Ice hockey: NZ opens campaign with win

New Zealand's Hayden Argyle (centre) battles with Luxembourg's Benny Welter at the third division...
New Zealand's Hayden Argyle (centre) battles with Luxembourg's Benny Welter at the third division world ice hockey championships at the Dunedin Ice Stadium last night. New Zealand's KC Ball is at left. Photo by Craig Baxter.
New Zealand got its third division world championship campaign off to a solid start with a 6-2 win over Luxembourg at the Dunedin Ice Stadium last night.

The visiting side made a spirited effort to stick with the Ice Blacks, but fell off the pace in the final 20-minute period as the home side's superior fitness began to show.

The game resembled some sort of a medieval joust at times with the players smashing each other into the boards. A crowd of about 1000 cheered every hit with enthusiasm.

New Zealand opened the scoring through Adam Soffer but the goal was against the run of play, with Luxembourg having the better of the first 20-minute period.

Had it not been for some outstanding work by goalie Zak Nothling, the Ice Blacks would have been trailing. However, it was after a good save that Luxembourg got the opportunity to equalise.

A defensive blunder enabled Georges Scheier to break away with only the goalie to beat. Nothling padded the puck away but it broke nicely for Benny Welter, who threaded it past his sprawling body.

The sides traded a goal each in the second period until Mitchell Oat drilled a slap shot into the back of the net with 2min remaining.

The floodgates opened in the final period with Speirs picking up a second and Corey Down and Daniel Smith getting on the statistics sheet.

In the earlier match, Greece upset Ireland 7-3. Forwards Georgios and Dimitrios Kalyvas scored two goals apiece with Ireland's Mark Morrison also picking up a double.

Meanwhile, Mongolia's participation at the event looks doubtful after the team failed to secure visas in time to travel to New Zealand.

Mongolia was scheduled to play Turkey in the opening match of the championships yesterday afternoon but had to default.

Its prospects of making it to New Zealand before the end of the championships on Thursday look slim, tournament organiser Graeme Glass said.

"They were a bit late getting their visa applications to the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing and the embassy was not able to process them in time," he said.

"We are sort of hoping that maybe they can make it for the latter part of the tournament but we're not really that hopeful."

Asked if it was just a late application or anything sinister, Glass said: "They have been known to leave players behind in the past. We'll leave it at that."

Mongolia's no-show was a huge disappointment, he added: "It takes a lot of gloss away and it's one game less each day. Instead of the teams playing five games they'll get to play four."

 

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