DONETSK, Ukraine – Ukraine is back at Division I level of the U18 category after two years. The Ukrainians won the 2011 IIHF World U18 Championship Division II Group B on home ice in Donetsk.
One year ago Ukraine failed to gain promotion after losing on home ice in Kyiv to Slovenia in the deciding game. This time the white-and-blue team didn’t miss the opportunity.
The Ukrainians did what was expected from them in the first three games, outplaying Belgium (12-1), Spain (11-1) and China (18-1) before facing its toughest opponents.
The team of former NHLer and Ukrainian national team defenceman Alexander Godynyuk faced their toughest test on Day 4 against the Netherlands.
Ukraine outshot the Oranje team, but Deniz Mollen stood tall in the Dutch net, having 50 saves out of 54 shots.
And his teammates made the most of their opportunities. Tom Marx opened the scoring at 16:43, and with four seconds left in the first period, Scott van der Elskamp converted on a power play.
The Ukrainians reacted in the second period. They continued to fire lots of shots on Mollen while improving their defensive work. Sergi Kuzmik brought Ukraine on the scoreboard at 2:33 of the second period and Artem Yevseichyk equalized midway through the game after a lengthy Ukrainian man advantage.
Olexi Yanishevsky’s goal 17 seconds into the third stanza eventually turned the game into Ukraine’s favour as the home squad didn’t allow the Dutch team a chance for a comeback. Defenceman Vsevolod Tolstushko scored the last goal in the 4-2 win at 9:28 on a power play.
The Ukrainians still needed to win points in their last game against Lithuania, the team that was relegated from Division I one year ago, but the almost 4,000 fans at the Ice Palace Druzhba liked what they saw.
It was a tighter game in terms of shots on goal – 42-33 for Ukraine – and the Lithuanians could dream of gold for half of the game.
Lithuanian forward Mauras Baltrukonis tied the game at one midway through it, but the goal just seemed to wake up the home squad from its scoring lethargy.
Sevastian Karpenko regained the lead only eight seconds later. And at the end of the second period, Pavlo Padakin and Olexi Yanishevsky netted two goals within a minute’s span.
Lithuania tried hard to come back in the third period, causing three penalty calls against Ukraine after only two minutes including a penalty shot. While Daniel Bogdziul missed on the opportunity, Dominykas Deksnys cut the lead to 4-2 on the power play at 3:37.
But again the Lithuanians’ dream of a comeback was short-lived. Yanishevsky scored his second goal of the night 12 seconds later and Andri Istominov made it 6-2 with 19 seconds left in the game before the celebrations were set to start. It was also the second goal for him after having scored the opening goal early in the first period.
The silver medal went to the Netherlands thanks to an excellent goalkeeper Deniz Mollen, who played almost every minute for the Dutch and deflected 152 out of 162 shots for a 93.25 save percentage. He was not only crucial in the tight loss against Ukraine, but also in the 4-3 victory against Lithuania, which had to settle with bronze.
Spain finished in fourth place after last year’s bronze-medal win while China, promoted from Division III last year, maintains its place in Division II after a 7-4 victory against winless Belgium.
1. Ukraine 15
2. Netherlands 11
3. Lithuania 9
4. Spain 7
5. China 3
6. Belgium 0
Individual Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate:
Best Goalkeeper: Deniz Mollen, Netherlands
Best Defenceman: Vsevolod Tolstushko, Ukraine
Best Forward: Carlos Quevedo, SpainClick here for scores and stats.Click here for the photo gallery.