CALGARY, AB -- With a coveted spot in the quarter-finals up for grabs, Slovakia pulled off an impressive 6-4 come-from-behind victory against Switzerland at the Scotiabank Saddledome Saturday evening.
“The goal was to go to the next round. So this goal, we can put a checkmark on it,” said Slovakian head coach, Ernest Bokros through a chorus of cheers emerging from the dressing room.
Through his post-game elation, Slovak forward, Tomas Jurco (4a), also a member of the reigning CHL Memorial Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs, said, “For our small country, it’s a really big thing and we are really happy that we could be here and do it.”
Following a deflating goal by Switzerland less than a minute into the third frame, many thought a 6-4 Switzerland lead would be insurmountable for the Slovaks.
But for Slovakia, it was anything but over. They proved unrelenting as they battled their way back, scoring four goals within a five minute span.
"The decision making goal was when we tied it 4-4, everyone started to believe that we can win it," said Bokros.
The go-ahead marker of the Slovakian offensive surge spoke of their persistence as a number of unsuccessful attempts at depositing the rebound went unrewarded until Matus Chovan found a way in.
The goal not only stood up as the game winner but also cemented the hat trick for Chovan, who was pointless in his previous three preliminary round outings.
"When the coach picked the team, there were no superstars on the team but the team was really strong together,” added Bokros.
The 5-4 score was the first Slovakian lead of the game, which couldn’t have come at a better time. A final Slovakian power-play goal to put the game at 6-4 with ten minutes remaining in the third, appeared to take the wind out of the Swiss sails.
For Switzerland’s head coach, Manuele Celio, the loss was largely psychological.
"We had so many mistakes, the defencemen were afraid to make a pass. We did things we normally don't do because they were under pressure,” said Celio. “When it was 4-3 everyone started to panic and they couldn't keep the nerves. The Slovaks came up with energy and we couldn't contain them."
Offensive notables for the Swiss included Joel Vermin (2g) and Tanner Richard (1g,2a). Flames' prospect and Swiss forward Sven Baertschi did not play in Saturday's game as he remains day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms.
Despite the result, both teams are now looking ahead. Slovakia will now face Finland in the quarter-finals on Monday with Switzerland.
Author: Avery Buye