In response to a disappointing 5-3 loss to Israel, the New Zealand Ice Blacks have bounced back in day three action of the IIHF Division 2B World Championship in Mexico City, beating newcomers Georgia 6-2.
The Georgians surprised the Ice Blacks early on by opening the scoring thirty-seconds into the contest. For the next ten minutes the New Zealand side were battling to gain any meaningful possession, frustrated by the neutral zone trap set by their opponents.
The breakthrough came halfway through the first period when captain Nick Craig led by example to send the puck past Georgia starting goalie Andrey Ilyenko for the game-tying goal. French-Kiwi Benjamin Gavoille gave New Zealand their first lead of the game 93 seconds later.
Alex Polosov was whistled for slashing by the referees while battling for the puck in the corners, putting Georgia on the powerplay for the first time in the game. Artem Kurbatov wasted no time in converting the opportunity to tie the game 2-2 heading into first intermission.
From that point on, momentum slowly swung in New Zealand’s favour. With the referees looking to penalise both sides for any lazy stick infractions, the Ice Blacks’ potent powerplay found their chance to grab hold of the lead.
Chris Eaden scored his first of the game on the man-advantage, assisted by Jordan Challis after Georgia’s Mikhail Shalunov was sent to the penalty box for slashing. Martin Lee followed suit five minutes later, with Challis picking up another assist along with Craig.
Heading into the third period, the shaky start was well behind by the Ice Blacks now as they looked to finish off strong.
Back on the powerplay six minutes in with Georgia’s Kharizov called for tripping, Paris Heyd continued New Zealand’s impressive run of form on the special teams by scoring the third powerplay goal of the game, putting the game well out of reach for their opponents.
Eaden scored his second with 7:25 remaining in the game to seal the 6-2 victory and keep their chances of higher medal honours looking healthy with two more games to play. The win also marks Auckland-based defenceman Andrew Hay’s 70th IIHF appearance for the Ice Blacks.
NZ goalie Rick Parry was strong in net for the remainder of the game after allowing two in the first period, making 32 saves off 34 shots on goal. Team MVP went to captain Nick Craig for his efforts however, with a goal and an assist.
The Ice Blacks have a rest day off tomorrow before they take on North Korea this Saturday at 6am (NZ time).
Main photo: Mike Froger