DONETSK, Ukraine – Ukraine won the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A on home ice in Donetsk and will play in Division I Group B next year.
Ukraine didn’t begin as strongly as expected when it needed a shootout to defeat underdog Korea 3-2 in the opener, but the home squad improved throughout the tournament and finished it with a next-to-perfect record.
After winning against Hungary (7-6), Spain (4-0) and the Netherlands (7-0) the yellow-blue team faced Lithuania in a winner-takes-it-all game on Sunday.
3,919 fans at the Ice Palace Druzhba saw a game that was evenly matched despite Ukraine outshooting the Baltic nation 44-21.
Volodymyr Romanenko brought Ukraine the lead at 8:12, but in the second period the game didn’t go according to the script of head coach Alexander Godynyuk, the former Ukrainian national team and NHL player.
Pijus Rulevicius and Aimas Fiscevas capitalized on two power plays to turn around the score, but Ruslan Romashenko equalized with five minutes left to play in the second period.
Lithuanian netminder Mantas Armalis, who was named Best Goalkeeper of the tournament and defends the net for Mora IK in the top Swedish junior league, was under constant pressure, but he survived the third period undefeated. Also the extra time seemed to end scoreless until Pavlo Padakin scored the game-winning goal two seconds before the buzzer.
Ukraine took the gold and will play again at Division I level next year. Valentyn Sirchenko as Best Defenceman and Viktor Zakharov as Best Forward received individual awards on top of their gold medals.
1994-born Zakharov from Sokil Kyiv led the tournament in scoring with seven goals and nine points.
While Lithuania had to settle for silver, Hungary took home bronze after crushing fourth-placed Spain 7-1 with a hat trick from Attila Nemeth.
The Netherlands won the clash for fifth place against Korea 3-2 in a shootout and sent the Asians down to Division II Group B.