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Italy fights its way back into world hockey elite

Greater Trail players, Iannone and Johnson, skate to victory

A couple of local boys played a vital role in the Italian hockey team’s gold medal win in the IIHF Div. 1A Hockey Championships in Budapest, Hungary last week.

The victory secures the team’s spot in the world championships next year.

Fruitvale’s Pat Iannone and Trail’s Trevor Johnson helped the Azurri hockey club go undefeated in the tournament, squeaking by the only other undefeated team, Hungary, 4-3 in overtime Saturday to take Group A.

Iannone netted three goals and an assist in the four games, finishing tied for third over-all in goals scored, while Johnson added an assist and finished a respectable plus-one on defense.

The veteran forward Iannone has logged ice time in Europe for eight years and Johnson for the past five.

Last season the pair was named to the Italian national team that participated in the IIHF world championships in Germany.

After finishing in the bottom of a group that included Canada, Switzerland and Latvia, the team was relegated to Div. 1.

This win puts Italy back in the Top Division to battle it out with the world hockey elite in Sweden and Finland next year.

The Italians played in Group A against Korea, Spain, the Netherlands and Hungary. Japan was scheduled to play but cancelled due to the recent earthquake and tsunami.

The Italians defeated Spain 2-0, the Netherlands 3-2, and Korea 6-0 to set the stage for the final game against Hungary.

Italy jumped out to an early 2-0 lead but Hungary replied on a power play 11 minutes into the period.

The Azurri’s leading scorer Guilio Scandella scored his second of the game, putting the Azurri back up by two with 10 seconds remaining in the first.

Hungary added a goal in the second and the third period to tie the game and send it to overtime but a late penalty in the final minute of the period put the Hungarian side short-handed going into O.T.

It took only 56 seconds for Italy to capitalize. Defenseman Armin Helfer blasted a shot from the point that ricocheted off the cross bar and in and out of the top-right corner. After a tense video review, the goal was confirmed and the celebration was on.

The Italians outshot Hungary 57-48 in front of a partisan crowd of 8,723 at the Laszlo Papp Sportarena in Budapest. In Group B, Kazakhstan went undefeated to win gold and advance to the elite division.

Jim Bailey

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