In their second game in as many days, in nail biting and dramatic fashion, Team Ireland won their match versus Greece today at the GSM Ice Arena in Erzurum, Turkey. In a penalty-riddled 60 minutes, Ireland beat the Greeks by a score of 5-3.
The Irish team certainly know how to keep us fans at home on the edge of our seats, watching the live score machine was almost as tense as watching any film on the big screen.
Things started off quite similar to Ireland’s first match versus Luxembourg, with Ireland scoring first, only a few minutes into the match. This time it was Gareth Martin who had the opening tally, assisted by Adam Jackson-Wyatt, who was Irelands Man of the Match in yesterday’s game, and Gareth Roberts. That line, ladies and gentlemen, is proving itself to be quite a forced to be reckoned with!
After this goal, there were a total of 22 minutes in penalties awarded between the teams, and our Boys in Green even had to kill off a 5-on-3 midway through the first. Eventually though, Ireland went on to score another first period goal at 14:57 into the game, this time on the power play. The goal was slotted into the back of the Greeks net by Gareth Roberts, assisted by Irish veteran and brother of Mark Morrison, David Morrison. The first period finished up 2-0 for Ireland, with each team having served 14 minutes in penalties a piece. The referees whistle was certainly in action today.
The second period started off on the right note for Ireland when Captain Stevie Hamill scored just 1 minute and 9 seconds into the period, assisted by Adam Patience. After this, 12 minutes in penalties were awarded between the teams, but neither side gave up any goals as a good display from the defence was to be seen.
Luckily at 34:37 of the game, Team Ireland veteran and sharp shooter Steven Ewen scored an even-strength goal to put us up 4-0 near the end of the second period. Assisted by Steven Adams and Timothy O’Driscoll. Although this appeared to be a comfortable lead, Greece answered just four minutes later scoring their first goal of the game. The Greek tally came from Alexandros Valsamas-Rallis. The second period ended with a score of 4-1 for Ireland, this time with the Greeks serving 18 minutes in penalties, and Ireland 10.
The third period only saw the physicality and excitement increase. The adrenaline was in the increase, both on the ice and at home in Ireland and worldwide as everyone was login online to check the latest score in the match.
Ireland’s security soon vanished and they found themselves only leading by a score of 4-3 with a long 10 minutes left in the game. Two goals from Greek Captain Dimitrios Kalyvas put the Irish back on their heels and rest assured, every fan, mother, wife and girlfriend of the team was pacing the room back here in Ireland.
Could the Greeks do it? Could they make an almighty comeback and upset the Irish camp?
Relief finally came, however, at 55:20 of the game when Adam Jackson-Wyatt scored Ireland’s 5th and final goal of the game on a 5-on-3 powerplay, assist from Gareth Roberts, giving Ireland that all important safeguard.
Although the game was by no means over, the Greeks seemed to put the nail in their own coffin, taking penalties for roughing, boarding and a misconduct penalty with just minutes left in the game.
In the end, the game finished 5-3 for Ireland. Scott Bickerstaff got the nod in net and stopped 24 of 27 shots for a very solid appearance in goal. Greek keeper Ntalimpor Ploutsis stopped 32 of 37 shots. Forward Stevie Adams received the Man of the Match Award for Ireland.
In total, there were an astonishing 96 minutes in penalties awarded between the teams, Ireland with 44 minutes and Greece with 52 minutes. It sure was a busy day for the referee.
Any glance at the score sheet will tell you these weren’t really your run-of-the-mill “innocent” penalties such as tripping and interference; many calls were for slashing, charging, cross-checking and even a call for clipping against Alternate Captain Dean Kelly. Needless to say this was a rough affair! Hopefully moving forward to the rest of the week’s games Ireland can focus on staying out of the penalty box unless absolutely necessary.
Perhaps what made the biggest difference today was Ireland’s domination on face offs, with a number of our forwards winning over 60% of all of their faceoffs. Gareth Roberts won an astounding 23 faceoffs in total, with Gareth Martin, Stevie Hamill, Stevie Balmer and Steven Ewen also putting in strong performances. Possession is key to winning any hockey game and Team Ireland sure mastered this task today. Keep the good work up guys.
Speaking after the game from Turkey today, Head coach for Team Ireland, Kenny Redmond said ‘We started off the game well, but the referee killed the game with issuing too many penalties on both sides. We were 2-0 up at the end of the first, it was a good start. But as the game went on, we became very tired due to penalty killing and Greece got it back to 4 -3 and we scored on the powerplay. We have to stay out the box and kill our opponent’s powerplays, we can’t give up a lead like that’.
Redmond added ‘The guys have pulled together well and showed great character, its good to get a win under our belt and hopefully we can build on this’.
Now, for a day’s rest and recovery before facing host Turkey on Wednesday the 17th of April at 5pm local time, 3pm Irish time. The Turks are looking very strong and with home-ice and home-crowd advantage, this will be another challenging game for Ireland.
However, today was a huge step in the right direction and this match is sure to be just as exciting. Hopefully our boys can keep building on their success and learning from their mistakes as they go. We sense a huge performance from the Boys in Green is on the way!
Follow the live scores for all matches on www.iihf.com. Men’s Division III. Also catch us on twitter: @IIHA & @IIHFScores, #TeamIreland and the IIHA’s FaceBook page.