Ukraine wins goalfest
by Derek O'Brien|26 APR 2023
photo: IIHF / Catherine Kõrtsmik / Eesti Hoki

Before an enthusiastic crowd of 3001 – the largest of the tournament so far – that was largely pro-Estonia but also had a noticeable Ukrainian contingent, Ukraine defeated host Estonia 7-4 in Wednesday’s late game.

With the win, Ukraine is now second place with seven points, two back of Japan, with everyone eyeing the tournament’s last game on Saturday night as the one that could decide the group champion. Estonia remains at five points.

Ukraine got three points each from Illia Korenchuk, Olexander Peresunko, Vadym Mazur and Olexi Vorona, while Estonia was led by two goals from captain Robert Rooba.

“It was a high-scoring game and it was nice to play here with a big crowd and big support, so we really enjoyed it and we’re glad that we won,” said Peresunko, whose points were all assists. “I feel good, I just try to play my game and help the team win.”

Ukraine came out strong and even hit a couple of goalposts in the opening minutes, but Estonia was able to weather the early storm unscathed and opened the scoring at 11:38. After a furious puck battle behind the net, Rasmus Kiik came out front and sent a backhand pass to Kevin Parras, who used his backhand to put it in.

“It definitely feels good,” Parras said about scoring in front of the home crowd. “We had a lot of Ukrainian fans here too so the atmosphere was great. But it doesn’t matter, it’s always great to score goals.”

At that point, the shots on goal were 6-3 for Ukraine. That margin grew to 13-3 by period’s end, with Ukraine finally scoring with 2:06 to go when Dmitri Nemenko sent a backhand pass in front to Korenchuk, who tapped it in.

Early in the second period, Ukraine took the lead on the game’s first power play on a Pylyp Pangelov-Yudashev bomb from the point. The Estonians thought they had tied it minutes later as they furiously attacked Eduard Zakharchenko’s crease, but in the commotion the Ukrainian netminder had managed to get his glove on the puck and earn a whistle before sticks forced it over the goal line.

Vitali Lialka gave Ukraine a 3-1 lead but Rooba, having seemingly regained his scoring touch after being snake-bitten early in the tournament – got it back a couple minutes later with a nice mid-air deflection of Saveli Novikov’s shot.

Estonia then had a chance to pull even on the power play but, after a big penalty kill, goals by Pangelov-Yudashev and Korenchuk – the second of the game for each – 46 seconds apart late in the middle frame gave Ukraine a commanding 5-2 lead.

With the outcome pretty much decided, each team scored twice in the third period, with the gap never falling below three.

“I’m proud of the team because we never gave up,” said Parras. “Ukraine is a hell of a team. Compared to last year, when they beat us 8-0, it’s an improvement but it’s still disappoining. We’re here to win every game so it doesn’t matter.”