Slovakia’s 3rd Period Push Not Enough in Loss to the US

Last year, Slovakia could only pull out a single victory in the World Junior Championships. That victory came against their group’s worst team, Switzerland. However, Simon Latkoczy kept the team in each of the three games he played last year.

That continued in Slovakia’s first game of the tournament. The Slovakian roster that featured many 2022 and 2023 draft-eligible prospects and undrafted players was able to hang with the United States.

However, the unproven squad was unable to get the job. However, there are many positives and lessons that were learned in the 3-2 loss to the Americans.

Special Teams Lead to Deficit

Slovakia benefitted from two early power plays. However, there was no urgency or threat on the team’s man-advantage. In the first period, Slovakia struggled to set up their power play or get any shots on net.

In contrast, the United States took its lead solely off the man-advantage. On a 5-on-3 advantage, Matthew Knies fired a one-timer off an easy pass from Logan Cooley. Not soon after, Mackie Samoskevich’s powerful wrist shot beat Latkoczy for the United States to take a 2-0 lead to the dressing room.

After three power plays in the first period, the Slovaks had nothing to show for their efforts but a slight lead on the shot-counter. Slovakia needed to rebound in the second period and cut the American lead.

Latkoczy Gives Team a Chance

However, the second period was headlined by a dominant even-strength effort by the Americans. In just 20 minutes, the United States put up one goal and 23 shots while holding Slovakia to just two shots. Those two shots came near the conclusion of the period after the United States extended its lead.

Latkoczy stopped 22-of-23 shots in the period to keep his team in the game. With defenseman making poor plays at the offensive blue line, the Slovakian netminder bailed out the team on multiple odd-man rushes, including a couple of breakaways.

Equally impressive, the netminder fought through screens, deflections, and chaos in his crease. Entering the third period, Slovakia had only a three-goal deficit despite being outplayed severely in the second frame.

Chromiak and Company Score Too Little Too Late

Finally making up for their power play woes, Martin Chromiak put home a one-timer at 5-on-4 to cut the lead. After scoring in the first minute of the period, Slovakia had all the momentum in the final 19-minutes.

With eight minutes remaining, Dalibor Dvorsky deflected a point shot to bring his team within a goal. Or… the 16-year-old thought he did. Immediately the goal was waived off and taken off the board officially after a lengthy review.

Chromiak and Slovakia did not lose much momentum. Later in the period, the Los Angeles Kings prospect slotted another goal by Drew Commesso just after Slovakia pulled the goalie.

In the game’s waning moments, the Slovakian skaters peppered the United States defense, unfortunately to no avail. Despite a terrific performance from Latkoczy, late heroics by Chromiak, and threatening chances for Simon Nemec, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Dvorsky, the Slovaks lost 3-2.

Back at it Today

Unfortunately, the Slovaks first two games come against the likely top-two teams in the group. After a heartbreaking loss to the Americans, Slovakia must suit up against Sweden less than 24 hours later.

Sweden was minimally challenged in a 6-3 victory over Russia in their first game. Sweden capitalized on a strong power play that overwhelmed the Russian defense early in that game. That saw Russia in a hole that they could not dig themselves out of.

If that sounds familiar, it is because Slovakia’s special team struggles to begin their game also doomed their aspirations against the United States. More than ever, Slovakia must remain disciplined against a high-powered Swedish offense that features first-rounders like Alexander Holtz, William Eklund, Oskar Olausson, and Fabian Lysell.

Alexander Holtz, New Jersey Devils
Alexander Holtz, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite the loss, Slovakia had numerous positives. Nemec was noticeably impactful on both ends of the ice. The Slovakian second line, built on 2022 NHL Draft eligibles Slafkovsky, Filip Mesar, and Servac Petrovsky, produced offense in an otherwise quiet game.

Latkoczy, Nemec, and Chromiak will have to impress again for Slovakia to compete against a heavily favored Swedish team. What did you make of Slovakia’s performance? Let me know in the comments!

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