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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Croatian National Hockey Team Surprises With Silver At Division I IIHF Championships.

This news is not all that earth shattering shocking, as we are talking about Division I IIHF ice hockey, but still. Considering how many ice rinks there are in Croatia compared to soccer fields and other indoor sports arenas, this is something to be proud of. This year they were in Vilnius, Lithuania to compete in Division I, Group B with Great Britain, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and the Netherlands. They had 3 straight victories until losing to the group favorites Poland. Then they won their last game against Lithuania to take 2nd spot in the group. A very unexpected good position to finish at, because if they would have won the group and advanced to Group A of the division next year, then that's only 1 step away from the actual annual IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships. They were down 2-1 after 2 periods against Poland, so it was pretty close to a big upset in the division.

A number of the players on this Croatian National Team also play for the KHL based Zagreb Bears (Croatian: Medveščak Zagreb, more info at the bottom of this post) or other Zagreb based teams. However, probably another main reason to do this post just now was to add these images I came across. Those are some frikin cool looking jerseys IMHO, so I had to throw these images here. Last year Zagreb hosted the 2013 IIHF World Championship Division II which is from where Croatia were promoted from after finishing in first place. More information about this years IIHF results and this Division I tournament at, which is also where I took most of the images from.....

(Sidenote info, I recall one time when I used to play in a minor hockey league at a local arena, and I told the one guy in the change room while getting dressed something like.."Yeah, maybe someday I'll play for the Croatian National Hockey Team, then the other guy said something like.."Croatia? Croatia will never have a hockey team".  I hope he's reading this, now I'm saying "Yeah, maybe someday Croatia will win a gold medal in hockey at the Winter Olympics", so I guess this post was sort of personal too. I also should add that recently the Croat women's hockey team earned a promotion at their IIHF tournament as well. A related Croatian women's hockey calendar shoot post below)


Extra bonus footage I came across from this years IIHF Championships in Vilnius.

More bonus qualifying footage I found from Zagreb in 2012 some people might enjoy.

Croatia surprises with silver, Newcomers finish second in Div. IB, host Lithuania wins bronze


VILNIUS – Croatia edged Lithuania 3-2 for second place during the final day of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B. In the fight for relegation, the Netherlands sent Romania down a division after a 9-1 romp, while Great Britain inflicted gold medallists Poland on their first loss, 4-2, to finish fourth. A year after winning promotion, newcomers Croatia finished second in the Division I Group B after seeing off hosts Lithuania in the battle for the silver medals.

Borna Rendulic scored the winner with six minutes to go and despite 30-17 in shots for Lithuania, inspired goaltending from Mate Tomljenovic saw Croatia hold out for a 3-2 win  "When we arrived here we did not know what we could do, but when we started to play today we knew it was possible and we made history for Croatia and achieved something big for our country," said Croatia defenceman Igor Jacmenjak after his team was the surprise package of the tournament losing just one game versus gold medal winners Poland.

After a goalless first period, Croatia's Geoff Waugh broke the deadlock midway through the middle frame when Donatas Kumeliauskas served a 2+10 minute penalty. On the power play, Croatia's captain Dario Kostovic burst through centre ice with pace, found Mislav Blagus in the slot, who with a pass behind his back found Waugh, who got the better of Mantas Armalis in the Lithuania net to silence the 7,500 inside Siemens Arena.

Lithuania came into this vital tie without Nerijus Alisauskas serving a one-game suspension issued after their previous game against Romania. In his absence veteran Arturas Katulis took the step up to the first line.  As Lithuania pressed forward to look for an equaliser, it was instead the wily Croats who notched a second. Michael Novak raced through with the puck on the left and in front of goal Tadija Miric reacted faster than Lithuania's defenceman Tomas Vysniauskas to double Croatia's lead.

Edgar Rybakov needed only 73 seconds to give the hosts hope as he reduced Croatia's lead weaving himself past the last line of Croatian defence and shot low past Tomljenovic.  The goal keyed-up the Lithuanians squad as their intensity in attack increased with Zubrus’ desire to win shone through to his teammates. Darius Pliskauskas tied the game carrying the puck into Croatia's zone left-hand side before hitting the game-tying goal up in the top corner. Chants of "Lietuva" rang out from the stands as the game looked like it had swung over in the hosts´ favour winning the final frame shots 15-5.  Dangerous on the breakaway, Croatia had already missed a penalty shot by Luka Vukoja when less than two minutes later individual skill from Rendulic won the game and silver medal for Croatia as Roman Aliapkin was unable to hold off the Croatian prospect as he raked a backhand up in the left corner with 6:19 to go.

Despite a frantic ending where Lithuania pressed on and where Mindaugas Kieras hit the post, Lithuania failed to capitalise which meant bronze instead of silver medals for the hosts.  "This tournament was an unbelievable success for hockey and for sport in Lithuania," said Lithuania head coach Bernd Haake. "Our big target was the silver medal, but if you look from the start of the tournament, we beat Great Britain, the team that came down, we beat the Netherlands whom we haven't won against for many years, so all these games have been good promotion for hockey."

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