No hockey team goes into any match up, whether outmatched or not, thinking they are going to lose. There are too many good underdog stories out there which can give any team hope. This rings especially true at the World Juniors.
Slovakia is of course coming to play Sweden looking for that underdog story upset. If a win is not in the cards for Slovakia in the last round robin game though, one thing Slovakia certainly needs is to show up to play. Slovakia was outscored 15-3 in their last two games. Slovakia needs to come in, have a great game, keep it close and have something positive going into the quarter finals.
The start of this game went about as well as the last two games for Slovakia. Alexander Holtz was able to strike in the first half of the period for Sweden at the nine minute mark. Fifteen seconds later it was Albin Eriksson putting Sweden up 2-0, and just like that, here we go again.
Slovakia was given two power play opportunities at the midway point of the period but Slovakia was unable to register a shot on either man advantage. This is when Philip Broberg was able to strike short-handed and bury Slovakia early. Down 3-0, with six minutes remaining in the first period, Slovakia was finally able to register their first shot of the game. Not much went right for Slovakia in the first frame.
The second started out in similar fashion with Sweden putting another one past the Slovakia net-minder. However, a coach’s challenge on the premise that Sweden was offside was successful keeping the score 3-0. This would not last long though as just a few minutes after, Oskar Back did put one in that would stand gaining that 4-0 lead. Then on the power play at the sixteen minute mark, Alexander Holtz put Sweden up 5-0 to end the period. Slovakia only managed two shots in the second frame, being out shoot 27-6 through the first two periods.
Slovakia was finally able to get something going in their favor in the third. They managed to find the back of the net early giving them a glimpse of hope. It was Kristian Kovacik that drew the penalty that put Slovakia on the man advantage. Then he was able to find the back of the twine to cut Sweden’s lead to 5-1. Slovakia was not done just yet. With two minutes left in the game, Robert Dzugan scored to make the score a bit more respectful at 5-2. Sweden would score late on the power play to make it a 6-2 final.
Despite Slovakia losing the game 6-2 and not seeing many positives in this game overall, they can at least bring something good out of the third. Slovakia won the third period 2-1 and managed to put up 12 shots, more than they were able to muster through the first two periods combined. They will need to take any small positives they can get out of this game.
Slovakia is going into a quarter-final match up facing either Canada or USA. These are two very dangerous teams. Slovakia will need to write a true underdog story to get through this next round.
Photo Credit – IIHF (Twitter)