BURLINGTON – Slovakia scored perhaps the greatest victory in its brief women's hockey history by beating Germany 4-2 at Cairns Arena tonight, setting up a best two-of-three with the Germans starting tomorrow.
The loss by Germany was devastating as it allowed Sweden to claim second place in Group B and advance to the quarter-finals.
It was a game full of drama. A Germany win would have put the team in first place of Group B and in the quarter-finals; a loss would send them to the Relegation Round against these very Slovaks.
As well, from the Slovakian perspective, a win would have given them Germany instead of Sweden as a Relegation Round opponent, a far more favourable matchup and one that might kept them in the top pool for 2013. In short, both teams desperately wanted to win.
"We'd much rather play Germany in the relegation, so we tried our hardest," acknowledged goalie Zuzana Tomcikova. "We scored four goals, so we gave it our best."
"We don't like the Swedish style," captain Jana Kapustova continued. "They play more physical. But they can thank us for not having to play us. It was a strange situation, but we tried our hardest."
Nicol Cupkova got the opening goal late in a close-checking first period which had but few scoring chances. The puck came to Viona Harrer’s crease but it bounced and bobbed its way to Cupkova, and she managed to bat it in, much to the delight of many Swedish fans watching intently, hoping for a Slovakian win.
Both teams had one power play each in the opening 20 minutes, but the penalty killing was perfect in both cases.
The second period saw a stunning display of offense as Slovakia scored twice to take a 3-0 lead. The goals, scored by Martina Velickova and Jana Kapustova, were both from in close. They weren’t pretty, but they gave the underdogs a remarkable lead. In fact, it marked the first time Slovakia’s women’s team had ever scored thrice in a game.
The nearly perfect period ended on a bad note, though. With Germany on the power play and time winding down, Lisa Schuster got the puck from the corner and walked out in front of Zuzana Tomcikova’s goal. As she did, she lifted a high shot that found the near corner, cutting the lead to 3-1 and giving the Germans a ray of hope entering the final period.
The game got more interesting early in the third when Bettina Evers deflected a Susanne Fellner point shot through Tomcikova's pads, but the Slovaks regained their two-goal margin midway through the period on a two-man advantage. Cupkova got her second on the night, and that was all the Slovaks needed.
"We start from scratch in the relegation, but it helps that we won tonight because now we know we can beat them," Kapustova added of Germany. "But still, it will be 0-0 when we start tomorrow."