New Zealand’s Under-20 men’s national team’s tough run at the IIHF World Championships in Reykjavik, Iceland continued overnight with a 11-1 loss at the hands of the host nation.
In his first start in net for New Zealand this tournament, the Dunedin Thunder’s Evan Froger felt the onslaught of an Icelandic side determined to win on home ice and gain the opportunity to play for a fifth place finish. 17 seconds in Axel Orongan potted the opening goal to set the tone early.
As the halfway mark of the first approached Isaak Reid was sent to the penalty box on a marginal tripping call. On the ensuing powerplay an unchallenged Sigurdur Thorsteinsson went blocker side on Froger to extend Iceland’s lead to 2-0.
Iceland were back on the powerplay with five minutes to go in the opening stanza. Orongan’s seamless pass from the right-side point to the left-side slot enabled Heidar Kristveigarson to score his first of five goals for the day.
Down 6-0 after twenty minutes, New Zealand head coach Justin Daigle brought Drew Kinney into the game to relieve Froger in net, but it only took 19 seconds for Kristveigarson to tally his hat-trick goal.
After that, the frantic scoring pace set by the home side in the opening period came to a relative halt – thanks in-large to a more dogged defensive effort from the Junior Ice Blacks while Kinney denied 25 of 28 shots.
Unfortunately matters took a turn for the worst with 4:12 remaining – Ethan du Plooy fell awkwardly after colliding with Iceland’s starting goalie Arnar Hjaltested as he came out of his crease to play a loose puck. The play resulted in the New Zealand defender being taken off the ice via stretcher for evaluation – du Plooy was later discharged from hospital with stitches and a ‘heavy concussion’ according to team reports.
Due to the lengthy injury delay the second period ended prematurely – play eventually resumed for the final period with an extra four minutes on the clock. Iceland scoring twice more to get their eleventh and set themselves up for the fifth place clash against Chinese Taipei.
New Zealand’s Luke Hill broke his team’s goalscoring drought late in the third. The opportunistic play was a direct result of Jackson Flight aggressively forechecking the Iceland defence behind their own net, creating a turnover, the puck floating directly to Hill’s stick front and centre of goal.
But the damage was already done by that point – they will now face South Africa again in a grudge match playoff for seventh and eighth place. Puck drops tonight at 11pm NZ time.
In the medal rounds Australia will be seeking IIHF promotion as they prepare to face off against the high-scoring Chinese team for the gold medal game. Both sides won their semifinal matchups 7-4 and 12-1 respectively over Bulgaria and Turkey.
Photos supplied by Ice Hockey Iceland.