Slovaks outlast Belarus
by Lucas Aykroyd|15 MAY 2018
Slovakia's Andrej Kudrna (#18) plays the puck while Pavel Vorobei (#55) defends and Vitali Trus (#79) looks on.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

Marek Hovorka scored the winner with 5:03 remaining as Slovakia defeated Belarus 7-4 to wrap up its tournament on Tuesday in Copenhagen.

Hovorka rushed to the net, reached back to get his stick on a cross-ice pass from Michal Kristof, and slid it underneath Belarusian netminder Vitali Trus.

The result had no impact for either team. Slovakia, fifth in Group A, lost its chance to make the quarter-finals when Switzerland advanced to the next round by beating France 5-1 in Tuesday’s early game. Belarus finishes 15th overall and is relegated along with 16th-place Korea.

"We were pretty disappointed but there's a lot of positives we can take out of this tournament," said Slovakia's Tomas Jurco. "We played pretty good. We had some tough times but there were a lot of positives."

Martin Bakos scored twice and added two assists to set the tone for the Slovaks. Jurco also tallied twice, and had an assist. Marek Daloga scored on a penalty shot. Ladislav Nagy earned five helpers.

Alexander Kitarov, Charles Linglet, Yevgeni Kovyrshin and Pavel Vorobei replied for Belarus. Geoff Platt had two assists. Belarus was outshot 46-24.

Belarus vs. Slovakia
Slovakia took an early lead, but Belarus came back in the second to tie it up. 
BLR SVK 15 MAY 2018

This was far from a dream tournament for Slovakia, which has just one World Championship gold in its history, from 2002, and hasn't medaled since 2012's silver. Nonetheless, it was a big improvement over last year's 14th-place finish, which was this Central European nation's  poorest performance since entering the top division in 1996.

"I would say it was a good tournament but we're a little bit disappointed that we didn't make the quarter-final," said Slovakia's Martin Fehervary. "We still got 11 points, so it was OK, just a bit disappointing."

At this tournament, nothing has gone right for the pointless Belarusians, who fired head coach Dave Lewis after three straight defeats and replaced him with assistant coach Sergei Pushkov. The team did not respond to the change, losing its remaining four games.

Just 18 seconds in, Bakos surprised Trus with a quick wrist shot over his left shoulder for a 1-0 lead.

Jurco was shaken up in a collision with two Belarusians, but he would return with a flourish. With perfect timing, he skated in front of the Belarus net to deflect a rising Bakos drive inside the left post and make it 2-0 at 10:07.

Belarus experienced a revival in the second period, where the Slovaks replaced starter Patrick Rybar with Marek Ciliak.

Kitarov cut the deficit to 2-1 with a nice shorthanded breakaway goal at 12:24. And at 15:00, the Belarusians tied it up with a power play goal, with Linglet tipping home Platt's shot, which also redirected off Artyom Levsha, from the blue line.

At 7:53 of the third period, an onrushing Bakos followed up on his own shot to put Slovakia up 3-2 at 7:53.

Belarus answered right back at 10:18. Alexander Pavlovich found Maxim Sushko behind the net, who centered it in front to Kovyrshin. He beat Ciliak from close range.

At 10:18, Belarus jumped ahead for the first time on the power play when Vorobei's centre point shot eluded Ciliak through traffic.

Jurco tied it up at 11:17. Bakos centred it to him from behind the goal line, and he outwaited Trus and two Belarusian defenders before firing it home.

With Slovakia leading 5-4 on Hovorka's goal, Daloga was hauled down on a breakaway and got a penalty shot. He coolly came in and beat Trus through the five-hole to give Slovakia a two-goal cushion.

"I think we took a little step forward but we still have things to do," said Slovakia's Martin Cingel. "We have to play all 60 minutes. We lost a couple of games here because we had five or 10 minutes where we backed off and that hurt us."

Jurco set up Kristof for a power play goal with 18 seconds left to round out the scoring.

"For me the highlight was the game against Sweden [a 4-3 loss]," said Cingel. "We really played like a team and we could see that we were capable of playing against any team at this level."

This was a good concluding note for Slovakia, whch will host the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Bratislava and Kosice.

Belarus vs. Slovakia