Croatia squeezes past Estonia
Croatia squeezes past Estonia
Hosts play for bronze, Estonia to stay up
Croatia's second straight win in the tournament means that a bronze medal is within their reach going into the final round of games at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Zagreb, Croatia.
With Croatia being on six points after four games, they now go head-to-head with Lithuania, on nine points, where a win in regulation time will cap off a successful first World Championship for Alan Letang's new-look Croatia team.
Borna Rendulic had a goal and two helpers in their 5-3 win against Estonia. Nathan Perkovich and Michael Glumac played their best games in the tournament so far and scored a couple of goals each for Croatia who outshot their opponents 40-27
"All the guys played with their hearts today, from our first line, to our fourth line to our goalie. We let in a couple a goals in the first period, but we corrected that and after that shut them down for the rest of them game," said Perkovich in his post-match interview.
Robert Rooba and Andrei Makrov both had 1+1 for Estonia and Villem-Henrik Koitmaa recorded 35 saves.
Going into the game, Croatia's head coach had earmarked Estonia's first line as their main threat, and only 3:23 into the game the 2,800 inside Dom Sportova were able to witness it at first hand. Instigated by Rooba, who won a battle with Mislav Blagus along the right boards, he found Aleksandr Petrov who picked out Makrov who hit Vilim Rosandic's top corner to open Estonia's scoring account.
Less than two minutes later they were at it again. Makrov, this time as instigator to Rooba whose one-timer from the right point doubled Estonia's lead.
Estonia knew a win tonight would seal their survival with one game to go. Having got their dream start, it soon came crumbling down as Croatia charged ahead.
4:39 left of the period Croatia pulled one back. Rendulic tapped home a drive from the blueline by Marko Tadic which sneaked past Koitmaa thanks to a deflection on Estonia's captain Lauri Lahesalu.
Croatia's reward then got threefold during the middle frame. Perkovich scored his first two goals at this World Championship in short succession at 30:07 and 36:49. Less than two minutes later when Estonia's Kevin Parras was serving a minor penalty for roughing, Glumac capitalized from the left point to put Croatia into a 4-2 lead at 38:23.
"We got our first two goals a bit too easily," said Estonia's head coach Jussi Tupamaki. "After that we didn't know how to handle that kind of lead, and if we want to be successful at this level this is something we need to learn how to deal with."
After Kenny MacAulay went close to put Croatia further ahead, Estonia was offered a lifeline as Aleksei Sibirtsev poached to pull a goal back a second before the buzzer for the second intermission after Rosandic fumbled with his stickhandling.
In the final period Estonia came out all guns blazing to look for an equalizer. Being on the powerplay following an interference penalty at 7:32 on Croatia's Luka Mikulic, Estonia peppered Rosandic with shots from all angles but Croatia withstood the storm and when Koitmaa was pulled from Estonia's net during the final minute of the game, Glumac scored an empty-netter for 5-3.
"I think our guys battled real hard tonight, especially in the third period when we gave ourselves a chance to get back into the game, but unfortunately we couldn't capitalise tonight," said Estonia head coach who now aims to finish off the tournament on a high.
"In the end it feels like you've throw it all away when you lead the game, but we need to pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes, and against Romania we will play our best game of the tournament."
For Croatia's head coach Letang, content after guiding his team to a second straight win, now expects a similar match tomorrow in their closing day encounter with Lithuania.
"It was a pretty tough, hard fought game tonight and our guys who went to their net had to earn their goals with two teams going pretty hard at it. It's going to be the exact same game tomorrow, because Lithuania is going to want to win, our guys is going to want to win and I think it willl an exciting hockey game."
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