Korea wins to send Lithuania down
by Andy Potts|05 MAY 2023
Korea's Hyeoncheol Song skates away from Lithuania's Karolis Krasilnikovas during the teams' World Championship Division IA game in Nottingham.
photo: Karl Denham
Lithuania was unable to save itself from relegation at the end of its World Championship Division IA campaign. A 1-2 loss against Korea in its final game in Nottingham left the Lithaunians without a point. Korea finishes fourth after picking up two wins, and today’s result secures Romania’s status for another season.

"It's never easy to lose," admitted Lithuania's forward Emilijus Krakauskas. "I think we tried our best but it wasn't good enough.

"We will do better next year."

After Poland’s promotion party, Friday’s second game was a survival showdown. Only a victory in regulation could save a Lithuanian team with no points from its first four games. A win would force a three-way tie at the foot of the standings and send Romania to Division IB. Technically, Korea could find itself dragged through the trapdoor, but only if it lost by an improbable six-goal margin.

"I thought we played a good team game," said Korea's goalie Matt Dalton. "We knew that they were fighting for their lives, but we were kinda fighting for ours too. It's nice to end the tournament on a positive note."

Although this game was vital for Lithuania’s survival chances, Korea had the better chances throughout. In a scoreless first frame, the closest we came to a goal was after 12 minutes when Kisung Kim was first to the rebound from a point shot. Mantas Armalis managed to deny him a 50th World Championship goal before the puck bounced kindly for his brother, Sangwook. That follow-up effort looped off a Lithuanian shoulder before the team in yellow could clear up the danger.

Shortly afterwards, Lithuania had the game’s first power play but struggled to make an impression on Dalton’s net.

The netminder admitted that the tournament overall was tough for him. But he was delighted to help his adopted country remain in Division IA as it goes through a change of generations.

"Personally it wasn't the tournament I was looking for," he said. "But we got the job done and we're going to stay in this division.

"That's huge for us, especially after the pandemic, the shutdowns and everything that happened. It's important that we can keep fighting at this level and it's especially important that our younger players get to play in this division next year."

After the intermission, Korea needed just 13 seconds to open the scoring. Sanghoon Shin, back in action after missing Wednesday’s game, slung the puck to the crease from a dead angle and got the bounce off Armalis to make it 1-0.

That goal pushed Lithuania even closer to the relegation trapdoor. Yet it also seemed to deflate Ron Pasco’s team. Through 13 minutes, there were just four shots at Dalton’s net.

Then, out of nothing, Ugnius Cizas tied the game. Jaunius Jasinevicius brought the puck off the right-hand boards and fired it to the crease. The Korean defence was nowhere, and Cizas got himself in front of Dalton to steer it home.

Suddenly energized, Lithuania could once again see a path to survival. A power play with four minutes left offered a chance to build further momentum. Emilijus Krakauskas had one testing shot, then created a good opportunity for Eimantas Noreika, before Korea got back to full strength and Shin almost got his second on a breakaway after Alisauskas lost his stick while attempting a slap shot.

However, putting the puck in the net has been an on-going problem in this tournament, and today's game was no exception.

"We are not scoring enough," added Krakauskas. "And we were getting too many penalties, which makes the games hard."

Korea was close to regaining the lead early in the third, with Armalis called into action to deny Don Ku Lee and Yoonseok Kang in quick succession. But the longer it stayed at 1-1, the more Lithuania posed a threat. For the first time in the game, Matt Dalton found himself the busier of the two goaltenders as the action moved into the final five minutes.

However, hopes of a dramatic late rescue act were hampered with 2:27 left on the clock when Mantas Stankius tangled with Geonwoo Kim next to the boards. After a review, he was assessed a double minor penalty for high sticking, leaving Lithuania to play out the end of regulation on the penalty kill.

Obliged to gamble, Lithuania withdrew goalie Armalis anyway, but coughed up possession and gave up a power play goal to Sihwan Kim in the last minute. The youngster’s second goal of the tournament won the game for Korea and got a rousing reception from a clutch of Romanian fans who could celebrate their team’s survival at this level.
Lithuania vs Korea - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A