GANGNEUNG – In a winner-take-all game on the final day of competition at the 2017 IIHF ICE Hockey U18 World Championship Division II Group A, Romania edged Korea 2-1 to win gold and promotion to Division I for the first time since 2003.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished here, said captain Eduard Casaneanu. “These guys played with heart and we earned this victory.”
Casaneanu, who won the 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games Men’s Skills Challenge competition, had a goal and an assist in the game. Goaltender Adorjan Ors allowed one goal on 33 shots and played over 45 shutout minutes to help lead the Romanians in the tournament-clinching win.
The Koreans, sitting in second place going into the game but three points behind Romania, had to get a win in regulation to be able to claim gold on home ice.
Down 2-1 going into the third period, Korea needed a jump offensively to have any chance of moving back up to Division I after being relegated last year.
But goaltender Adorjan Ors, who earned the tournament Directorate Top Goaltender award, held them off making a number of big saves throughout the period to hold off the Koreans and seal the gold medal for Romania.
The victory capped off a 4-0-1-0 record for Romania, which came into the tournament having languished in the second division for over a decade. The promotion marks only the second time in history that Romania has made it to Division I.
“We came into this tournament with zero expectations,” said Casaneanu. “We gained confidence after the first game and it just kept building to the point where we believe that we would win.”
Korea meanwhile, needing a regulation win to earn gold, instead gained zero points and was leapfrogged by Estonia and Lithuania for silver and bronze respectively. Great Britain finished in fifth place, while Croatia will be relegated to Group B.
Things started out positively for Korea at the outset of the game. The team pressured the Romanian zone early and often, forcing Ors to make some big stops. But the Koreans kept buzzing around the Romanian net, and thirty seconds later forward Gangeung Park jumped on an open rebound in front of the net for the opening goal.
Romania answered back ten minutes later, when captain Eduard Casaneanu outmuscled Korean defenceman Sunghyeok Lee on a forecheck against the boards, getting control of the puck and dishing it out to teammate Zsolt Reszegh coming down the slot for the one-timer goal.
In the second period Romania went ahead 2-1 with a goal from Casaneanu. The 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games Men’s Skills Challenge champion gained control of the puck in front and slotted it home into the corner of the net past the pad of goalie Jungmin Lee.
Ors shut the door the rest of the way, and the Romanians mobbed their goalie after the game in celebration on the ice of the Guangneung Hockey Centre, which will host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games Men’s Ice Hockey tournament.