THE SLOVAK national ice hockey team failed to score a point against Russia at the Olympics in Sochi, despite standing firm until late in the game, including overtime. After a 0:0 tie, two Russian stars, Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk, scored in the shootout against goalie Ján Laco, whose performance was the surprise of the match, while Slovak players Michal Handzuš and Tomáš Tatar missed.

Despite losing, the team’s overall performance restored some optimism among Slovak fans, who were mostly disappointed after Slovakia’s first two games - a big defeat to the US team and a surprise loss to Slovenia on February 15.

Slovakia will now play the Czech national team to qualify for the quarterfinals.

“It’s going to be a prestigious match for the whole nation,” Tatar said, as quoted by the Sme daily. “The last time in Helsinki at the World Championships 2012 we defeated them; now we will try to repeat it.”

“Today we found out how to play to be successful. We should play as well, or even better, in the next match. We are sure to put our everything into it,” Slovakia’s assistant captain Michal Handzuš said, as quoted by Sme.

Coach Vladmír Vujtek ascribed the team’s improved performance to a change in tactics after the first two defeats.

“Only today we showed our strength - they played really well,” Vujtek said, as quoted by Sme, and praised goalie Laco in particular, who replaced Slovakia’s number one, NHL star Jaroslav Halák, in the goal against Russia.

“Laco was a surprise starter in place of his winless team's two NHL goalies, and the Kontinental Hockey League backup nearly stole a win over the powerful Russian offense by making 36 saves,” wrote the Associated Press in its report on the match.

Vujtek suggested he might even nominate Laco in the match against the Czechs, Sme reported.

The four teams who finished the best in the preliminary round advance to the quarterfinals directly, while the remaining eight teams have to qualify for the quarterfinals in further match. Slovakia finished last among the four teams of the A-group (which, in addition to Slovakia and Russia, also included the US and Slovenia).

Source: Sme, AP

Compiled by Michaela Terenzani from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information
presented in its Flash News postings.