Italy's captain too hot for Romania
by Andy Potts|29 APR 2023
Italy's Thomas Larkin (left) accepts the congratulations of Luca Frigo and Marco Zanetti after scoring on Romania in the teams' World Championship Division IA game in Nottingham.
photo: Karl Denham
Thomas Larkin was an unlikely hat-trick hero for Italy as Mike Keenan's team opened its Division IA campaign with a 6-2 win over Romania. The 32-year-old defender had four goals in 44 competitive games for Italy before today, but scored twice in the first period before completing his treble late on.

"It was nice, obviously, but this was a surprise for me too," smiled Larkin after the game. "But the important thing for us is the three points. It's a solid start, we played well as a team."

In between, Romania bravely threatened a fightback, clawing back two goals either side of the second intermission. But Italy was always too strong for its battling opponent and ensured there would be no late drama.
Larkin opened the scoring on 59 seconds. The play was something of a role reversal, with forward Luca Frigo producing the stretch pass and his defensive colleague collecting the puck on the blue line before putting a wrister behind Patrik Polc in the Romanian net.

Frigo continued to cause problems for Romania and his work behind the net created a big chance for Marco Zanetti. This time, though, the goalie pulled off a great save to deny the Italians a second. The resistance didn’t last long, though. On 7:55, Larkin got his second with a point shot through traffic. Then Polc was in action again with a huge save to halt a Frigo one-timer.

"I guess [Larkin] should play for the national team more often, he might get more goals," joked Frigo. "He's a great guy on and off the ice and he deserves those goals tonight."

The first period was comfortable for Italy, and the second followed a similar pattern. Another defender, Phil Pietroniro, set up a third goal when he battled out of the corner and set up Pascal Brunner for a wrister from the face-off dot that flashed over Polc’s glove. Within a minute, it was 4-0 as Daniel Tedesco turned Huba Bors inside out and angled a low shot through the goalie’s pads. Angelo Miceli arrived in time to apply the finishing touch and the game, seemingly, was out of Romania’s reach.

After Poland’s 7-0 win in the opening game, Italy had a target to aim for. But Romania was determined to take something from this encounter and got on the scoreboard midway through the second. Pietroniro’s perfectly timed poke check halted Mircea Constantin’s initial advance, but it also left the defender on the floor when the Romanian went into the corner and retrieved a great feed for Zsombor Molnar to bat in from the slot.

There was more to come from the outsider. In the 48th minute, Balasz Peters sent a pass across centre ice to release Matyas Kovacs into the Italian zone. Despite the efforts of Enrico Miglioranzi to get back and prevent a shot, Kovacs advanced to finish off the play and make it 2-4.

"We knew that it was not going to be an easy game," Frigo added. "Romania worked pretty hard. But we played our game, stayed focused on the process, and that's the result we got."

Suddenly, the underdog began to believe. Another Italian turnover invited Molnar to take a shot that Fazio deflected over the glass.

But the fightback was halted when Miceli’s second of the game made it five for the Italians. Once again, Tedesco was the provider and his feed invited Miceli to rifle home from between the hash marks, much to the frustration of Polc.

And there was still time for Larkin to grab that hat-trick when the puck came back to him on the centre point and he shot through traffic to make it six.
Romania vs Italy - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A