26 April 2023
China 2 Netherlands 7
In theory, hockey is a simple game. Control puck possession, get shots to the net, and good things usually follow. Today’s game was the exception to that rule for Team China. Despite outshooting the Netherlands 40-16, a combination of top-class goaltending and wayward finishing saw the Dragons slump to a heavy loss.
The defeat was all the more painful for being so unexpected. A year ago, in our gold-medal Division IIA campaign, China had a convincing win over the Dutch. Here in Tallinn, the Oranje lost their first two games and were rooted to the foot of the standings ahead of Wednesday’s action. But Ruud Leeuwesteijn produced a performance for the ages between the piping, and some clinical finishing at the other end resulted in an unlikely scoreline.
“We had a couple of breakdowns and let them capitalize,” An Jian (Corey Kane) told IIHF.com after the game. “I think we gave up three goals on breakaways and we couldn’t capitalize on our power play either.
“But credit to their guys. They played well and they took their chances. Look at the shot count. That’s a sign their goalie played well and they played a good team defense, they kept us to the outside and we couldn’t find a way to finish.”
The first period told the story of the game. China dominated but failed to score. The Netherlands managed four shots at Ouban Yongli (Paris O’Brien) and scored three times.
It wasn’t until late in the second period that China finally solved Leeuwesteijn, who plays his club hockey in DEL3 with Tilburg Trappers. Fu Jiang (Spencer Foo) got the Dragons on the board in the 34th minute, collecting the puck on the blue line and advancing to rip in a shot from between the hash marks while Luo Jia (Luke Lockhart) screened the goalie. Then, in the 39th minute, Kane added a second with a redirect on Kailiaosi Jieke’s (Jake Chelios) blast. That play underwent a video review before the officials gave it the thumbs-up.
The double strike offered a lifeline, clawing the Dragons back to 2-4 in the game. However, the next 90 seconds saw the Dutch draw clear once again. Quick goals from Olaf-Jan Schoningh and Guus van Nes opened a 6-2 lead and there was no coming back from that.
“We gotta play a better team game, with fewer breakdowns,” Kane added. “When we get our chances, we have to score.
“They got up by three or four goals and that’s too much. They have all the momentum at that point, even when we have the puck in their zone. We can’t allow that to happen again.”
China’s next game is tomorrow against Serbia. As things stand, it’s a battle between the bottom two teams in the group and takes on the feel of a must-win to prevent the Dragons from getting dragged into relegation danger.
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