Team Ireland got off to a wonderful start here in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania, when Garret Mac Neill scored after just 6mins 21seconds of the first period to give his team an unexpected lead. Every fan in the rink leapt to their feet to acclaim the first goal of the tournament. That having been said, they were all Team Ireland supporters, and there were only a dozen of us.
A far far cry from the tumult that erupted every time Team Ireland scored at last years championships in Dundalk.
Sadly by the time the first period ended we were 2-1 down and had taken 3 two minute penalties. Five seconds into the next period we took another penalty and within a minute of that we conceded, Kosic’s second, and Serbia’s third straight powerplay goal. Although no one could claim the play was even remotely dirty, the penalty count was having a marked effect on this game, and on our chances.
Team Ireland’s hopes of a fight back took a severe hammering after 27 mins. when Mark Morrison who had gotten through mountains of work, was sent for an early shower after he was given a five plus game penalty for checking from behind by referee Morgan Johansson of Sweden. No relation by the way of the IIHA’s own Oscar Johansson.
Just five minutes later in a vain attempt to save from Kovacevich, Hugh Smyth sustained a bad injury to the groin but soldiered on in great pain for another twenty minutes. The period ended with Serbia scoring another three times without conceding.
At 5-1 down, with the team’s best player out of the game and our net minder’s mobility severely curtailed, Coach Jim Tibbetts and his team, decided to throw on the young players, so every member of the panel got some time on the ice to settle in and find their feet during the remaining period.
Tigerish goaltender Hugh Smith was forced to yield his place to Jonathan O’Driscoll who did very well, coming on with the score at 8-1. He may have conceded five goals, but by now the Serbians had the bit between their teeth and were pressing home every advantage on their younger, lighter, and vastly less experienced Irish opponents playing some very eye catching hockey but never looking superior by a twelve goal margin.
Hugh won Team Ireland’s Man of the Match award but Garret Mac Neill ran him a close second, Gareth Martin, Stevie Hamill and Willie Morrison gave everything they had up front and Patrick McCabe put in some BIG hits. Adam Mc Caul has improved by leaps and bounds in the intervening year, in fact from 1 to 22 no one let his team down but the high penalty count certainly took it’s toll.
Final score IRL – Srb 1-13 ( 1-2, 0-3, 0-8 ).
MacNeill. Kosic 4, Kovacevic 4, Tumbas, Nadaski, Zidjarevic, Miloslavjevic, and Jankovic.