Late on Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday morning, the U18 Irish National Team played their fourth and final game of the 2011 IIHF World U18 Championship Division III Group B in Mexico City, Mexico.
Israel was the opposition and Ireland met this team a year ago in Monterrey. Israel won that game 8 – 0.
Both Conor Redmond and Adam Chaney were back for this game while Padraig Tuite and Patrick Anderson supported the team from the stands. Unfortunately, Redmond’s involvement in the game was extremely limited as he had not fully recovered from how the high altitude had affected him in the second game.
The first period of this game was a tough one as Israel did all the damage in the first twenty minutes. They scored ten unanswered. The first goal came just under three minutes into the game and was followed by a powerplay goal two minutes later. The barrage of goals continued after that as Israel scored one more powerplay goal along with a further seven equal strength goals. A huge loss to Ireland in this period was Rian Larkin as he received a two minute plus ten minutes penalty for checking to the head and neck area. This most certainly gave Israel some more space to move. The score after the first period was 10 – 0 to Israel and they outshot Ireland 15 – 3.
The second period went a little better for Ireland as the action was back and forth between the two teams. The Irish players were no doubt coming into their own a little bit more and started to get a feel for it. Maybe some inspiring words from Head Coach, Kenneth Redmond, did the trick! The first and only penalty of the period went to Ireland when Matthew Meehan was called for kneeing. Ireland was not able to keep Israel at bay and they scored their eleventh goal of the evening. Israel added their twelfth and final goal of the night just over two minutes later. The score after forty minutes was 12 – 0. However, it was most definitely a much better showing from Ireland as they held Israel to only five shots on goal while they had four shots on goal themselves.
There is no doubt that during the second intermission, the players were all conscious that the next twenty minutes of play would be the last time this team played at the 2011 IIHF World U18 Championship Division III Group B in Mexico City, Mexico. It would also be the final year that some players would play on the U18 Irish National Team as they would be too old after this tournament. So the passion was probably running very high amongst all of the players as well as all of the coaching staff.
The team came out strong in the third period and were awarded with an early powerplay opportunity. Unfortunately, they couldn’t convert the chances. Next, Larkin went to the penalty box for roughing. The Irish players fought hard to kill off the penalty which they did successfully. They did this again when penalised for too many men before they were rewarded for their efforts. Larkin scored Ireland’s second goal of the tournament after Jonathan Stewardson fed him the puck. Not long afterwards, Ireland had scored their second of the game. It was Larkin again but this time the assists went to Martin Grant and Stephen Murphy. Ireland won the final period with Christopher (James) Devine playing strong in net as he faced a further twelve shots.
Another tough game for Ireland no doubt but they’ve shown all week that the results have not kept them down. Down but not out might be the more appropriate phrase to use for this team as they’ve bounced back all season long from setbacks. This game was no different as they could have easily given up after the first period. However, they kept at it and were rewarded in the final period. All of the players and the entire coaching staff have done Ireland extremely proud all week. WELL DONE LADS!!!
Special congratulations go to Jonathan Stewardson who was selected as Ireland’s best player in the game. Stewardson has played a leading role on the team all week as well as prior to the team leaving. He opened up Ireland’s scoring with a goal against South Africa in the opening game of the tournament. This is Stewardson’s third tournament for Ireland and he has done well in each tournament to date.
Final Score: Israel 12 – 2 Ireland (10 – 0, 2 – 0, 0 – 2)
SOG: 32 – 13 (15 – 3, 5 – 4, 12 – 6)
PIM: 4 – 22 (2 – 14, 0 – 2, 2 – 6)
Goals: (51:50 – R. Larkin, J. Stewardson), (53:45 – R. Larkin, M. Grant, S. Murphy)
Saves: C. Devine (27/39), D. Wilkins (15/25) – E. Eyland (2/2), B. Orrason (2/2)