After eight long years, the Slovaks have advanced to the quarter-finals of the World Hockey Championship, and although a massive 3:7 loss with the Czech opponents left them a little confused, they are confident of everything in Thursday’s duel. The Finns are their historical enemies.
If the Slovaks play at least a point in the derby of former federal partners with the Czechs, they will finish third in the group and challenge Finland in the quarter-finals. After a 3:7 defeat, they finished fourth and will face the winner of Group B, against the Americans.
They defeated the outside opponent in the world championships on their home soil two years ago, and also succeeded against him in 2016, 2013 or 2012. On the other hand, the Finns have been an outstanding obstacle to the Slovaks in the world championships since 2004.
Slovakian striker Matos Sokic, who scored against the Czechs, agreed, “If I had to choose, I’d rather play with the US national team.” “But in principle it does not matter, both teams are very good,” he immediately added.
“I can’t even assess it properly,” said seventeen-year-old full-back Simon Nemec, who is playing his first major tournament in Riga. “If we want to advance, we have to beat every opponent.”
They both know that they will certainly not do well in the quarter-finals with the performance of the Slovaks against the Czechs. “We didn’t play our game, we didn’t maintain order. Only in certain moments. We have to get back to it quickly,” Suki emphasized.
“We didn’t follow the coach’s instructions and did a lot of things that we couldn’t do,” the German shook his head. Although he himself was satisfied with his performance after not playing in previous matches and felt good on the ice.
The same was confirmed by the Canadian Slovak coach Craig Ramsey. “Nemec was our best player on the ice today. In every substitution he tried to turn the game on our side. Samuel Kachko and Juraj Slavkowski played very well,” stated other youngsters whose double crosses were captured on their chests.
Prior to the tournament, the Slovaks with their youngest-ever team at the World Championships (average of 24.75 years) were not expected to break the eight-year wait to advance from the group. They succeeded, they were already sure before the duel with the Czechs.
“We deserved to be promoted, but we weren’t focused enough against the Czechs. It was like we were very upset,” Ramsey said. An experienced Canadian said: “We defeated the Czechs in one-on-one battles and they forced us to drive without a puck. They wouldn’t let us play.”
Sokic, who wore the Prague-Sparta shirt for two years in the extra league and will play with Litvinov next season, agreed: “The Czechs were a strong opponent.” The 25-year-old described the forward: “They flew towards us and skied poorly. They were definitely better than us, we often came up with a lot of ideas in our area.”
“I don’t think a particular procedure will play a role, we played perfectly,” said Suki. “We gave up our game right after the first goal we conceded. It shouldn’t happen to us in the quarter-finals.” “If we play with responsibility and good movement, we can beat the United States,” he added.
The Slovaks in the group were the only ones who defeated the Russians, but collected a total of fifteen goals from the Swiss and Czechs, thus eventually taking the lead with a negative score of 17:22.
“But we showed that we can defeat anyone, and we also played a good game with the Swedes,” Nemec recalled a close 1:3 loss. Ramsey is convinced: “If we can get into the attack zone and not lose our pucks unnecessarily, we will be dangerous for the Americans.”
On Thursday, the Slovaks will face the best defense of the tournament. Coach Jack Capuan’s selection scored only eight goals in seven matches.