t capitalized on its chances while Makrov added a second marker on a power play at 3:59 of the third period for the final score of 4-1 for Estonia.

“We had a lot of chances but the Estonian team was the cleverer team. They capitalized on their chances, they had two goals on power play, we just one,” Lithuania coach Bernd Haake said.

“We worked hard but it was not enough. You need to work hard and play smart. In our next game in Zagreb we have to do that because our first game will be against Estonia.”

Click here for scores and stats.

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