Top teams shine in Vilnius

Div. IA: CRO-JPN 1-7, AUS-SLO 0-6, LTU-KAZ 1-5


Kazakhstan's Vadim Krasnoslobotsev had three points against Lithuania. Photo: Andrius Petrulevicius

VILNIUS – Japan opened the 2009 IIHF World Championship Division I with a convincing 7-1 victory over Croatia, Slovenia followed by beating Australia 6-0 while Kazakhstan beat host Lithuania, 5-1.

Lithuania vs. Kazakhstan 1-5 (0-2, 0-1, 1-2) Game sheet Photos

The Lithuanians ran, and ran, and ran to the net of Maxim Belyayev, the Kazakh goalkeeper, they never gave up. The 7,300 noisy fans in Vilnius, chanted and shouted, but their team was stopped by the strong Kazakh defence.

Lithuania entertained its home crowd in Siemens Arena, but their start to the event edned in a 5-1 loss. Kazakhstan had two early goals when they overran the Lithuania with their powerful rushes.

Sergei Yakovenko beat Lithuania goalkeeper Dmitrijus Bernatavicius with a perfect shot from the face-off circle at 2:37. And by the four-minute mark it was  2-0 for Kazakhstan. Alexander Koreshkov passed from behind the net to Roman Starchenko, who fed Yevgeni Rymarev.

Lithuania tried to entertain with much offensive action and many passes but they didn’t have many scoring opportunities. Donatas Kumeliauskas seemed to score at 8:54 but the referee stopped the game prior to his rebound.

Kazakhstan came out stronger in the middle period and had chances to extend its lead. Vadim Krasnoslobetsev hit the post after five minutes and half a minute later, he couldn’t get a shot past Bernatavicius, but Ilya Solarev scored on the rebound.

Trailing 3-0 after two periods, things looked bleak for Lithuania, but the home team started putting pressure on the Kazakh cage. Mindaugas Kieras and Karolis Nekrasevicius missed good scoring chances after three minutes but at 46:25, the Lithuanians got their first goal. Donatas Kumeliauskas scored with his borther, Tadas, assisting.

The Lithuanians killed the momentum from the goal with a bunch of penalties including a five-minute call against Mindaugas Kieras for spearing. Kazakhstan scored two five-on-three goals to bring the final to 5-1. Roman Savchenko and Alexander Koreshkov scored the extra-man goals.

“We were nervous at the beginning in front of the full house but took step by step control of the game,” Kazakhstan head coach Andrei Shayanov said.

Australia vs. Slovenia 0-6 (0-3, 0-3, 0-0) Game sheet Photos

The Los Angeles Kings didn’t release Slovenian star forward Anze Kopitar, but it made little difference to the Slovenians, who rolled in their opener with a 6-0 win against newly-promoted Australia. 

The teams have the two big name coaches of the championship, Australia with  former NHL player Steve McKenna, and Slovenia with 1980 Olympic Miracle winner John Harrington. Slovenia needed only 35 seconds to appear on the scoreboard with a goal from Andrej Hebar. Mitja Sivic and Sabahudin Kovacevic put in another pair of goasl to make it a solid 3-0 lead.

Second-period action was much of the same. Matej Hocevar, fed a side pass from Rok Ticar, who scored the 4-0 goal at 25:20, Tomaz Razingar hit the back of the net 46 seconds later and Sivic scored his second goal at 28:54. Marcel Rodman missed the seventh goal when he hit the post with ten seconds left in the period.

Slovenia’s dominance ended with a 46-6 shots advantage and the best news for Australia was the scoreless third period.

Slovenia’s Mitaj Sivic beat Australia goalie Matt Ezzy twice. Photo: Andrius Petrulevicius

Croatia vs. Japan 1-7 (1-1, 0-4, 0-2) Game sheet Photos

Japan is among the favourites for promotion, while Croatia barely avoided relegation last year. However, it was the Croats that scored the first goal of the tournament.

After Japan’s Ryota Minami was put whistled for two minutes and Coratia scored seven seconds later when Kresimir Svigir pounced. The teams were even in the beginning, but eventually Japan flexed its muscles and showed its dominance. Sho Sato scored on Makoto Kawashima’s rebound at 12:44.

Yoshinori Ilmura finished a fast attack 1:54 into the second period to make it a 2-1 lead for Japan. Takeshi Taiko scored the 3-1 goal after a side pass from Ryuichi Kawai and two minutes later, two Japanese skated towards Croatia goalie Vanja Belic. Takahito Suzuki extended the lead, four minutes later Daisuke Obara scored with three seconds left in the period.

The Japanese, faster and more efficient than their opponents, finished with a 7-1 win. Takeshi Saito and Sho Sato, with a penalty shot, were responsible for the third-period markers.

Japan’s Takahito Suzuki scores the 4-1 goal against Croatia. Photo: Andrius Petrulevicius





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