Slovakia - Czech Republic: 2-5
PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – Slovakia is heading to the relegation round after losing its third straight game at the U20 World Championship. The 5-2 loss against host Czech Republic sealed the Slovak’s fate, as they cannot overcome the six points that the Swedes, Canadians and Czechs each have.
For the Slovaks, it is the fourth straight year that they will skate in the relegation round. Now the team’s attention must shift to its game against Denmark, who with zero points in two games, is the most likely candidate to join Slovakia in the relegation round.
For the Slovaks, the outcome could have been entirely different had luck a few key plays turned out differently in the first period. The Czechs escaped with a 2-0 lead when the game could have easily been a 1-1 tie. But thanks to a last-second goal by Czech star Mikael Frolik and a missed penalty shot by the Slovaks, the Czechs owned the two-goal lead after 20 minutes.
In the second period, the Czechs left nothing to chance, netting another two goals in the first 6:10, to climb out to a commanding 4-0 lead. Slovkia cut the lead in half with a late second-period goal and a two-man advantage goal in the third period. But the Czechs answered with a shorthanded tally late in the game, silencing the Slovaks and brining the final to 5-2.
With 68,000 fewer registered hockey players, Slovakia traditionally plays the role of little brother to the Czech Republic in the sport. But despite the discrepancy, the all-time win-loss record is surprisingly even, with the Czechs now owning a slim 4-3-1 advantage.
Kazakhstan - Finland: 0-5
LIBEREC, Czech Republic – Kazakhstan will join Slovakia in the U20 relegation round after falling to Finland, 5-0. Kazakhstan has competed well in each of its three games, but ultimately lacked the final punch to earn a victory.
Kazakhstan was in the game early on, trailing only 1-0 after one period. But Joonas Kemppainen squelched any hopes for an upset, scoring two early second-period goals. The goals were the clear turning point of the game as Kazakhstan couldn’t find its spark after falling behind 3-0.
After Finland roared out of the gates grabbing the lead just 2:59 into the game, Kazakhstan bounced back, pressuring the Finnish zone for much of the period. It was the only time that the Kazakhs had hope of pulling off the upset as Finland bounced back to life in the second period.
A pair of third period, power-play goals sealed the Finnish win. A five-on-three goal 6:17 into the period marked the end of Kazakhstan goaltender Mikhail Smolinov’s game. He was replaced by Sergei Rudolf, who promptly gave up a power-play goal two minutes into his U20 debut. Frustration showed in the last five minutes of the game as the teams combined for six minor penalties in the finale.
Kazakhstan must now focus its energy on the game against Switzerland tomorrow. Should the Swiss go to the relegation round the winner of tomorrow’s game would carry the points into the four-team pool.
Finland now has five points in its three games, but is not a lock for the playoff round, as Switzerland can still qualify. The Finns have tomorrow off before taking on the Americans on the 31st.