HALIFAX – Slovakia defeated Slovenia 4-3 on a Lubomir Visnovsky shootout goal to complete a two-game sweep and avoid relegation.
The win that keeps Slovakia up and now focused on the 2009 World Championships after a disappointing showing here in Halifax.
"We knew this would be much more difficult than yesterday," said Juraj Kolnik. "They had nothing to lose. We got lucky but I think the better team won."
Slovenia heads back down to Division I. Despite having demonstrated why he is one of the rising young talents in the NHL, Anze Kopitar could not carry Slovenia by himself, though he tried.
Team Slovenia scored a total of six goals in the tournament; Kopitar had three of them.
Kopitar led his team in scoring with four points in six games.
Slovakia took a 1-0 lead as Kolnik beat goaltender Andrej Hocevar with a clean, hard slap shot at 7:42 into the period. For Kolnik it was his third goal of the tournament.
Both teams traded chances in the first as shots on goal were fairly even. Slovenia outshot Slovakia 12-10.
Slovenia tied the score on a Marjan Manfreda goal. Manfreda scored on a two-on-one as he skated in on goal determined to make the shot rather than attempt a pass across, which was the high percentage option. Manfreda beat Lasak stick side to tie the game.
With the score tied, Slovakia would have to rely on its core leaders to step it up and provide offense. And in the second period its leaders would indeed establish a presence.
A mad scramble in front saw captain Robert Petrovicky score the go-ahead goal. Marcel Hossa and Ivan Ciernik assisted on the goal, which came with 8:35 remaining in the period.
Assistant captain Visnovsky scored a beautiful backhander. Visnovsky took a pass from Ciernik and moved in alone on Hocevar. Showing slick hands, Visnovsky fooled Hocevar who did not stand a chance.
David Rodman made it 3-2 after using Ivan Majesky as a screen. Rodman’s shot looked like it was redirected off Majesky’s stick and past Lasak’s glove had. From Lasak’s reaction, he did not appear as though he’d seen the shot.
Things continued in this way until Kopitar once again stepped up to demonstrate leadership for his team. Kopitar scored on a slap shot that blew past Lasak, who did not have his usual solid game, to tie the score at three.
In the overtime session, Slovakia came out putting pressure in the offensive zone and keeping the action in the Slovenian end. The best chance came from Marcel Hossa whose point blank shot his Hocevar on his blocker. Despite the flurry of action, the game went to a shootout.
Slovenia won the right to shoot first, and it unfolded as follows (according to the IIHF game-winning shots procedure, in which three different shooters from each team take alternate shots until a decisive goal is scored--and if the game is still tied after three shots by each team, the GWS continues with a tie-break shootout by one player of each team, with the shooting order reversed):
Round 1: SLO, Kopitar - Lasak save. SVK, Kolnik - goal, backhand high.
Round 2: SLO, Razingar - goal, between pads. SVK, Hossa - Hocevar save.
Round 3: SLO, Rodman - Lasak save. SVK, Visnovsky – goal wrist shot high save.
Visnovsky’s score in Round 3 saves Slovakia from having to play another game. The best-of-three relegation format is one where Slovakia certainly wanted to avoid going into a do-or-die game three situation.
"I think we failed this year for the people who were behind us and the fans back home," said a disappointed Kolnik. "I think we just have to forget about it and look towards next year."