Hosts surprise Croatia in 5-2 victory
It was history repeating for the Netherlands. After getting scored on after 11 seconds against Lithuania, they once again had a terrible start. From the faceoff Giovanni Vogelaar gave the puck away far too easy and a few seconds later Nathan Perkovich put the puck in the net of Martijn Oosterwijk who got the nod over Ian Meierdres.
The early deficit killed the atmosphere that was built up during the pre-game and had the Dutch play catch-up hockey once again. But as they showed against the Lithuanians, the men of Chris Eimers are not short of passion.
This time they were rewarded for it.
First Tony Demelinne equalized after a good feed by Kevin Bruijsten. Less than three minutes later Bruijsten turned from provider to goal scorer when he pounced on a Ronald Wurm shot that rang off the post. It was the first lead of the tournament for the hosts that finally had something to cheer about.
"We worked our butts off today, because that's the only recipe against such a start a game," said a jubilant Levi Houkes. "It's fantastic to see that brings results."
Croatia, however, boosts experience and that paid off when Andy Murray was at the right spot to tie the game up at with less than a minute left to play in the period.
The 2-2 score was not wat Croatia was anticipating. The team seems to be struggling finding its game and play a solid system. This is partly explained by the fact the coach Don MacLean wasn't able to practice with his full squad until late. Several players joined the team just before travelling to Eindhoven.Continue reading
The self-acclaimed gold medal candidates played a poor second period which saw the Dutch dominate play for the majority of the period. They outshot Croatia 15-4 but lacked a cutting edge in front of the net. Several good opportunities were squandered before the Netherlands finally took the lead again.
Captain Diederick Hagemeijer was stopped on a breakaway by Mark Dekanich, but he kept his composure and fed Ronald Wurm in the slot who made no mistake and slotted home the puck for a 3-2 Dutch lead.
The hosts got some extra cushion when Nick de Jong's shot from the blue line was perfectly deflected into the Croatian net via Maarten Brekelmans. The luxury of a two goal lead was something the fans nor the Dutch team would have expected against this Croatia side but was well deserved.
Croatia seemed to lack the power and desire to stage a late comeback despite pulling their goaltender with two minutes left to play. Not so for the Netherlands who had Diederick Hagemeijer earn himself a thunderous applause by putting th epuck into the empty net with two seconds left to play.
"They are all great individual players, you can see that, but they are not really operating as a team," Houkes revealed.
The Netherlands Coach Eimers also realized that was the key to defeat Croatia. "The talent is obviously there but if you play them physical and hard you know they are not a team that gives 100% every shift. We took full advantage of that today," said the head coach who was full of praise of his team and urged the fans to come to the rink and get behind the team.
"This team really deserves that support. If you see what they all sacrifice in their daily lives to play here then it's sometimes harsh to find the Great Britain fans make a lot of noise wheras the Dutch are silent," feels Eimers. "Hopefully this victory wil get the fans behind the teams in the remaining games. I'm looking forward to the game against Great Britain on Saturday."
The win means the Netherlands have earned their first points of the tournament but with just three points from three games they are not yet safe from relegation. On Saturday the Dutch will try to post another upset victory against Great Britain before concluding the tournament against Estonia.
Croatia team now only has a slim mathematical chance left to win gold.
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