International Ice Hockey Federation

Slovaks outbrawl Czechs

Slovaks outbrawl Czechs

PP goals set the tone in penalty-filled game

Published 20.04.2018 22:38 GMT+5 | Author Slava Malamud
Slovaks outbrawl Czechs
CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 20: Slovakia's Michal Mrazik #21 scores a first period goal against the Czech Republic's Lukas Dostal #29 while Vojtech Doktor #4 defends during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Capitalizing on an early major, Slovakia downed rival Czech Republic, 5-2 for their second win of the tournament. The game had a total of 55 penalty minutes.

If Slovakia is looking to finally break its 15-year curse and advance past the quarterfinals of the IIHF World U18 Championship, it needs more games like this, where it can take all the brawn an opponent throws at it and pounce on the chances it gets. 

"We came out really hard and kept the physicality up really high", was the summary provided after the game by Slovakia's Daniel Tkac. "We stayed with them the whole game."

Maxim Cajkovic had a goal and two assists in the girtty win, with Michal Mrazik scoring two power-play goals. Robert Dzugan and Oliver Okuliar also scored for Slovakia. Jakub Lauko and Karel Plasek found the back of the net for Czech Republic.

Since all the teenagers competing at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship hope to one day make it to the NHL, and some indeed will in the nearest future, then it stands to reason they are learning some things by watching the vaunted pros. If any of them have been following the Washington-Columbus series going on right now, then perhaps they could learn one very important lesson from it, namely: kids, don’t take penalties.

But, apparently, not everyone is yet familiar with crime’s terrible reputation when it comes to payoffs, because this game began with both teams barely getting a taste of full-strength hockey. It was Zack Malik, Czech Republic’s American-born defenseman, who set the tone for the proceedings with an ill-advised boarding penalty taken barely four minutes into the game. The hit didn’t earn Malik a trip to the showers only because he hadn’t played long enough to break into sweat yet. It did earn him a trip to the dressing room, however, while his teammates had to spend five minutes killing a penalty.

The Slovaks immediately capitalized on the all-you-can-eat power play by scoring only 11 seconds later, as Mrazik picked up a lose puck down low and banged it in past Lukas Dostal. Only two minutes later, Mrazik did it again, scoring on a big shot from the left circle.

"This was an important game for my career", said Mrazik after the game, solidifying an opinion doubtlessly already formed by the scouts. "It was my most important game, for sure."

The Slovaks could’ve done even more damage on the major penalty, but, while still on the power play, they took a penalty of their own, and the Czechs scored four-on-four: Pauliny converted a breakaway with a shot over Samuel Vyletelka’s blocker.

The game didn’t settle down after that, however. With 13 minutes gone, Vyletelka made an amazing save going post to post and in the resulting scramble, the Czechs were called for another minor. But, with Slovakia maintaining possession, Vyletelka hustled to the bench for the extra attacker, and an immediate counter produced a goal as Cajkovic sent the puck to the far post where Dzugan one-timed it in.

For those counting at home, that’s four goals in the first 13:03 and none of them, technically, came in a five-on-five situation. The first even-strength tally was recorded only 69 seconds later when Cajkovic batted the puck in while lying down in the crease. That was the end of Dostal’s evening: after allowing four goals on eight shots he was replaced by Daniel Dvorak. 

"They scored on their power plays, and it came down to that", said Czech captain Lubor Zabransky. "This was the biggest difference."

The game of musical penalties continued, only now Slovakia was the principal player, as if Malik’s example had failed to teach them anything. Of course, learning lessons isn’t always teenagers’ best-known quality. Besides, Vyletelka and the Slovak defense weren’t about to let the Czechs punish them for the transgressions, right? 

Wrong. Czech Republic did just that, eventually, 11:51 into the second frame, capitalizing on its sixth power play opportunity. The puck found its way into Vyletelka’s net off of Plasek. 

"We took a lot of penalties, and we need to work on that", said Tkac. "We need to stay disciplined if we are to go as far as we can."

Building on their advantage, though, is exactly what the Czechs didn’t do. Only 39 seconds later Cajkovic fought off a hook by Tomas Dajcar that sent him crashing into the net and managed to push the puck ahead to Okuliar, who tipped it across the line. Even though the refs had originally waved the goal off, sending Dajcar to the box, after a five-minute video review, they reversed their decision, and it was 5-2 Slovakia. 

"Their players jumped everything and we didn't convert on our opportunities. We must learn from this", said Zabransky.

Unsatisfied with the efficiency of their power play, the Czech reverted to a radically different approach: taking penalties of their own, including giving the Slovaks a long two-man advantage. It even seemed to work, as the lads in red came up with a glorious shorthanded 2-on-1 only to be stifled by Vyletelka.

At this point, both teams had gotten used to plaing shorthanded, so more penalties in the third period didn't faze either penalty killing crew, as the game chaotically caromed to the 5-2 Slovakian win. 

"We need to stay disciplined", said Tkac. "Our goalie played phenomenal and we had a lot of blocked shots. That helped us down the stretch."

The Czechs will be back in action on Sunday, taking on the tournament hosts. Slovakia will test the upper tier debutante France Monday night.

 

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