This is a game that Slovakia would have circled on their World Junior calendar. We knew going into the tournament this game most likely would decide who will finish 3rd and 4th in Group A. Now that Slovakia and Switzerland have both played two games, both have a win and a loss, it still seems to be the case this will be the game that determines where they finish in the Group.
Switzerland had only been awarded six power play opportunities through their first two games. They did get a chance on the man advantage early in this game, however they were unable to connect. Quickly after it was Slovakia with their first power play, who have gone 2/8 to this point in the tournament. Much like Switzerland, they could not get anything going on the man advantage.
When the dust settled and teams came back to even strength it was Slovakia with the early chance. Okular rang one off the iron, but it was #27 Gilian Kohler of Switzerland who went down immediately after and made it 1-0 for Switzerland 8 minutes into the period. This goal seemed to tilt the ice in favor of Switzerland who were able to draw another penalty. Switzerland made no mistakes this time around. Kohler was able to capitalize getting his second of the night to go up 2-0. Fifteen minutes into the period Switzerland were able to strike a third time off a face-off to take a 3-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. Samuel Hlavaj was replaced in net by Samuel Vyletelka after the third goal.
Slovakia seemed to find a higher tempo coming into the second period. They had a few opportunities early but then gave Switzerland their third power play of the game. The best opportunity on the power play came from a short-handed Slovakia 2 on 1. It was Hollenstien from Switzerland making a huge save retaining their 3-0 lead. From here Switzerland again seemed to gain some steam. Seventeen year old Simon Knak was able to get an important 4-0 goal to just about put this game out of reach for a Slovakia team that does not have a lot of fire power.
Slovakia finally found some life again late in the second period. Okuliar stripped Hollenstien of the puck behind the net and fed Martin Fasko-Rudas who cut the Switzerland lead to 4-1. Just as it looked like this could give Slovakia some momentum heading into the final frame, Switzerland took control back. Sandro Schmid found the back of the net with 5 seconds remaining to restore their four goal led via a 5-1 score after 40 minutes of play.
Despite giving up a late goal in the second, Slovakia were able to answer 6 minutes into the 3rd period on the power play to once again cut the Switzerland lead back to 3 goals. Something Switzerland has managed to do all game was stop Slovakia in their tracks when they find a little life. Switzerland once again answered right back with 2 goals in a span of under 3 minutes to put the game out of reach for good. This would be how the game would end with Switzerland taking the 7-2 win.
Switzerland did look like they wanted this game more than Slovakia from the opening puck drop. That being said, this was a game of missed opportunity for Slovakia. Hitting a post early in the game, unable to capitalize on a short-handed 2 on 1 when they were still in striking distance, and too many penalties. Missed chances ultimately led to a Slovakia loss and a quarter-final date with the top team in Group B.
Slovakia plays their final preliminary round game against Sweden. They will be entering this game being outscored 15-3 in their last two contests.
Photo Credit – MATT ZAMBONIN / HHOF-IIHF IMAGES