WORLD JRS: Croatia outlasts host Spain in Division II Group B tournament

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It came down to the final game on the final day of competition in Division II’s Group B at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship held in Jaca, Spain.

Spain’s second time hosting the five-game round robin series for one of the lower divisions in the tournament saw the Spanish once again fall one game short from securing promotion to Group A as the Croatians played the role of spoiler, similar to the South Koreans in 2014.

The first day of competition opened on Dec. 13 and saw Belgium open the tournament with a 3-2 overtime victory over Australia. Brent van Rooy scored the overtime winner just 29 seconds into the extra frame to give Belgium the victory while Keanu Evers stopped 22 shots for the victory. Charlie Smart made the start for the Australians and turned aside 39 shots in the loss. The second game of the day saw Croatia shut out Serbia 4-0. Luka Jarcov scored twice while Vilim Rosandic stopped 27 shots to blank the Serbians. Jug Mitic stopped 35 of 39 shots in the loss. Rounding out the first day of competition, Spain hammered Iceland 8-3. Manuel Manero and Angel Fernandez-Pola each scored twice while Ignacio Garcia stopped 11 of 14 shots for the win. Atli Valdimarsson stopped 39 shots for Iceland in defeat.

Day 2 of competition on Dec. 14 opened with the Croatians improving to 2-0 with a 4-2 victory over Australia. Bruno Kegalj scored the eventual game-winner while Rosandic faced 21 shots, stopping 19 of them for his second victory of the tournament. Nicholas Novysadlak stopped 25 shots in defeat. Next up, Belgium took on Iceland and came away with a 6-2 victory. Bryan Henry had a four-point game for the Belgians while Evers allowed two goals on 26 shots for the victory. Valdimarsson allowed six goals on 29 shots in defeat. The host Spaniards rounded out the second day of competition with a dominant 7-0 victory over Serbia. Ignacio Solorzano netted a hat trick for Spain while Garcia stopped all 27 shots to pick up his first shutout of the tournament. Mitic made 36 saves in defeat.

With an off day on the 15th, competition resumed on Dec. 16 with Croatia picking up a 6-3 victory over Iceland. Matija Milicic scored twice for the Croatians while Ivan Ruzic stopped 19 shots for his first win in the tournament. Nicolas Jouanne allowed six goals on 35 shots in defeat. In the day’s second game, Australia picked up their first victory of the tournament over Serbia by a 4-2 score. Remy McGuiness netted the eventual game-winner for the Australians while Smart stopped a whopping 65 shots to pick up the win. Mitic allowed four goals on 17 shots in defeat. Spain kept in-step with Croatia to round out Day 3 of competition with a 5-2 victory over Belgium. Luis Jose Hernandez scored twice for the host team while Garcia made 21 saves for the win. Evers stopped 35 of 40 shots in defeat.

Another off day on the 17th saw the fourth day of competition open on Dec. 18 with Serbia downing Iceland 4-2. Ugljesa Novakovic netted the game-winner while Mitic made 23 saves in victory while Jouanne allowed four goals on 26 shots in defeat. Croatia improved to 4-0 in the second game of the day with a 5-2 victory over Belgium thanks to a two-goal performance by Jarcov. Rosandic stopped 18 shots for the win while Evers made 39 saves in the loss. The host Spaniards also improved to 4-0 in the tournament with a 5-2 win over the Australians. Oriol Rubio had a hat trick while Jhon Sebastian Varela made 14 saves in his first appearance in the tournament, picking up the victory. Novysedlak was peppered with 51 shots and stopped 46 in defeat.

The final day of competition opened on Dec. 19 with Serbia taking a 3-2 overtime victory against Belgium. Andrej Zwick was the overtime hero 2:31 into the extra frame while Mitic stopped 29 shots for the victory. Evers allowed three goals on 31 shots in defeat. Australia secured Iceland’s relegation to Division III in the day’s second game with a 5-1 victory. Sam Hodic scored twice for the Australians while Smart stopped 49 shots for the win. Jouanne stopped 16 in defeat.

In the tournament finale, it was a battle of 4-0 teams. Croatia would jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first 40 minutes and despite a pair early goals in the third period by the host Spaniards, would hold on for the 3-2 victory in regulation. Jankovic would be credited with the game-winning goal as Rosandic stopped 28 of 30 shots to complete Croatia’s perfect run in the tournament. Garcia allowed three goals on 43 shots, suffering his first defeat in the tournament.

Croatia will now advance to Division II Group A in the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championships while Iceland has been relegated to Division III in next year’s tournament.

FULL STANDINGS
1. Croatia – 5-0-0-0, 15 pts.
2. Spain – 4-0-0-1, 12 pts.
3. Australia – 2-0-1-2, 7 pts.
4. Belgium – 1-1-1-2, 6 pts.
5. Serbia – 1-1-0-3, 5 pts.
6. Iceland – 0-0-0-5, 0 pts.

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