Report from Romania: Bulgaria v Team Ireland

It has to be recognized that IIHF Div2. Ice Hockey provides significantly greater challenges to anything experienced in Dundalk last year.

In the southern hemisphere the New Zealand Ice Blacks, who swept all before them, have yet to win a game with 12 goals conceded and only 5 scored. Here in Romania the story is very similar, Team Ireland in falling to Belgium today, have experienced their third defeat in three games, this time by a score of 9 goals to 1.

To keep it to a seven goal spread, was a great achievement, especially when you consider that they began the last period 7-1 down. It would have been so, so easy to drop their heads and succumb to the inevitable. But no, they showed traditional Irish fighting spirit and fought for every puck.

Team Ireland’s only goal this time round came from Stevie Hamill, when, after a very determined wrap around the net, he cannoned the puck in off the goaltender’s left skate, to the noisy appreciation of the largest contingent of travelling supporters at the tournament. The Belgians who as one wag reported looked like Mars Bars on skates, in their black, red and gold uniforms, had all they needed to work, rest, and they can play a bit too.

While no one could doubt the superior skill, speed and physical development of the Belgians, they were evenly matched, pound for pound, in the heart and soul department, and, for the second time in three games every Irish player saw ice time which must not only bea great boon for future panels, but, for the progress of hockey in Ireland too. All the more noteworthy when you consider Jim Tibbetts has given debuts to no less than five players during this tournament.

Yet another achievement by Team Ireland is that all three teams played thus far, have been unable to keep a clean sheet against us, however the sternest test of this proud boast may come tomorrow night, when we take on the might of Romania, relegated last year from Div.1. They have yet to give up a single goal and have just notched up a hugely impressive 39 goals in recording their third straight win, this time against Bulgaria, and, in so doing, ensuring at least, that Team Irelands losing 12 goal opening deficit has been bettered on two occasions so far.

The spirit in the camp was lifted when Dean Kelly’s golden locks were shorn last night in a sponsored head shave to raise funds for the Bubblegum Club, and in the process raising in excess of 600 euro from the team and their travelling supporters for the charity. It is hoped that this amount will at least double when the team arrive home. Dean is one of the best known personalities in Irish Ice Hockey and has just become instantly recognizable. Please give what you can when you meet him, Lord knows Dean has given enough.

Tuesday’s game against Bulgaria was perhaps the bravest, and at the same time the most heart wrenching. The words So close and yet so far were never spoken more truly, than last night, when this game went right down to the wire. With just eight minutes remaining Bulgaria finally stole a march on team Ireland, where we could not follow. The Bulgars were 2 up after just seven minutes and forty seconds, but our diminutive Giant, Mark Morrison popped up to put away the first of the three he would go on to score, just shy of the second period break.

Immediatly after the restart, Simon Teoderinov replied, but Mark, making a welcome return after a harsh ejection in the previous game, got the boys in white right back in it with his second, six minutes after his first.

The Bulgarians, not to be out done, replied through Blagoev on 43 minutes, but only after Mark scored his third 36seconds after the start of the final period.

A goal from Adam Mc Caul tied things at four goals apiece until with about eight minutes remaining Team Ireland took a series of unfortunate penalties which allowed their opponents to pull away with three more goals, thus taking victory by seven goals to four.

Written by Mick Higgins, April 1

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