In his first season he played 58 NHL games for the Tampa Bay Lightning and today he will start into his first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship when Slovakia plays Team USA in Kosice where the 21-year-old defenceman was born.
Cernak is looking forward to the atmosphere at the arena he once won a Slovak championship with HC Kosice. IIHF.com sat down with the Slovak.
The opening game of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship between Slovakia and the United States will be your first World Championship game. Do you feel the heat already?
When the game against USA will come closer, I will be a little nervous. It will be a full house for sure, but at the same time it will be a nice feeling for me. Hopefully, we the game will end with a good result for us and for the fans.
Coach Craig Ramsay put you in a defensive pair with Andrej Sekera, you have your cousin Christian Jaros on the team who also played his first season in NHL. Are you not sad not to be in a line with him?
Not really, because there is a reason that we are not playing together. Both of us are right-handed players, so it was clear from the start that we won’t be playing together. But each defensive pair on our team is very close.
Slovakia is playing its first game against Team USA one of the strongest team and with Patrick Kane, who will be one of the biggest star of the tournament. You have played against this kind of players whole last season in NHL. As a defenceman, how do you think will you stop him?
Well, it’s true that I have played the whole season against best players in NHL, but not only he is good at Team USA. They know how to handle the puck and also perfectly pass the puck. We have to be close to them and not give them any time. We have to be careful, but at the same time to play our game as we will against other teams.
You are still a rookie in the national team, but you have made the NHL team of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which won the regular season. How do you see your position in the team?
I wouldn’t evaluate myself. But yes, I’ve had a season in NHL, where I gained some experience. So I will try to use this on the national team and play the best hockey just as I did throughout the whole season in Tampa.
In the last pre-competition game before the World Championship you’ve scored your first goal for the national team. Did you take the puck?
No, but I think someone from the team took it for me. It was very good feeling because I’ve had some chances and it’s very good that I finally scored. It will help me before the start of the tournament.
When you came, the team has improved the transition game and you are expected to contribute in the offence as well. Is it the key to success?
We are playing this style in the NHL and we know how to time it. Every single defender who is here knows how to do it. We try to do it in every shift. I hope it will work out the same in the World Championship.