Saturday, 14 April 2012

Shootout loss for Slovakia in Yaroslavl

After a series of disappointing results against Denmark last week, the Slovakia national team put in a much better performance in Yaroslavl on Friday evening, despite going down 2:1 in a shootout. Head Coach Vladimir Vůjtek was right in saying that "Compared to our performances against Denmark, we did a lot better tonight. In the end I think we were the better team. The Russians had pressure in the opening six or seven minutes, but then the game settled, and as the game went on we got the upper hand. Our netminder [Jan Laco] played well." The HC Lev netminder did indeed play well, only conceding one goal in open play, and providing a strong backbone which the team lacked in their games against Denmark. With a performance like this, Laco has only furthered his claim to the starter's spot when the tournament begins on the 4th May.

They may have lost, but it was a good performance
by a Slovakia side still awaiting reinforcements
The Russians began the game much the better side, as Slovakia appeared to still be in the dressing room. Russia's early pressure was finally rewarded 14 minutes into the game, as Spartak Moscow forward Roman Lyuduchin beat Vladimir Mihalik for pace along the right wing, and Lyuduchin took the puck behind the goal and expertly found Alexander Svitov unmarked on the doorstep, and Svitov obliged by tapping the puck into the net to the delight of the 9,040 in attendance in Yaroslavl.

The second period began with Russia once again being the team creating the most chances, and Laco was called into action more than once, making a great save to deny Evgeni Ketov, before making a fantastic stop to deny Lyuduchin. This seemed to be the catalyst that Slovakia needed, and off a faceoff, a Kristian Kudroč point shot was saved by Mikhail Biryukov in the Russia net, but Biryukov couldn't control the rebound, and once again Juraj Mikuš was the first to react, firing into the empty net to tie the game in the 35th minute.

A minutes silence was held before the game in Yaroslavl
Instead of Russia being the ones to start the period well, it was Slovakia who took the game to Russia in the opening minutes of the third period, but their attempts were thwarted by Biryukov, who did well to stop chances by Rastislav Špirko and Marcel Hossa. Both teams wanted to be the ones that won the game, but they also did not want to be the team that made the mistake that lost the game, so although the puck kept on going back and forth, the two teams put all their focus on being the team that wouldn't concede the deciding goal. As a result, the third period was goalless, as was the overtime period, which sent the game to a shootout.

The shootout was a delight to watch, as the players really turned on the style. Denis Abdullin scored a lovely one handed goal to open the shootout, but his efforts were matched by the next shooter Jan Sykora, who put his stick between his legs and fired the puck over the shoulder of Biryukov. Pestushko scored on an effort that Laco would like back to make the score 2:1 Russia, which remained the score after Slovakia's second effort, as Biryukov made a fantastic sprawling save to deny Milan Bartovič. Lyuduchin was denied by both posts on a gorgeous spin move on Russia's third shot, and Marcel Hossa scored on Slovakia's third effort to tie the shootout at 2:2 after three shooters. Abdullin scored the next effort, whilst Biryukov saved Sykora's and Juraj Mikuš' efforts, which gave Maxim Pestushko a chance to win the game. The Neftekhimik forward did so with a brilliant move, faking the shot before quickly moving backhand-forehand to beat Laco, sealing the victory for Russia.

Juraj Mikuš, Slovakia's solitary goal scorer, did not seem too disheartened following the loss. "It was a balanced match. Russians have a young team, whilst we have a bit more experience. They played at home and they had to create more chances. We can take a lot of positives from our performance, which we will have to repeat in our next match. Hopefully tomorrow we'll score more goals and we will once again play well in defence."

No comments:

Post a Comment