MARIBOR - Korea defeated host Slovenia 4-2 in the final game of the World U18 Championship Div IIA and earned promotion to division I next season. Forward Jin Hui Ahn led his team with three goals in the all-decisive game.
It was a disappointed Slovenian team and fans that left the Maribor arena after the final game on Saturday. The Slovenes had trashed everything that had come their way prior to the final game; 14-1 vs. Croatia, 6-0 vs. Romania, 8-0 vs. Spain and 12-0 vs. Mexico.
Also the Koreans had a perfect record coming in to the final, but some of their games were close. The matchup with Spain ended with a narrow 3-1 score and they struggled somewhat against Croatia; 2-0 after two periods and 5-1 at the final buzzer.
But the final became a different story for Slovenia and they experienced problems when suddenly dealing with a stubborn opponent. Ahn gave the Koreans the lead twice, but Anze Kuralt equalized both times and then drama unfolded.
Only one minute after Kuralt’s 2-2 goal early in the third period, Slovenia could have taken the lead when they were awarded a penalty shot after that goaltender Jae Ik Han threw his stick. But Erik Pance couldn’t convert this opportunity as Han made the save.
With only 2:12 remaining Korea scored the winner when Bong Jin Lee scored past Ales Trobec. Jin Hui Ahn completed his hat-trick scoring into an empty net 27 seconds before the end.
Korea’s Jea Ik Han was named best goaltender and his teammate Ji Man Yoon (eight goals and five assists in five games) was selected as best forward. Slovenia was awarded the top defenseman honours through Aleksandar Magovac.
The entire Slovenian first-line topped the tournament’s scoring list; Ken Ograjensek was 7+9, Kuralt eneded up with 7+7 while Dejan Pungarsek recorded 5+9.
But the team that seemingly scored at will in the first five games, simply couldn’t finish the job.