ZURICH-KLOTEN – A plucky Team Hungary made its first top division IIHF World Championship appearance in seventy years and gave Slovakia a game. Down 3-1 going into the third period, Hungary would battle back to tie the game only to lose as Lubos Bartecko scored with 13 seconds remaining in the game.
There are moments when history is made and Hungary certainly did that tonight in Kloten with their performance. They have nothing to be ashamed about.
"We're not a young team, but we're extremely motivated because we are playing for number 19," said head coach Pat Cortina referencing the recent passing of Gabor Ocksay, one of Hungary's top players.
It looked like Slovakia got on the board early in the first period when Ladislav Nagy took a pass in stride and moved in with a nifty move past two defencemen and through the prone Szuper.
The goal came a little over a minute of play. However, the play was reviewed and it was ruled that the puck did not cross the goal line.
Then with 18:14 remaining in the period, Stefan Ruzicka beat two defenders with a rocket of a shot past Szuper. There was no disputing: it was a goal, giving Slovakia a 1-0 lead.
Hungary’s best chance would come when Marton Vas stole a pass that Slovakian netminder Rastislav Stana kicked aside. As the first period wore on and it looked like Slovakia would not run away with it, Hungary’s confidence grew and by the early second period the game was tied.
Roger Holeczy scored on a well-placed wrist shot off a shovel pass from Andras Benk from behind the net. It was an historic goal as it was Hungary’s first goal in seventy year in top division World Championship play. Hungary’s last top division came February 11, 1939 in, of all places, Zurich in a 6-2 loss to Germany.
The marker tied the game and turned the fortunes of the Hungarian side. With solid goaltending and tenacious effort, Hungary remained in the game.
"They can play great defence," said Slovakian goaltender Rastislav Stana. "The longer the game was tied at one, the more pressure we felt."
With 1:47 remaining in the second period, Slovakia regained the lead when Lubos Bartecko scored as Szuper was down and the net wide open. For Bartecko, who was named captain of the Slovakian team, it was his first of the tournament.
Then less than a minute later with 56 seconds remaining in the second, Marcel Hossa jammed one home with two defencemen on his back for a 3-1 lead.
Still, Hungary would not be deterred. Imre Peterdi brought them right back with a beautiful backhand. The play began with the puck caught in Balazs Ladanyi’s skates. When he regained possession, he threw a backhand pass onto the stick of a streaking Peterdi, who found just enough net over Stana’s shoulder to cut the lead to 3-2.
Amazingly, Hungary roared back when Tamas Sille scored a power play goal to tie the game. Bartecko was called for high sticking and Sille responded. Adding to the intrigue of this game, Sille was born in Slovakia. With the goal, the predominantly Hungarian fan base in attendance went wild.
"If someone told us we would have been tied with Slovakia at three in the third period we would have surely taken it."
As the game drew to a close, Bartecko scored the game-winner, crushing the hopes of so many here tonight about a “csoda”, a miracle from the Hungarian team.
"I lost sight of the puck," said Szuper. "There were a lot of guys in front of me. I think Bertecko hit the post and the puck came right back to him. That's hockey."
In the loss, Szuper was phenomenal for his team, making key stops whenever they were needed an facing 52 shots.
Slovakia next meets Belarus on Sunday while Hungary prepares for another big challenge against Team Canada.
"Everyone knows our objective is to stay in the top division so the loss tonight hurts, for sure but it is not that important in terms of our overall goal," said Cortina.