ZURICH-KLOTEN- Like the rest of Team Slovakia, Boris Valabik is searching for answers. To say that results in the Preliminary Round for Slovakia was disappointing is an understatement.
Slovakia barely pulled out a win in the opening game against Hungary and lost subsequent games to Belarus in a shootout and last night to Canada.
The win against Hungary allowed Slovakia to finish third in Group A and move on to the Qualifying Round, carrying over only one point.
Valabik was scratching his head to explain what happened.
“Guys did pretty well in the exhibition games but something happened in between those games and the tournament and we just can’t catch a lucky break,” he said after the loss to Canada. “I think we have a more capable team than we are showing so far,”
Perhaps the turning point was their 2-1 shootout loss to Belarus. Hungary did play them close but Slovakia came away with the win. Against Belarus, they could not find much room on the ice as Glen Hanlon’s side clogged up the neutral zone.
“We should be able to forget about a loss like the one we had against Belarus and bounce back but I don’t think we did,” Valabik offered. “The fact of the matter is we are advancing into the next round. It will be tough carrying over only one point but we’re not done yet.”
Slovakia was able to play well in the final ten minutes of yesterday’s game. They scored two goals in the third period but it was too little too late.
“When you’re down 7-1 and then you score two goals it doesn’t really mean anything,” said Valabik.
Now as the hockey gets tougher, Slovakia will have to shake their doldrums and focus on the task at hand.
“There is a positive and negative to the way we are playing,” he said. “The negative is why we can’t play strong hockey from the beginning. The positive is that we know what we are capable of doing.”
Valabik is a big, tough defender who does not give an inch of space up. Any forward in his space will have to earn their chances. Since he likes to hit, it’s usually advisable to keep your head up when he is on the ice.
Valabik played in 50 games for the Atlanta Thrashers this season. He logged 132 penalty minutes and took on Boston Bruins defenseman and Team Slovakia stalwart in a fight on December 13, 2008. Valabik did not back down an inch.
Here at the World Championships he finds himself in good company as several of his Atlanta teammates are representing their country.
Zach Bogosian, Colin Stuart, and Ron Hainsey are on Team USA; Ilya Kovalchuk is on Team Russia.
“I saw Bogo, Stuie and Hainsey a little bit before the tournament started,” he said. “Obviously, it is nice to say hello a little bit but we did not have a lot of time to talk. It would be great seeing them in the quarterfinals, semifinals, or finals and then talk to them after we win it all.”
Slovakia might not yet have found the solution to their problems, Valabik is surely confident they will with a statement like that.