HELSINKI – Germany had the lead in the game twice, but not when it mattered the most: after 60 minutes of play. Tomas Zaborsky’s two third-period goals carried Slovakia to a 3-2 win over Germany.
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“It was very important to stay patient. [The Germans] scored goals, they were up, and we had to come from behind, keep working hard, and believe that we were going to finally put in our chances. It paid off in the end. But playing from behind wasn’t easy,” said Slovakia’s Miroslav Satan.
“I’m very disappointed right now. We played another good game, but a couple of mistakes cost us, and we didn’t have the luck at the end to tie it up. We hit the post there,” said German captain Christian Ehrhoff.
Last year, it took 15 points in to make the final four in the Helsinki group. In Stockholm, the fourth-pace team had 13 points after the preliminary round’s seven games.
Germany got one point in their first game against Finland, which they lost in overtime, but were left without a point in their second game against Russia. Slovakia, in turn, beat France in its first game, and has those three points in the bank.
This was a key game for both teams to start making more deposits, and stay in the hunt for a quarter-final spot.
Germany seemed to be very aware of that, and the team started the game well, controlling the play in the first period, pushing Slovakia to their heels. They got an early reward for taking the initiative, too, as Michael Wolf gave the Germans a 1-0 lead barely four minutes into the game.
Philip Gogulla played the puck to Nikolai Goc on the blueline. Goc fired a shot towards the Slovak net, and Michael Wolf who rushed to the front of the net to block Rastislav Stana’s view, redirected the shot down and into the net. The goal was confirmed after a video review.
Both teams played disciplined hockey, and tried to avoid making mistakes with the puck. Also, both teams wanted to stay out of the penalty box, and succeeded in it. The first penalty was called with six minutes remaining in the second period, to Slovakia’s Jozef Stümpel, but Germany couldn’t convert their powerplay opportunity.
Neither could Slovakia when it got its chance with a minute remaining in the period, when Frank Hördler took an interference minor in the neutral zone.
But Slovakia tied the game in the second period when Mario Bliznak was the first one to get on a rebound that Germany’s goaltender Rob Zepp gave on Michael Sersen’s shot. Bliznak wristed the puck to the back of the net, scoring his first World Championship goal, through Zepp’s five-hole.
“I thought it was a good job by Tomas Kopecky in the corner. He passed it to Michel Sersen and he shot it and I got the rebound
“It was a very important goal. Till that goal, I think Germany played better than us. After that, we started moving our legs more and went to the net more and got more chances,” Bliznak said.
Germany got on the driver’s seat early in the third period when John Tripp and Benedikt Kohl played the puck to Marcus Kink on the offensive blueline. He skated around a Slovak defenceman and while Stana got a piece of his backhander, the puck went in, and Germany took a 2-1 lead at 3:01.
The goal woke Slovakia up, and it was Germany whose players were now on their heels. And just 2:40 after the German goal, Vladimir Mihalik went around the German net, and sent a pass back to the first post, and Tomas Zaborsky beat Zepp with a one-timer from two meters, and tied the game.
With 7:14 remaining in the game, Slovakia took advantage of a tiny error. Stümpel backhanded the puck to the net, and goaltender Zepp dove onto the ice, trying to cover the puck with his glove. Instead, he pushed it a little forward, and Zaborsky slammed it in, giving Slovakia the lead in the game for the first time. Roman Kukumberg collected his second point of the night for his assist.
Germany pressed all the way to the end, but couldn't beat Stana.
“We have to move forward, keep our heads up, and try to keep our confidence. We have to get ready to face a good Austrian team,” said Ehrhoff.