Team USA has a clear mission going into the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament, win it again. If they do so it’ll be the first time in the history of the prestigious tournament. However they had to get through Team Slovakia who certainly aren’t a team to look past. Slovakia has made the quarterfinals of the tournament six straight times.
Nerves get the best of everyone and evidently it got the best of the Americans early on, they took a bench penalty for too many men in the first minute of play. Allowing the Slovaks to take control of the offence early on, out shooting Team USA eight to four.
Boston University goaltender Drew Commesso kept his team out of deficit staying calm in goal while under pressure from the Slovakian power play units. Martin Chromiak of the Kingston Frontenacs and seventeen year old Juraj Slafkovsky are expected to lead Slovakia in points this tournament, neither could find the net behind Commesso in the first period.
Slovakia found themselves in penalty trouble when Maxim Strbak was sent off for interference followed by Simon Nemec for tripping. The Americans made them pay quickly once the five on three power play began as Matthew Knies struck first on a one timer from Logan Cooley and Jack Pert.
IIHF on Twitter: “GOAL🚨: @usahockey is on the board!Matt Knies takes the one-timer and buries it to grab the 1-0 lead!#WorldJuniors #USASVK pic.twitter.com/hnAf8fUhFd / Twitter”
GOAL🚨: @usahockey is on the board!Matt Knies takes the one-timer and buries it to grab the 1-0 lead!#WorldJuniors #USASVK pic.twitter.com/hnAf8fUhFd
The three M’s followed up Knies goal a minute forty three seconds later with their second power play goal of the period. Matty Beniers moved the puck to Matthew Coronato who wisely found Mackie Samoskevich wide open, the puck came off his blade in a hurry high past Latkoczy giving team USA a two nothing lead. A late penalty to Detroit Red wings draft pick Carter Mazur for interference would give Slovakia another power play chance to start the second period.
The American penalty kill unit led by Tanner Dickinson gave the Slovaks all sorts of fits in their opening power play forcing them back many times and not allowing them to set up in the American zone efficiently killing off any chances Slovakia had.
Maxim Strbak found himself in the penalty box for the second time in the game after being caught with a roughing call. He was lucky it was just that as head contact could’ve been called instead, warranting a potential game misconduct.
Winnipeg Jets draft pick Chaz Lucius seemed to be the trigger man early in the power play with Logan Cooley being the set up. However despite consistent pressure they couldn’t beat Simon Latkoczy on any of their four shots. Team USA did look dangerous and passed the puck with ease for nearly the full two minutes that Strbak was in the box.
IIHF on Twitter: “His team is still stuck 2-0 but with saves like that, Simon Latkoczy is keeping @HockeySlovakia in this game!#WorldJuniors #USASVK pic.twitter.com/PYhuf2KTSP / Twitter”
His team is still stuck 2-0 but with saves like that, Simon Latkoczy is keeping @HockeySlovakia in this game!#WorldJuniors #USASVK pic.twitter.com/PYhuf2KTSP
Through thirteen minutes, Slovakia couldn’t get the puck across centre ice if their life depended on it as Team USA poured on the pressure. Finally they were rewarded when Landon Slaggert kept his stick active and found the puck off goaltender Latkoczy’s pad and deposited it into the open goal.
Juraj Slafkovsky almost scored for the Slovaks when he had Drew Commesso beat but not the iron as it pinged harmlessly away from the goal. Slovakia had gone into the second period with a slim shot lead of nine to eight but the Americans turned on the jets taking their shot totals to thirty one at the end of forty minutes. Clearly something needed to change for Head Coach Ivan Fenes and his young Slovakian squad who mustered just two shots the entire period.
Slovakia started the third period on a five on three power play and finally got one past Drew Commesso right as the second penalty was ending. Los Angeles Kings draft pick Martin Chromiak picked the bottom right hand side with a NHL worthy snapshot just like the one Alexander Ovechkin unleashes.
IIHF on Twitter: “GOAL🚨: @HockeySlovakia is on the board!Martin Chromiak takes the one-timer and buries it to cut the @usahockey lead to 3-1.#WorldJuniors #USASVK pic.twitter.com/3wl5nJXkpI / Twitter”
GOAL🚨: @HockeySlovakia is on the board!Martin Chromiak takes the one-timer and buries it to cut the @usahockey lead to 3-1.#WorldJuniors #USASVK pic.twitter.com/3wl5nJXkpI
2023 NHL Draft eligible centre Dalibor Dvorsky thought he had a goal off of his stick at the eleven thirty four mark of the third period.This was sent back to the booth for review but much like the call on ice it was ruled no goal due to his stick making contact with the puck well above the crossbar.
IIHF on Twitter: “NO GOAL ❌ : For a moment it looked as those Dalibor Dvorsky had brought this game to 3-2 but it gets called back for a high stick. Still 3-1 @usahockey , just 8 minutes to play!#WorldJuniors #USASVK / Twitter”
NO GOAL ❌ : For a moment it looked as those Dalibor Dvorsky had brought this game to 3-2 but it gets called back for a high stick. Still 3-1 @usahockey , just 8 minutes to play!#WorldJuniors #USASVK
Martin Chromiak scored his second of the night on a three on two bringing the Slovaks within one of tying the game. The Americans failed to back check hard enough on the play with both teams short a man during the four on four play. Latkoczy was pulled with just under a minute left in the game as Slovakia continued to up the pressure but just couldn’t get it done.
IIHF on Twitter: “GOAL🚨 : IT’S CHROMIAK AGAIN@HockeySlovakia are not going away just yet!Now down just 3-2 to @usahockey!#WorldJuniors #USASVK / Twitter”
GOAL🚨 : IT’S CHROMIAK AGAIN@HockeySlovakia are not going away just yet!Now down just 3-2 to @usahockey!#WorldJuniors #USASVK
Team USA improves to 15-4-1 against Slovakia all time and looked good doing so tallying two power play goals, one each from Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Matthew Knies and the other from Mackie Samoskevich who is a Florida Panthers prospect. Drew Commesso was sharp when called upon.
As expected Martin Chromiak and Juraj Slafkovsky were the most dangerous players for team Slovakia and just like he was last tournament Simon Latkoczy was brilliant in goal especially in the second period when the American pressure was overwhelming.
Team USA gets tomorrow off to rest while Slovakia faces the high octane talents of Team Sweden who defeated Russia earlier today. You can find my article about that game right here on 12 Oz Sports.
Featured image property of USND Program