Last in, first to score
Last in, first to score
Vilmos Gallo’s Cinderella debut with Hungary
19-year-old forward Vilmos Gallo had a debut with the Hungarian national team before over 7,000 fans in the country’s biggest arena that he will never forget.
Hungary was dominating its opening game against Lithuania but had trouble scoring on Mantas Armalis until the fourth line scored in the 15th minute. It was Vilmos Gallo’s shot that somehow went into the net after hitting Armalis, a goalie Gallo knows from Swedish Hockey League play. Eventually Hungary blanked their Baltic opponent 4-0.
“It was a really fun game with many people in the arena, the atmosphere was amazing. It was easy to play like that,” Gallo said after his dream debut.
“It was my debut game and to score the first goal is just amazing. It was a lucky goal, but a goal is a goal.”
For Gallo it was the first time to play professional hockey in his own country and his hometown he left for Sweden as a 13-year-old. To many Hungarian fans his name may be new since he doesn’t play for a local club but Gallo already collected high-level experience in Sweden while having played three U20 World Championship tournaments at Division I and II level for Hungary.
Just two months earlier Gallo had another good experience with Lithuania when Hungary won the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A to earn promotion back to Division I Group B at the tournament held in Elektrenai, Lithuania’s hockey town where the country’s idols Dainius Zubrus and Darius Kasparaitis hail from. Gallo not only won a gold medal, he was also the scoring leader of the tournament and won the Best Forward award thanks to his six goals and 13 points in five games.
After shining with the U20 team he’s now with the big guys for the first time.
“I was a bit nervous before the game because I never played before so many fans in Hungary and I wanted to show who I am and how I play. But I was more motivated than nervous to show myself to the crowd and coaches,” Gallo said.
“I hope I managed to do that even though I made a couple of mistakes but in the next game I will be better.”
Gallo started his career with Ujpest Budapest and also played for other teams before he moved to Stockholm when he was 13. There he played four years of junior hockey with Flemingsbergs IK, a team from the suburb of Huddinge. To develop in a city Michael Nylander and Kent Johansson came from doesn’t sound like a bad choice for a forward.
“I moved there alone when I was 13 and after one year my parents came to support me,” Gallo said. They stayed with their son and started a new life with his father working as a truck driver and his mother as a teacher.
Since 2013 Linkoping about 200 kilometres south-west of Stockholm is the Gallos’ new home. For the forward that meant moving up to the highest level of Swedish junior hockey.
“I played four seasons in Stockholm and then came to Linkoping, which is such a perfect town for hockey and developing,” the 19-year-old said.
Among his teammates at junior level were three World Juniors participants, Swedish forward Leon Bristedt, Swedish netminder Gustav Forsling and Swiss goalie Joren van Pottelberghe.
After two seasons with the juniors Gallo has been playing both for the U20 and the senior team this season. He appeared in 33 games of the Swedish Hockey League scoring four goals and two assists and also played three games in the Champions Hockey League.
His experiences at one of the best leagues in Europe made him a candidate for the men’s national team and he’s glad he made it for the Olympic Qualification.
“I think we have a pretty good chance to win the tournament because we are the home team, that gives us so much power in the game but we have to work our asses off to win,” Gallo said ahead of the games against Estonia and the final game against co-favourite Poland on Sunday evening.
In three months Gallo hopes to represent his country against even tougher opponents. Last year Hungary edged Poland in the game for promotion to the top division. In May the team will travel to St. Petersburg for the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in only the second top-level World Championship participation in the post-war era after competing in the 2009 Worlds in Switzerland.
Gallo goes into rhapsodies when thinking about the Worlds where Canada, Finland, the United States, Slovakia, Belarus, France and Germany will wait as opponents in the preliminary round.
“I hope so much to be there. When they went up last year I prepared all summer for this. It’s my goal for the season. I really hope to make the team,” Gallo said.
With good performances here in Budapest and in the upcoming weeks in Linkoping he hopes to convince coach Rich Chernomaz for the ticket to St. Petersburg.
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