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Slovaks inspired by the memory of Pavol Demitra as they push for World Championship title

After pulling off something of an upset in a 3-1 victory over their “big brother” Czechs in the World Championship semifinals, Slovakia remains a heavy, heavy underdog in terms of their attempts to win gold against the powerhouse Russians, who all but plowed over Finland thanks to another Evgeni Malkin hat trick, but when the Gold medal game gets underway at 1:30 PM EDT on Sunday, the Canadian Press’s Chris Johnston reports that the plucky Slovaks won’t be left wanting in the self-belief department:

Belief is a powerful thing. How else to explain Slovakia’s unlikely march to the gold-medal game at the IIHF World Hockey Championship? This is a country that had missed out on the quarter-finals for four straight years at the tournament and hadn’t won a medal here in almost a decade. There’s only one difference this time around: They’re playing for Pavol Demitra, the long-time national team captain who was killed in the Lokomotiv air crash in September.

“We all know that we’re not playing just for us,” Zdeno Chara said after Saturday’s emotional 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in the semifinals. “We’re playing for our country and obviously with the tragedy that happened ... it’s also for Pav.”

This is the kind of story usually reserved for the movies. The Slovaks have been overmatched all along the way and barely got through a 5-4 victory over France that was needed to advance to the playoff round. And now they’ll face Russia for a gold medal on Sunday.

“This is something really special,” said forward Tomas Tatar. “I don’t even have words for this.”

Continued

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com