HALIFAX – Germany scored two power-play goals in the first period en route to an impressive if not altogether dominating 4-2 victory over Slovakia tonight at the Halifax Metro Centre. The win puts the Germans in second place in Group C heading into Wednesday’s final day of play in the round robin Preliminary Round.
Michael Hackert had two goals and goalie Robert Muller was outstanding in the nets for Germany stopping 36 of 38 shots. "We played with a lot of confidence today," Muller said. "The two power-play goals were important because it helped us go to the second period with a lead."
"We have to stay out of the penalty box if we want to win, and we didn't do that," Slovakian goalie Jan Lasak said. "That was the big difference tonight, the power play."
The game was played before a lively crowd with hundreds of Germans at one end and a smaller but equally vocal group of Slovakians at the other end.
Although Slovakia had the game’s first good scoring chance, it was the Germans who lit the lamp at 6:57 on a power play. Florian Busch skated over the Slovakian blueline and feathered a pass behind the defenceman trying to check him, and Marco Sturm walked in alone and beat Jan Lasak with a great deke.
Moments earlier, German goalie Robert Muller had stoned Robert Petrovicky on a breakaway.
The Germans took a well earned two-goal lead later in the period on another power play. Jason Holland’s point shot hit a cluster of bodies in front of Lasak, and the puck popped fortuitously free to Stefan Ustorf who had the open net.
One might think a German team that had a 2-0 lead over Slovakia after 20 minutes might line five men along centre ice the rest of the game to preserve that score, but not so this confident group of youngsters hand-picked by coach Uwe Krupp. Instead, they took play to their opponents in the second period and dominated play as goalie Muller watched idly from the other end for much of the middle period.
Slovakia got on the board, though, at 9:39 on a power play when Muller kicked out a point shot onto the stick of Ivan Ciernik. He stuck it in the short side to cut the German lead in half.
No worries. The Germans continued to press and impress, and late in the period they were rewarded with a beautiful goal. Philip Gogulla took a stretch pass up the middle from Michael Bakos deep in his own end. As a Slovakian defenceman chased Gogulla down, he turned and delivered a backhand pass to Michael Hackert in the slot. Hackert beat Lasak between the pads to restore the Germans’ two-goal lead before the end of the period.
The Germans continued their impressive play in the final 20 minutes, and this in turn frustrated the Slovakians. Germany upped the score on another power play midway through the final period, Hackert again doing the damage by slapping home a nice pass in the slot. In fact, they had scored moments earlier but the goal was disallowed because of a player in the crease.
Slovakia added a goal with 4.4 seconds left on the clock courtesy of Juraj Kolnik. It spoiled the roar of applause for Muller who seconds earlier made the save of the night with his glove off Miroslav Kovacik on a breakaway.
"We've already beaten Slovakia two times this year, and that gave us confidence," Muller noted. "We kept the puck deep and didn't take any stupid penalties," Gogulla added.
Germany closes out the Preliminary Round with a game against Norway on Wednesday night while Slovakia plays Finland in the afternoon game that day. The group is wide open. Only Finland has clinched a trip to the Qualification Round. Any of Germany, Slovakia, and Norway can still join the Finns or fall into the Relegation Round.