Slovakia's ice-hockey team has romped through the preliminary round of the world championships in Finland, defeating Germany 3-1 on April 30 to finish the round undefeated. Defending champions Slovakia scored a tournament-leading 22 goals in their first three games, allowing only 5.
The game was the tournament debut of two of Slovakia's heroes from last year's world championships in Sweden - goalkeeper Jan Lašak and forward Peter Bondra, who scored the winning goal in the 2002 gold medal match between Slovakia and Russia.
After the game, Bondra credited the German side for a well-fought match, and noted that Slovakia will have to tighten up its defence if the team is to repeat last year's success.
"We made mistakes and we have to learn from them. It is good that we won such a match, and it was also good for the team that we had to turn the game to our favour. The Germans are a really good team. They waited and played well in the defence. I am glad we won but we have to improve our defence," said Bondra.
Slovakia had last faced Germany at the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, when a undermanned Slovak side lost 3-0 and was eliminated from the tournament. The Slovaks had started the Olympic tournament with barely half of their team, keeping the remaining roster slots open for professionals in North America's NHL hockey league.
The 2003 world championships resume today, with qualification-round play in two six-team groups. Slovakia will face Finland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. The top four teams in each group advance to elimination play in the final round, which begins on May 7 and ends with the championship match on May 11.
2. May 2003 at 17:53 | <b><i>By Dewey Smolka</i></b>