Hungary, Poland set up final

OQ Gr. H: Hungary-Estonia 7-1, Poland-Lithuania 9-1


Polish forwards Kacper Guzik and Krystian Dziubinski put pressure on Lithuanian goalie Mantas Armalis. Photo: Laszlo Mudra

BUDAPEST – The two co-favourites of the Olympic Qualification Group H, Hungary and Poland, were on fire also on the second day. Host Hungary beat Estonia 7-1 while Poland was on a roll in a 9-1 victory in the neighbouring clash with Lithuania. The two teams set up a winner-takes-it-all game on Sunday at 18:00.

Hungary vs. Estonia 7-1 (2-0, 2-1, 2-0)

Like against Lithuania, Hungary entered the game against Estonia as favourite and left it with a safe and sound 7-1 win in front of 8,100 fans at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena.

“We played with the same mentality like in the game before [against Lithuania]. We have a hard game on Sunday and we need to play well for 60 minutes and that’s what we did,” said Peter Vincze, who scored a pair of goals in the last period.

This time the Hungarians had to wait even less long to see their team take the lead. At 1:50 Estonian goaltender Villem-Henrik Koitmaa blocked two shots but when Istvan Sofron scored high on the second rebound it was the one shot too much for him.

The Estonians had few chances to score a goal and just as they had missed out on their first man advantage, Vilmos Gallo had a breakaway and beat Koitmaa with fine stickhandling for the 2-0 goal at 15:12.

In the middle frame the Magyars converted their first power play. At 3:31 Istvan Sofron scored after nice drop pass from Daniel Koger, however, with a similar play on the other side Robert Rooba, assisted by Andrei Makrov, brought Estonia on the scoreboard three minutes later and cut the home team’s lead to 3-1.

Rooba was not surprised about the clear score in the end. “It’s a bunch of professional guys against a bunch of amateur guys. It was a tough game the second day in a row and we became tired. I’m proud of our guys, we battled hard and gave our best and learned a lot,” said Rooba, one of the few pros on the team as he plays in Finland.

The goal didn’t change the direction of the game too much and Frank Banham with a goal midway through the game and Vincze with a point shot at 4:15 of the third period extended the lead to 5-1. The 20-year-old added another goal on a power play with 3:33 left in the game, which means that three of the seven goals were scored by players nominated for the fourth line.

“In the end it’s a team game, so it doesn’t matter who scores but of course we are happy that we managed to score,” Vincze said with a smile.

After contributing two assists, also Andrew Sarauer scored tipping the puck in after a rebound on a power play with 87 seconds left.

Despite the result, Hungary head coach Rich Chernomaz was not entirely satisfied and wants to see more from his team in the last game.

“I thought we were a little bit slow in our thinking and moving pucks. It wasn’t the way it was in last night’s game. I was thinking maybe our team was fatigued but in the third period the passion and fire came back in the third period,” he said. “These are things we definitely need to have for three periods to have a chance to beat Poland. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes will probably be the successful team.”

The teams will have a day off on Saturday before Hungary takes on Poland in a showdown for first place. The winner of that game will advance to the Final Olympic Qualification. Lithuania and Estonia will be looking for their first win and third place in the all-Baltic afternoon game on Sunday.

Poland vs. Lithuania 9-1 (2-0, 5-0, 2-1)

Poland had another strong showing and beat Lithuania 9-1 in a game they were outshooting their opponent 56-39.

Poland was the stronger and most notably more efficient team while the Lithuanian underdogs seemed exhausted from their game last night against Hungary. The second period made the difference for the Poles with five unanswered goals.

Krystian Dziubinski and Krzysztof Zapala each had a pair of goals while Przemyslaw Odrobny had 38 saves in what seemed to become a shutout until Daniel Bogdziul’s marker for Lithuania late in the game.

“The second period was very good for us. We played very well,” said Tomasz Malasinki. “But the most important game will be on Sunday. It will be a very hard game because the Hungarian team is very strong.”

Like in the last game against Hungary the Lithuanians showed a remarkable penalty kill to start the game, however, they’d do better if they didn’t test their four-man and three-man units too often against higher-ranked opponents.

After Poland hadn’t capitalized on a 5-on-3, the game flow became a bit more balanced, however, at 15:01 Grzegorz Pasiut opened the scoring for Poland on a rebound.

The Poles used these strong minutes for a momentum chance and Aron Chmielewski made it 2-0 on a rush just two minutes later.

Poland tried to blow away any doubts about the winner of this game early in the second period. After 35 seconds Lithuania was outskated and Zapala netted the puck for the 3-0 lead.

Although the teams were almost equal in shots on goal during the last two periods, the Poles outskated the team from their northern neighbours and added one goal after another against the seemingly tired Lithuanians.

Maciej Urbanowicz hit the back of the net at 3:12 of the second period. After a few shifts the Poles were back on power play and Dziubinski converted for the 5-0 goal. Tomas Malasinksi added another one with 2:31 left in the period and Dziubinski increased the damage for the Lithuanians with another power-play marker 18 seconds before the end of the middle frame.

The Lithuanians changed goalies for the last period. Mantas Armalis, who had a strong game the night before, made space for Artur Pavliukov, who was beaten by Zapala after just 33 seconds. Mateusz Bepierszcz added another marker at 12:20 before Bogdziul scored Lithuania’s consolation goal to cut Poland’s lead to 9-1 and spoil Odrobny’s shutout.

“We were tired from yesterday, it was really tough for us. A day off would have helped us today,” Bogdziul said. “We are a very young team, some are just 18 years old. Now we have the last game against Estonia and want to win it.”

Also Poland will have a day of rest before the deciding game against host Hungary in the quest for a berth in the Final Olympic Qualification. Hungary missed out on it last time when losing to the Netherlands while Poland was beaten by Ukraine in the deciding game. This time one of the two teams will likely make it.

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