Italy eases to second victory
by Andy Potts|30 APR 2023
Double goalscorer Daniel Mantenuto after his first goal for Italy against Korea at the World Championship Division IA in Nottingham, Great Britain.
photo: Karl Denham
Italy underlined its pre-tournament status as promotion favourite with a second comfortable World Championship Division IA win in Nottingham. On a day of tight games, the Azzurri bucked the trend with a 6-1 verdict over Korea. The only consolation for the underdog was a first goal in the tournament, scored by Kisung Kim in the third period.

Daniel Mantenuto, who scored twice, summed up his team's success: "I think we just stuck with our game plan," he said. "We tried to play with speed, to get pucks to the net, get bodies to the net. We tried to establish a forecheck, to defend well and I think we did that a lot of the time tonight."

For Korea, Sangwook Kim felt that the game was lost early on. "We had a tough first period and we lost those two goals," he said. "But after that we got a little bit better and hopefully we can be better again in the next game."

The Italians went in front in the fifth minute when Matt Dalton allowed a big rebound from Phil Pietroniro’s shot. Daniel Mantenuto picked it up and had time to turn between the hash marks before putting it in the top corner.

Despite that setback, Korea was not overawed. A couple of power play chances helped, while Damian Clara in the Italian net had to be alert to a point shot from Seungjae Lee and a rush from Jungwoo Jeon.

Although Korea was offering more offence than it managed against Britain in its opening game, the outcome was similar. When Italy grabbed a second goal – Luca Frigo with a short-handed tally – in the 15th minute, it felt like Woojae Kim’s team faced a long road back into the game.

So it proved. Korea moved the puck around attractively enough, especially on the power play. However, genuine chances were hard to come by. This Italian team has an iron core, and defensive discipline is a big part of that identity. Consequently, Korea tended to find itself stuck on the perimeter, unable to get inside Italy’s rearguard.

At the other end, Italy extended its lead late in the middle frame with the latest marker from Thomas Larkin. The captain potted a hat-trick against Romania in Saturday’s 6-2 win. Today he assisted on Frigo’s effort before smashing home a feed from Angelo Miceli to make it 3-0.

"He's a great guy and a great player," said Mantenuto of Larkin. "It's fun to play with him, to see what he's doing on the ice."

In the third period, Frigo got his second of the game. Pietroniro took the puck off Young Jun Lee in centre ice and released Frigo. He took the puck to the net and beat Dalton with a backhand finish.

The sympathies of most of the crowd were firmly with the Koreans, though. The biggest cheer of the night came in the 49th minute when Kisung Kim scored his country’s first goal of the tournament with a shot from a tight angle that beat Clara.

However, it was a brief moment of joy for the underdog. The next shift saw Italy take play to the other end, where Brandon McNally put a Tommaso Traversa feed into the Korean net for 5-1. A power play midway through the final frame enabled Mantenuto to get his second of the evening and complete the scoring.

Looking ahead, Italy is taking nothing for granted ahead of a meeting with Poland on Tuesday. "It's a great way to start the tournament but we still have more," Mantenuto said. "We've got to keep building and try to achieve our goal."

Korea, meanwhile, goes in search of a first victory when it plays Romania. "We have to improve our D-zone coverage," said Kim. "Also, we're taking a lot of penalties so we need to fix that. But hopefully we can be better in the next game."
Italy vs Korea - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A