Saturday, 7 April 2012

Slovaks fall to the Danes twice.

Team Slovakia's preparations for the upcoming World Championships in Finland and Sweden got off to a rocky start this week, following two losses to Team Denmark in Košice. The first game saw Denmark run out 3-1 winners thanks to a brace from 21 year old defenceman Simon Grønvaldt, with Branko Radivojevič's scrappy effort in the 38th minute being the only time Slovakia managed to beat Frederik Andersen in the Denmark net. In the second game, Slovakia managed to get more goals, but they still ended up losing the game as Denmark ran out 4-3 winners following a shootout. Juraj Mikúš scored twice for the home side, tapping in a rebound for his first and then re-directing a Rene Vydarený point shot for his second. However, the Danes would get the last laugh, as Frederik Andersen proved spectacular in the shootout and got the victory for Denmark.

Slovakia fell to a superior Danish powerplay.
Photo: (Tomáš Surový),

Speaking after the second game, head coach Vladimír Vůjtek seemed to be in positive spirits, as speaking with (link), he said, "Today we gave a much better performance than Friday. From the beginning we tried to play at a faster tempo. It was not perfect, but we gelled better and we put them under pressure. When we took the lead we should have won, but we made mistakes."

Two goal man Juraj Mikúš, also speaking after Game 2 said, "Today we played better than yesterday, but we made too many mistakes in defence. I think we were not big favourites against the Danes. Two losses are not a tragedy, but it's a shame because we were better". Mikúš, who was Slovakia's best player at the BelSwissBank tournament in February (My take on it) once again proved his worth as a natural goalscorer, something which Spartak Moskva's Štefan Ružička failed to do once again, being held scoreless in the two games with Denmark. Whilst there are few players who had a successful season as Ružička in the KHL, the 27 year old former Philadelphia Flyer has yet to really prove his worth in a Slovakia jersey, scoring only 2 goals in 11 World Championship games over the past two seasons. If he's not careful, he won't make the cut.

Július Hudáček allowed four goals in Saturday's match
Slovakia fielded a roster which will be certain to change come to the start of the WC on the 4th of May, but it's fair to say that a fair few of the squad that lost to Denmark will make their way to Scandinavia. Two places that already look to be settled are the netminder positions, as all signs point towards Slovakia's two main goalies being Třinec's Peter Hamerlík, who played in Friday's game, and Július Hudáček, the former Košice goalie coming off a very successful debut season in the Allsvenskan for Södertälje who featured in Game 2. It signals a change in the policy of the Slovakia selection system, as it appears that new blood is being given a change. It appears that it is the end of the road for hardy veterans Rastislav Staňa and 2002 World Championship winner Ján Lašák, who are not in contention for places. Peter Budaj ruled himself out of playing in the tournament due to playing such a small number of games for the Canadiens in the NHL (link), which leaves HC Lev's Jan Laco as the only feasible contender to grab the other goalie spot for the tournament.

There is still plenty of time for Slovakia to turn around their fortunes before the Championships start in May, and on the whole Vůjtek seems to be bringing a bit of positivity back to Slovakian hockey after the catastrophe of last years performance in front of the home crowd, and with the possibility of a number of additions to the roster, Slovakia could prove to be quite the dark horse in Scandinavia.

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