NZ HOCKEY

New Zealand Under-20s go down to Bulgaria in opening game

New Zealand’s under-20 men’s national team, or as we Millennials like to call them, the Junior Ice Blacks, started their IIHF World Championship campaign today by facing hosts Bulgaria.

New Zealand looked to silence the raucous home crowd with the first goal, but they probably weren’t expecting it to come so softly for alternate captain Felipe Aguirre-Landshoeft.

Bulgaria answered back five minutes later on their second power play of the night with George Hopkins sitting in the box for slashing, Miroslav Vasilev setting up the game-tying goal from behind the net.

And…just 15 seconds later, Bulgaria score again to take a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

The second period started how the first ended, Bulgaria all over New Zealand in their own zone and forcing a mistake, leading to this steal-and-snipe play by Dilkov.

New Zealand goalie Taylor Goodall came up with the goods with this breakaway save to deny what could have been a 4-1 lead for the Bulgarians.

Instead, New Zealand made use of the bouncy boards at Sofia’s Winter Sports Palace to come within one goal of Bulgaria.

(The goal was originally awarded to Moses Bygate-Smith and later corrected on the scoresheet)

Bulgaria were swarming New Zealand’s crease as the second period came to a close, but Goodall was up to the task and the score remained 3-2.

Vasilev, the man behind Bulgaria’s first goal, must’ve listened to Coach Bombay’s advice during the original ‘Mighty Ducks’ movie because he was cleaning up the trash to make it 4-2.

With Matheson Graham serving two minutes for tripping, New Zealand were once again short-handed but that didn’t stop Luke Hill from pouncing on a mistake by Bulgaria’s powerplay unit – a nifty dangle sends goalie Ivan Stoynov the wrong way and the Junior Ice Blacks cash in to close the gap. A few vocal locals were booing after this goal – at the expense of the poor goalie, who knows? But NZ kept this game interesting throughout.

You can calm those boos, Bulgaria went on to win 5-3 much to the delight of one fan and their flag.

New Zealand’s next game is against neighbours/rivals Australia tomorrow at 3:30am NZDT.

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