Game 12: LTU - UKR / Photo: Sarunas Mazeika
Lithuania vs. Estonia for promotion
It will come down to an all-Baltic final between Lithuania and Estonia for promotion during a Saturday offering excitement from start to finish in Division IB.
Having so far looked unstoppable in the hunt for promotion at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Kaunas, Lithuania looked vulnerable at times against a rugged Ukraine.
Comfortably leading 4-2, Lithuania lost its way as Ukraine rallied back with two late final frame goals to push the hosts into overtime. Tournament top goal scorer Arnoldas Bosas then came to rescue 1:04 into overtime to salvage two points for the hosts in a 5-4 win.
"The game is not over until the final whistle. Tonight we tried to play with the same speed as against Japan, but it was not possible. Having played four games in six days is not so easy, but tomorrow we need two points in what is the game of the tournament," said Lithuania head coach Bernd Haake.
Lithuania remains top of the standings after four games as the final day of the Division I Group B in Kaunas promises to be an exhilarating contest from start to finish.
All six teams enter the final round of games with plenty left to play for. Starting off with a relegation battle between Romania and Croatia, it will be followed by a clash for medals between Japan and Ukraine, before the tournament's top billing Lithuania against Estonia takes centre stage.
Ukraine's late fightback and point against Lithuania means they are out of contention for relegation. Denys Petrukhno pulled a goal back at 55:20 before Dmytro Nimenko 37 seconds before the end, netted and tied the game with goalie Bogdan Dyachenko pulled. Ukraine now will aim to beat Japan in regulation time during the final day to win bronze.
"We show a lot of character towards the end of the game as we needed to take points to avoid relegation. We are not happy to lose, but the determination we showed was good," said Viktor Zakharov.
Lithuania drew first blood against Ukraine with a Daniel Bogdziul wrister at 8:14 from a Kaleinikovas feed from behind Dyachenko's cage. Ukraine went level at 11.54 when Zakharov scored a shorthander.
The crowd of 7,850 was silenced when Nikita Butsenko put Ukraine in a shock lead at 22:01, but Paulius Gintautas scored two unanswered goals for Lithuania to put then back in front again. When his linemate Bosas fired home 4-2 for Lithuania from the left circle, the hosts looked like being in control as the continued to bomb forward seeking more goals.
Ugnius Cisas went close with 6:30 left and soon after, Dainius Zubrus saw his one-timer from the slot saved by Dyachenko.
Petrukhno's blast from the left boards past Mantas Armalis with less than four minutes left gave Ukraine hope. Armalis then left a rebound on a Vsevolod Tolstushko blast with Nimenko reacting fasted to tie the game with 37 seconds left of the game. Lithuania and the on-fire Bosas then scored in overtime for Lithuania to remain undefeated ahead of the final day.