Estonia on the attack against the Netherlands at the 2017 IIHF World Championship Div IB. Photo: Ian Offers, GBSC.
Netherlands battle in vain, finish winless
The Netherlands came close to pulling off a sensational escape from relegation, but Estonia had enough to edge its second win of the tournament and take fourth.
The Netherlands battled hard to pull off an against-all-odds escape, but Estonia did enough to secure its Division IB status.
Going into the game, the Dutch knew that it would take a three-goal victory to edge ahead of Estonia in a tie at the foot of the table. Twice, they moved two goals in front, but the men in orange were never able to generate the advantage that would have kept them in the division.
And when Robert Rooba completed his hat-trick in the 54th minute to make it 4-3 for the Estonians, his country’s survival was all but assured.
Captain Kevin Bruijsten said: "We really battled hard and we really gave it our all but in the end it just wasn't enough. With the team we have right now we did a pretty decent job. Everyone knows we're missing 14 guys, this isn't the same team we'd usually have, but we can't just dwell on the negatives.
"I'm proud of the guys for the way they battled to the end, and for a second I even thought we might pull it off."
There was plenty to give the Baltic team cause for concern early in the meeting. The Netherlands shrugged off Friday's painful 0-14 loss to GB and showed plenty of enterprise in the first period. Two quick goals late in that session breathed life into the impossible dream.
Young forward Guus van Nes got the opener when Nardo Nagtzaam’s pass sent the Junior Bruin clear of the Estonian defence. The 20-year-old showed great composure, getting up close before beating Villem-Henrik Koitmaa to make it 1-0 in the 16th minute.
Van Nes and the other Dutch youngsters got the thumbs-up from their captain for their efforts this week. "They've stepped up and it's good for them," Bruijsten said. "This is the future for Dutch hockey and it's good to get some experience and a taste of what the higher level is like."
Ninety seconds later it was 2-0, and the Netherlands was in with a real chance of salvation. Sloppy play in the corner from Estonia’s Marko Kettunen presented Raymond van der Schuit with the puck and his pass found Jeffrey Melissant on the doorstep.
But the Dutch defence has struggled throughout this competition, and when Estonia got a power play the Baltic nation took advantage to halve the deficit. Aleksandr Ossipov’s shot was padded away and Rooba showed great reactions to smash home the rebound and tighten Estonia’s grip on its status.
The second period saw Bruijsten put the Netherlands 3-1 in front after Nagtzaam went round the back and fed Steve Mason for a shot. Koitmaa blocked the first attempt but Bruijsten claimed the rebound and, with half the game left, the Dutch were right back in contention.
Again, though, it was a tantalising vision of safety. Estonia, so sluggish in the early exchanges, awoke to the danger at last and began to step up its offence. Rooba struck again as the middle stanza came to a close, exchanging passes with captain Lauri Lahesalu before launching a wrist shot from the top of the circle.
The Dutch, visibly tiring, finally folded in the third. A last-ditch clearance from Rick van Haren took the puck off Fabian Schotel’s goal line early on before Petrov tied the game on 47 minutes. Andrei Makrov shaped to shoot, deceiving the goalie, then slipped a pass to Aleksandr Petrov in the centre. Petrov made no mistake and the Dutch dream was almost over. Fittingly, it was Rooba, probably Estonia’s liveliest player in the competition, who wrapped it up with his hat-trick goal late on.
"By the end we were running almost two lines and especially on the special teams we had a couple of guys who clocked a lot of minutes," Bruijsten added.
Estonia had something to celebrate as back-to-back 4-3 wins lifted it to fourth in the table. But before the formalities could be completed, the hooter sparked a bout of fisticuffs in front of the Dutch bench as the teams' frustration bubbled over. Four players, Ossipov and Rooba from Estonia, Joey Oosterveld and Thomas Roosendaal from the Netherlands, were handed 25-minute penalties for fighting.