Slovakia scored twice in the first minute and demolished Kazakhstan 11-2 on Sunday night. The Slovaks wrapped up a quarter-final berth with fourth place in Group B.
It was Slovakia’s first win of the tournament, and this result was never in doubt, as they led 6-0 after one period. In Wednesday’s quarter-finals, coach Ernest Bokros’s team will face the winner of the New Year’s Eve showdown between host Canada and Russia.
“They are both very good teams,” said Slovakia’s Milos Roman. “I think we have to be ready for it. We showed against the USA [in a 2-1 loss] that we can play against better teams. Now it’s time to do everything for that and be ready for the quarter-final.”
Slovakia hopes to medal again after previously earning bronze in 1999 and 2015. Different players had different thoughts on which quarter-final opponent they might get.
“Of course, we’re probably going to meet Canada, so it’s really an important two days for us,” said captain Martin Fehervary. “We need to get rest and get ready for that game.”
“I hope we’re going to get Russia,” said Adam Ruzicka. “We’ve got some deal against them, based on the U18’s. We lost against them in the quarter-finals there [in overtime in 2017 when Slovakia hosted]. I hope we get them and can give them some payback or something.”
Andrej Kollar notched a hat trick, while Ruzicka stepped up with two goals and an assist, and Pavol Regenda had a goal and two assists. Marcel Dlugos added a pair of goals. Adam Liska, Filip Krivosik, and Roman each chipped in a goal and an assist. Slovak starting goalie Samuel Hlavaj got an easy win as his team outshot the Kazakhs 46-18.
For Kazakhstan, Artur Gatiyatov scored his first two goals of the tournament, both on the power play. Assistant captain Samat Daniyar assisted on each goal.
Kazakhstan, which has lost three straight games, will play in the relegation round in Vancouver. On Wednesday morning, they’ll face the loser of the Denmark-Czech Republic game.
The newly promoted Kazakhs still have one preliminary-round game left tomorrow against Sweden, which can wrap up first place in Group B with a win.
The Kazakhs have been outscored 24-4. Regrettably, they saved their worst performance for the match-up that, on paper, looked the most winnable. Regardless, the Victoria crowd lustily cheered on the former Soviet republic throughout.”When we let in two goals in 30 seconds and six goals in the first, it seemed like the game was finished,” said Gatiyatov. “Maybe Slovakia wanted to win more.”
It took just 22 seconds for Slovakia to open the scoring, and the goal was one that Kazakh starter Demid Yeremeyev would like to have had back. Patrick Hrehorcak fed Liska in front of the net and he pivoted and slid the puck along the ice through the Kazakh goalie’s pads. Ten seconds later, Ruzicka feinted past Kazakh defenceman Yaroslav Khripkov and sent a backhander past Yeremeyev.
After Kazakh defenceman Aidos Zhorabek took his team’s first penalty, the Slovaks stung their foes with a power play goal at 5:26, as Ruzicka fired a tremendous one-timer from the right side. Out came Yeremeyev and in went backup Vladislav Nurek.
At this point, the obvious question was whether all of Slovakia’s goals would be scored by guys named Adam.
“We jumped into the first period 100 percent from the first shift,” said Ruzicka. “We scored early goals and it gave us confidence in the game. All those goals were just from the command we had and the right things we did.”
A non-Adam made it 4-0 at 8:21. Nurek gave the puck away behind the goal line to Milos Kelemen, and he centered it to Kollar, who beat the lunging netminder. At 11:20, Krivosik took a Ruzicka centering pass and scored from the high slot through a tangle of Kazakh defenders.
At 14:17, the Slovaks went up 6-0, as Josef Balaz’s shot from the top of the right faceoff circle bounced off Dlugos in front of the net and trickled in.
In the second period, the obliteration continued. Kollar beat Nurek on the stick side from the right faceoff circle for Slovakia’s seventh goal at 2:27.
It took just 26 seconds for Roman to capitalize with the man advantage with Kazakhstan’s Ruslan Dyomin in the box for a late hit. He finished off a sweet passing play at 7:41, and Starygin went back to Yeremeyev in net shortly afterwards. Of course, it was too late to make a difference.
Kazakhstan finally ended Hlavaj’s shutout hopes with a two-man advantage at 10:13, as Gatiyatov banged in a rebound.
“We work a lot on our power play,” said Gatiyatov. “It’s something we can score with.”
Regenda restored Slovakia’s seven-goal lead at 13:36, rushing into the left faceoff circle and zinging one past Yeremeyev’s glove.
In an occasionally chippy third period, Gatiyatov rounded out Kazakhstan’s scoring at 6:25 with another power play. “Sweet Caroline” resounded through the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for the last time at these World Juniors.
“I like that song,” said Gatiyatov. “It feels very good when a crowd of nearly 6,000 people is supporting you and cheering for you when you score. It’s something special in that moment.”
Dlugos scored the tenth Slovak goal with 5:47 left, while Kollar roofed the 11th one with 13 seconds remaining.
“It was 11-2, and we had a lot of penalties,” said Ruzicka. “We’ve got to avoid that against Russia or Canada, because they’re going to capitalize on that, and they’re going to score a lot of goals from that.”
Slovakia tied its team record for most goals in one game. Slovakia’s biggest margin of victory ever in World Junior play was an 11-1 win over Belarus on 27 December 2002 in Sydney, Nova Scotia.