by Lisa Brown on 01/03/12 at 12:14 AM ET
Don’t count anyone out. That has been the lesson learned thus far at the 2012 IIHF World Juniors. With so many battles running straight until the final buzzer, and a few come from behind victories, this tournament has been entertaining to say the least.
Slovakia could have had another come from behind victory, or at the very least, a much closer game. Some interesting calls in the third period quelled those attempts. It’s difficult to matchup against a strong defensive team like Finland when you team is continually on the power play.
Oilers’ prospect Martin Gernat agreed that his team was competitive, until exhaustion set in. “It was important in game, we had all of those penalty kills, and we can’t play all of the time on the penalty kill.”
Nine penalties the Slovakians had to kill off, plus a game misconduct to Matu Chovan. Chovan hit Finnish player Miro Aaltonen into the boards in the second period, but it was Aaltonen who saw Chovan coming and turned to face the boards. The fans filling the Saddledome were not shy to express their dissatisfaction with the call.
The Fins had four penalties on the game.
Slovakian head coach Ernest Bokros was calm as he addressed the media, he has to be, he had to calm the players who were even more upset than he was.
“Until today it was good and there were no comments,” Bokros says of the officiating. “Today the only interesting this is that of nine calls, eight of them were from one referee. The aftermath of those penalties was a different situation in the locker room. I was doing the best I could to calm the players down because they were after those penalties.”
“It was interesting that we got a penalty when we were down by one goal. When there was a difference of 3 goals we didn’t get a penalty.”
The game misconduct seemed to be the difference maker. “Definitely it was a turning point and it was interesting that eight penalties were called by one referee.”
Bokros doesn’t want to comment on the call specifically, and instead would rather watch the video before reacting.
“I’m very proud.” Bokros said of his team. “The Slovaks achieved the goals this team set out to achieve before this tournament. Basically battling for fifth and sixth place is a medal for Slovakia.”
Slovakia will play either Russia or the Czech Republic Thursday night, but “It doesn’t really matter who Slovakia plays in the next round,” Bokros told the media. “They are trying to enjoy themselves right now because everything after the next round is bonus.”
Edmonton Oilers’ prospects Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat for Team Slovakia were difference makers, playing a lot of power play time. Every player on the team is important, and they do play as a team, but it was plays by Gernat and Marincin that helped to keep Slovakia in this game.
For Finland their next competitor will be Sweden, the team that beat Canada in a pre-tournament game Finland’s head coach Raimo Helminen reminded us. Helminen hasn’t begun to think about Sweden yet, “Tomorrow is a new game we have to be glad that we won today. Now we have to think about Sweden.”
The last time these two teams met was the 2011 IIHF World Juniors in Buffalo. Finland walked away with a 6-0 victory. This year’s 8-5 victory shows that the Slovakian team this year is better and stronger. This game could have been quite different, but as the Slovaks expressed, they are proud of themselves and are playing for pride now.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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