China wins & finishes 3rd, Estonia 4th
by Derek O'Brien|29 APR 2023
photo: IIHF / Catherine Kõrtsmik / Eesti Hoki

Playing in Division I of the IIHF World Championship for the first time since 2007, China finished third place in Group B after a 5-2 win over host Estonia. The two teams entered the game with five points each, making it a defacto bronze-medal game. Estonia finished fourth for the third time in a row.

“It’s too bad we couldn’t win one of the games against the three better teams, but overall, I’m happy,” said Estonian forward Kevin Parras. “It was a positive atmosphere for the whole hockey scene and let’s do better next time.”

Brothers Shuai and Jiang Fu (Parker and Spencer Foo) led China offensively with four and three points, respectively. Shuai scored three goals.

“That was a good finish to the tournament,” said Shuai Fu. “We had a bit higher hopes coming into it but getting this last win and a bronze medal is a step in the right direction and hopefully we’ll have a better result next year.”

Although the first period was played relatively evenly, China had the better fortune and took a commanding 3-0 lead.

The Chinese opened the scoring after just 73 seconds when Shuai Fu’s high shot from a bad angle found its way over Conrad Moldor’s right shoulder.

“We were focused and ready to go,” Shuai Fu said about the team’s start. “We just wanted to play a full 60 minutes and keep their attack to a minimum, and I think we did that.”

Just past the seven-minute mark they went up 2-0. Moldor stopped the initial shot from Jiang Fu off the rush but Jia Luo (Luke Lockhart) was right there to put in the rebound. Late in the period, China went up 3-0 on the power play. While they hadn’t generated much for most of the advantage, they cashed in late when Jie Liu (Jason Fram) banged in a loose puck in the crease.

“A bit of an unlucky goal, the first one, and it kinda took the air out of our game a little bit,” said Estonian coach Jussi Tupamaki. “I’m disappointed with the first period but after that, we picked ourselves up but, obviously, we couldn’t score more than two. They were the better team today.”

Things appeared to go from bad to worse for the Estonians early in the second period when Aleksandr Ossipov was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for charging. Once again, however, the Chinese power play looked disorganized. And with just 20 seconds of the five minutes remaining, Estonia scored shorthanded. Rasmus Kiik attempted a wraparound that Yongli Ouban (Paris O’Brien) stopped, but Kevin Parras capitalized on the rebound.

The score remained 3-1 heading into the third period but China took firm control of the game with two goals in the first five minutes. Shuai Fu scored his second of the game just 35 seconds in, converting a pass from brother Jiang on a 2-on-1 break. Two Estonian penalties in 26 seconds gave China a lengthy 5-on-3 that they didn’t score on. But just 11 seconds after the second penalty ended, the Fu brothers connected once again and Shuai completed his hat trick.

Refusing to give up, the Estonians gave their fans one more reason to cheer by scoring a power-play goal with 5:08 to play, with Robert Arrak backhanding in a rebound.

“It was a rough start but we battled till the end,” said Parras. “On a good day we can compete with them but today wasn’t one of those days.”

Estonia could get no closer despite finishing the game on another power play, but the tournament-high crowd of 4066 gave them a rousing ovation nonetheless.