There may have been some more high profile contests on the final day of 2013, but there was no game more important than the Slovakia vs Czech Republic contest. The first World Junior match of the day as a win would mean the Czech’s would avoid the relegation round while a loss would result in a meeting with Norway in a best of three series in an attempt to stick in the top division for another year. The Czech’s were stunned by the Germans yesterday after pulling off a shocking victory against Canada the day before, while the Slovaks were coming off the disappointing 5-3 loss after holding an early lead against the Canadians. From the get go, Slovakia’s looked depleted from their against Canada, and their opponents from the Czech Republic looked like the stronger team shift in and shift out, manhandling Slovakia 4-1 to keep their medal hopes alive.
It only took 18 seconds, but the Czech’s already had the 1-0 lead. David Pastrnak, instrumental in upsetting Canada in the shootout earlier this week, ripped the puck past Samuel Baros for the first goal of contest. It wouldn’t take them much longer to record their second goal of the game, as Ondrej Kase made it 2-0 for the Czechs due to poor defensive coverage by the Slovaks. The Slovaks were close to adding a goal after drawing a couple of 5-on-3 power-plays, similar to what they did the day before against the Canadians, however they weren’t able to do much of substance and would head to the change room with no goals to their credit.
The Czech’s would get another quick one to start the second period. After stealing the puck on a poor giveaway in the Slovak zone, Martin Prochazka made no mistake in firing it below the glove of Baros for the 3-0 advantage. The goal would mean the end of Baros’ preliminary round run, as Richard Sabol was called upon to finish the contest. Sabol had been the starting goalie for Slovakia up until the game against Canada, where Baros played incredibly strong in 45 save performance against the powerhouse favorites.
The goalie switch didn’t make much of a difference. Undrafted in the NHL, forward Petr Sidlik got his team on the board once again when he ripped past Sabol for the 4-0 advantage, cementing what should The Slovaks did get one of their own with four seconds remaining in the second when Milan Kolena dangled out Marek Langhammer for the goal, but it wouldn’t do much to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
The third period saw some good back and forth action, however neither team was able to create much in terms of offense. The Czech’s hard hitting defensive style was instrumental in keeping their victory in tact, limiting the Slovaks to just a few good scoring chances.
Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.