Lithuania top Estonia
Lithuania top Estonia
Teenage goalie shines in encouraging 7-2 win
Paulius Gintautas and Nerijus Alisauskaus led the way for Lithuania scoring a couple of goals each in a fine 7-2 opening day win.
Teenager Artur Pavliukov caps World Championship debut with 28 saves.
"A great job by our young guys who were totally unfraid of the occasion today, and as for our goalie, it is good to see him play like this, he is our future," said Lithuania captain Midaugas Kieras following their victory over Estonia at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Zagreb.
Lithuania who just two months earlier had suffered a 4-1 loss to Estonia at the Olympic qualifiers in Budapest, now came out on top during the opening fixture in Zagreb. Lithuania without their stalwart Mantas Armalis in net, needed their replacement 19-year-old Pavliukov to be at best and did not disappoint.
Estonia set the tone early and at 10:49 they deservedly broke the deadlock when Alexandr Petrov, held the puck off Kieras and Aivaras Bendzius along the boards to pick out and unmarked Rooba who found Pavliukov's top corner at 10:49. But despite dominating proceedings and winning the shots in the first frame 12-6, Lithuania scored twice before the end of the first intermission.
Against the run of play Aivaras Bendzius fed Mauras Baltrukonis who backhanded home the equalizer from right faceoff circle backhand at 14:24. Soon after on a breakaway Estonia's Vassilli Titarenko served the puck to Andrei Lukin on a plate, a chance Estonia soon after were left to rue as Ugnius Cizas capitalised after 16:43 on passive defensive work by Vadim Vasjonkin with a low finish past Villem-Henrik Koitmaa.
"In the first period we won the shots 12-6 and were dominating which is not really our game," said Estonia head coach Jussi Tupamaki. "I would have expected our opponents to control the game more, but now we turned out having long spells of attacks and made bad decisions there."
Sloppy play by defenceman Silver Kerna when Estonia were pushing for an equalizer on powerplay saw the puck being picked up by Daniel Bogdziul to stretch Lithuania's lead to 3-1. Rooba's second of the afternoon at 26:38 with plenty of time to pick his spot clear in the slot put nerve back into the game at 3-2.
But that was as close as Estonia got in the Baltic opening-day clash. On the powerplay Alisauskas low slapshop brought back the two goal cushion for Lithuania at 4-2 at 28:06. Careless defensive work with Kerna at fault again saw Gintautas make it 5-2. Then on the powerplay with 2:21 left of the middle frame Alisauskas raked home a rebound on the powerplay for Lithuania's sixth.
Estonia replaced Koitmaa with Daniil Seppanen in the net for final frame, and despite pressing ahead for goals it was Gintautas who scored the only goal to seal Lithuania's 7-2 fine win.
"Our first priority was defense and we did that well," said Kieras. "Having nine guys in the squad who are under the age of 20 our goal ahead of coming here was to win our first two games an then we'll see," he continued as they are facing Romania next.
For Estonia who last year had to wait until their final game before survival was sealed in a dramatic fashion. Plenty of improvement is required ahead of tomorrow's clash with Great Britain as they will be eager to give a much better account of themselves.
"I think we have a chance in all of the games, so we are entering it like we have a chance of winning it," said Tupamaki.
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