The U18 Irish National Team played the host nation, Mexico, into the early hours of Tuesday morning (Irish time that is) at the 2011 IIHF World U18 Championship Division III Group B.
Following a tough game against South Africa on Sunday, the team were hoping that another night’s rest would help them get used to the high altitude of Mexico City and allow them to put in a better showing. At first, this appeared to be the case and the team looked rejuvenated and more competitive than in its first game against South Africa.
The team came out and looked more organised, particularly in the defensive zone. The coaching staff of Kenneth Redmond, Rob Schistad and Hugh Smyth most certainly drilled it into the players how important it is to hold their positions and keep on their opponents when they don’t have possession of the puck. The team was also much more physical than it had been in the first game. The team’s Captain, Rian Larkin, lead this physical side of the game and threw plenty of big hits throughout the first period. Adam Nolan also threw his body about the place while others threw their bodies to the ice to try and block shots from the point. Patrick Anderson delivered some very big hits taking down some of the bigger Mexican players with some pounding hits.
Unfortunately, the physical side of things got too much for Ireland and they took a total of twenty two minutes of penalties in the first period alone. First, Matthew Meehan went to the box for elbowing which allowed Mexico the opportunity to open the scoring with the man advantage. They quickly added a couple more before Larkin took a two minute plus two minute penalty for roughing. His exuberance getting the better of him! This along with a too many players penalty allowed Mexico to add another three goals within the next three minutes. They then added an eight and final goal of the period before Ireland, mainly through some heroics of Chirstopher (James) Devine in net, held Mexico at bay. Midway through the period, Devine had stopped two point blank shots while Ireland was killing one of several penalties. He was also unfortunate to see some of the shots actually get past him. Mexico seemed to have all of the luck with one or two lucky bounces. This included the fifth goal which trickled over the line after it appeared Devine had it covered.
The second period saw Ireland on the back foot much more as they took five consecutive penalties and played much of the period down a player. However, they killed each penalty and kept Mexico from adding to their eight goals in the first. Ireland stood up well and looked organised on the penalty kill all throughout the period. Devine had stopped a further eight shots. The third period did not start well as Ireland took a penalty after only eighteen seconds when Meehan went to the penalty box for tripping. The action was slightly more back and forth this period with Ireland even having a breakaway through Steven Murphy. The Mexican defenseman was quick enough to get back and put him off just enough that the shot was saved by the goalkeeper. Mexico went on to score a further four goals in this period to finish the game 12 – 0.
Another tough game for Ireland but the team looked a lot more organised and some players had a bit more of a jump in their step as it appeared they were getting used to the high altitude. Understandably, some players were still finding the lack of oxygen difficult to cope with. Larkin put in an impressive display as he constantly hounded the Mexican players on the puck before he became a calming influence in the defensive zone when he switched back to defence. Stewardson also put it up to the Mexicans and could have a couple more chances to add to his goal in the first game if he keeps it up. Dublin players, Nolan and Anderson, also looked very impressive as they threw their bodies around taking their men and blocking shots as best they could.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of injuries with both Padraig Tuite and Anderson leaving the game after suffering injuries. Tuite took a puck to the elbow and has suffered bad bruising while Anderson injured his leg in an off the puck incident. The full extent of the injuries is not yet known but we wish both players a speedy recovery.
Special congratulations go out to Christopher (James) Devine who was selected as Ireland’s best player. Devine faced thirty seven shots in the fifty five minutes that he played and managed to stop twenty five of those including a breakaway and several point blank shots while Ireland were killing penalties. This is Devine’s second tournament for Ireland and his performances have been impressive so far.
Final Score: Mexico 12 – 0 Ireland (8 – 0, 0 – 0, 4 – 0)
SOG: 39 – 1 (17 – 1, 8 – 0, 14 – 0)
PIM: 25 – 34 (0 – 22, 25 – 10, 0 – 2)
Saves: C. Devine (25/37), D. Wilkins (2/2) – R. Albrecht (1/1)