Slovakia earned a single point from their 4-3 overtime loss to Team Germany to put them in third in the Group A standings with four points. Unless Switzerland miraculously takes a point from Canada later today, that will be good enough for Team Slovakia to earn a place in the elimination round. While their effort in this game could be considered “good enough”, one thing defines them: penalties.
Penalties Will Make or Break You
In the second period, Germany gave Slovakia three power-play opportunities back-to-back-to-back. The Slovaks finally capitalized on the third one for their only power-play goal of the game. One for three isn’t bad if your team is able to stay out of the box. However, staying out of the box was an issue for Slovakia in their warmup game against the Czech Republic and it reared it’s ugly head again in this game.
It’s an exhibition game but this is a Slovak team that looks lost out there.— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) December 24, 2020
No sustained momentum.
Goaltending is not the issue. #WorldJuniors
The Slovaks gave the Germans seven power-play opportunities and the Germans converted on three of them. Twice it undid a Slovak lead to tie the game. The final penalty in overtime led to the game-winning, power-play goal.
Second Period, 6:39: Jendek for Holding
In the second period, Dominik Jendek took a holding penalty while the Slovaks had a 2-1 lead. While his teammates went to the bench for a change, Jendek carried the puck into the offensive zone, alone, along the right-side wall. German defender, Mario Zimmerman moved to intercept him and jarred the puck loose with a poke check. Jendek overskated the puck a bit, and Zimmerman went to take it and send it back up ice for the Team Germany.
As a coach, this is the one that would bother me the most. Jendek’s response after losing the puck was to grab Zimmerman’s bicep and reach around him with his stick in a half-hearted bear hug. It was an easy holding call for the referees to make. Even worse is that it did nothing to obstruct German possession. It was an unnecessary offensive zone penalty, the kind that drives coaches insane. On the ensuing power play, Germany made it a 2-2 game.
Second Period, 17:38: Mrazik for Interference
Team Slovakia had just finished killing off another interference call when Michal Mrazik was called for interference right in front of the penalty box. Of the penalties that led to power-play goals, this was the weakest call. On the telecast, Craig Button said there was “no question about it,” and initially, I disagreed. Mrazik was attempting to battle for a loose puck with German forward Justin Volek.
However, in 2018 when they made adjustments to the “late hit” rule (153 in the IIHF rule book), they also defined an early hit.
INTERFERENCE –new clause, further to Rule 150-v A skater who anticipates an opponent gaining possession or control of the puck but who makes contact with the opponent before this possession or control occurs will receive an interference penalty.2018-2022 IIHF RULE BOOK
Mrazik initiated contact with Volek before he had possession. It’s not firm contact and, with the boards there, he had no choice but to step across Volek to try to battle for the puck. In doing so, he took a penalty and on the power play that followed, Florian Elias tied the game for Germany at 3-3. I cannot speak for the Tipos Extraliga, but in the NHL, it’s unlikely that this interference call would be made. But, players and coaches are responsible for knowing the rules of play.
Overtime, 2:28: Myklukha for Hooking
Oleksii Myklukha’s hooking penalty in overtime was particularly frustrating. The infraction occurred at 1:17 of the overtime period, but the Germans were able to maintain possession with the goalie out and the extra attacker for an additional 1:11 before the Slovaks touched the puck.
Team Germany was coming up ice after an unsuccessful 2-on-1 scoring attempt by Slovakia. Myklukha was backchecking but he had skated around the back of the net and was well behind German defender Zimmerman when the Germans began to initiate the breakout. As Germany crossed the blue line into the Slovak zone, that gap was considerably shortened. A pass was sent across to Zimmerman and as the puck was about to land, Myklukha reached his stick up and caught Zimmerman across the hands so he missed the pass.
POWER-PLAY: Germany will have a good chance to win it as they’ll have the man advantage for two minutes of OT.— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 29, 2020
The refs are going to call that hooking every time. This was Myklukha’s third penalty of the game and it was a back-breaker. Team Slovakia’s inability to get puck possession for over a minute meant that even though there was 0:27 left on the power play, Slovakia had already been shorthanded for 2:44 when Germany scored the game-winner.
That’s where the story of this game begins and ends for Team Slovakia. Team Germany battled their way to a 4-3 overtime win, while the Slovaks kept opening the door for Germany to stay in it. There are times when a penalty seems unavoidable or is the result of an honest mistake. The Mrazik penalty is an example of an honest mistake.
I don’t know what he was supposed to do differently based on his body positioning. However, it’s a penalty under the rules and has been since 2018. The Jendek and Myklukha penalties were different. Those kinds of infractions drive coaches mad. Slovakia’s next challenge is Finland on Dec. 30. If they give the Finns the same kind of power-play chances they gave the Germans, it’s going to be an ugly one-sided affair.
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Jack Dawkins is a freelance scout, analyst and avid watcher of “way too much hockey.” He has joined The Hockey Writers team to cover all things Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers. He’s an absolute data hound and loves using stats and analytics to calculate and extrapolate data for analysis.