Austria came from one goal down to qualify for March’s IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool on Sunday (1 February), winning a thrilling and hugely entertaining playoff match with Finland.
On Saturday (31 January) at the Malmi ice rink, Helsinki, Finland, both teams won one game each of the three game series to set-up Sunday’s winner takes all decider.
The hosts dominated the opening period but could not make a breakthrough, despite four shots on goal and Austria’s Stefan Reininger serving a two-minute penalty after just five minutes of action.
Tensions increased during a very even second period as both teams searched for the opener. Despite two goal attempts from each side the deadlock could not be broken.
Finland’s pressure finally paid-off 3:16 into the final period with Aki Alestalo opening the scoring for the hosts, thanks to assists from Harri Kangastie and Hannu Oksa.
Staring defeat in the face, Austria pushed forward in search of an equaliser to keep their World Championship dreams alive.
After prolonged pressure, Kai Habeler brought his team level 8:43 into the period, ably assisted by Stefan Eberdorfer and Dennis Wliszczak.
Sensing victory, Austria continued to attack and with 60 seconds to go took the lead for the first time in the match thanks to Martin Pachoining’s second goal of the weekend. The assist was provided by Thomas Schilcher.
The drama did not end there however.
With the clock counting down, Austria’s goaltender was sent to the penalty bin, whilst Finland withdrew their own, to set-up a six against four final play. Finland won the face-off but their last effort on goal was taken safely by Austria’s replacement goaltender to secure the win.
On Saturday, Austria had drawn first blood in the best of three series, wining the opening game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Martin Pachoining. A solitary goal from Finland ‘s Seppo Joensuu in the second match however levelled the series to set-up Sunday’s decider.
Austria’s win secured their place at the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool between 15-21 March in Ostersund, Sweden, where they join South Korea, Great Britain, Slovakia and Poland and the hosts Sweden.