Romania rules in Novi Sad

Defeat Spain 6-5, win promotion to Group A


Romania's national U20 team lifting head coach George Justinian in celebration after advancing to Group A. Photo: Mirko Lazovic

NOVI SAD – Romania defeated Spain 6-5 in a wild game on the final day to claim the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B.

Zoltan Sandor had the tournament winner late in the third, the last of six goals scored in the period as Spain came back from a 3-2 deficit to go up 5-4, only to give up a goal and then a two-man advantage that set up Sandor’s goal.
Coming into the third period down 3-2, Spain equalized early on with a power-play goal from Oriol Rubio, assisted from Alfonso Garcia. The team struck again thanks to a score from Pablo Pantoja, a goal that was initially waved off but then reversed by the officials. 

But the Romanians weren’t daunted and tied the game up with just under nine minutes to go. On a rush Robert Gyorgy made great dangle on the Spanish defender, giving himself enough space to pass the puck to Sandor coming down the wing for a one-time shot and the 4-4 tie.

But Spain answered just thirty seconds later with a goal from Andres Palacios, who got the puck back on his own rebound and managed to push it past sprawled Romanian goalie Attor Adorjan for the 5-4 lead. The craziness continued as Romania tied things up yet again with a point shot from Istvan Gereb, his third goal of the game.

Disaster then struck for Spain as a high sticking penalty on Spain’s Imanol Lasuen with 5:10 to go was followed up by a delay-of-game penalty on Palacios for clearing the puck out of bounds, putting the team down two men in the dying minutes of the game. On the two-man advantage Norbert Rokaly got the puck behind the Spanish net and found Sandor beside the right post for the go-ahead goal with 3:31 left on the clock.  

The Romanians kept up the pressure, and Sandor’s second goal of the game turned out to be the tournament winner for the Romanians, who rushed Adorjan in celebration as the team earned promotion to Group A, while a crushed Spanish team finished in second place for the third year in a row.

Romania, which was relegated from Group A last season, went into its final round robin game against Spain having put up four wins and 31 goals in four games, but sitting just one point behind the undefeated Spaniards in the standings after needing overtime to put away the host team Serbia in earlier in the tournament.

Spain meanwhile had cruised through the field and was anxious to finally earn promotion after two straight second-place finishes in Division IIB.  

Romania’s Rokaly brothers, 20-year-old Norbert and 17-year-old Szilard, came out firing in the first period, setting up Istvan Gereb for a goal 3:05 into the game. The two forwards finished atop the tournament scoring table (5G, 14 A for Norbert and 6G, 6A for Szilard).  

Gereb’s goal was followed up two minutes later with a nice solo effort from Norbert, who stole the puck in the neutral zone and blew past the Spanish defence on a breakaway, finishing off goaltender with a backhand deke.

The Spaniards answered late in the first with a goal from Pablo Pantoja on a two-man advantage, but on the power play Romania went back up by two early in the second period, Erod Antal getting the puck to the slot where Gereb scored his second goal of the game with a backhand shot.

Penalty trouble dogged Spain’s comeback attempts in the second period, as the team wasn’t able to put any pressure on goaltender Attila Adorjan. But a late two-on-one rush with just under two minutes to go in the frame cut the lead to one going into the final period.

The team’s inability to stay out of the box at crucial times came back to haunt Spain in the third, and Romania capitalized with Sandor’s tournament-winning goal. 

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