Ice Blacks assert dominance with convincing win over Mexico

The New Zealand Ice Blacks began their campaign at the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in convincing fashion with a 7-2 win over hosts Mexico tonight, making it New Zealand’s first win against their rivals on Mexican ice.

55 seconds into the game Mexico’s Santiago Sierra was called for slashing, starting the first of seven stick infractions they would be called for.

And while the Ice Blacks were unsuccessful on their first powerplay, shortly after time expired on Sierra’s penalty, the high-powered line of Chris Eaden, Martin Lee and Paris Heyd connected to open the scoring, with Eaden grabbing the tally.

The Mexicans answered back shortly after to tie the game 1-1 before ill discipline got the better of them, with back-to-back penalties for hooking and tripping. New Zealand scored their first of five powerplay goals on the night halfway through the first period, Ryan Strayer celebrating his recent NZ citizenship status with his first IIHF goal.

Tensions began to rise between the two nations as the first period wound with Mexico’s Gomez and Perez called for cross-checking and high sticking respectively, while New Zealand’s Heyd was penalised for charging in retaliation as the Mexicans look to take their frustrations out on the Ice Blacks.

Jordan Challis and Andrew Cox scored 33 seconds apart to end their first period with New Zealand leading 4-1.

The scoreline not coming without casualties however, defenceman Callum Burns was stretchered off the ice after taking an unfortunate fall into the boards. Also in the first, Strayer coped a stray stick to draw a bloody nose, but no penalty.

Mexico looked to right their ship by scoring within the first minute of the following period of play, however from there on out, New Zealand were clinical in their execution of the powerplay. The Ice Blacks scored three more on the man-advantage during the second, including a breakaway goal by Stefan Amston that could be worthy of a few highlight reels.

Also amongst the powerplay markers, Cox scored his second of the game while towering centre Matt Schneider notched up his first of the tournament. With three assists on the night, Estonian-born forward Alex Polozov was a quiet contributor for the Ice Blacks.

Mexico’s starting goalie de la Garma was replaced by de la Vega after allowing seven goals through forty minutes.

While the final score would be decided after two periods, the two sides exchanged penalties in the third, but the Ice Blacks remained resilient to hold onto their sizeable lead with starting goalie Rick Parry standing tall when required and their penalty kill denying any scoring opportunities for their opposition.

“It was pretty scrappy, we weren’t really expecting that, but we didn’t sink down to their level which is really good. We kept our heads (held) high, played our game and came away with the win, so it was a fantastic way to start the tournament,” said Ice Blacks captain Nick Craig.

In today’s other games, Israel upset Iceland 6-3, while DPR Korea put on a dominant display to beat division newcomers Georgia 9-4.

The Ice Blacks next opponent will be a strong-looking Israel team coached by former NHL defenceman Bobby Holik, with puck drop scheduled for 9:30am tomorrow (NZ time).

Main photo: Mike Froger