Nagy signs off with a win
by Andy Potts|21 MAY 2019
Slovakia's Ladislav Nagy (#27) and Denmark's Peter Regin (#93) shake hands prior to the game.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Hockey just did not want to let go of Ladislav Nagy. The 39-year-old had announced that he would retire after the World Championship and Tuesday's game against Denmark was to be the final curtain. But after a 1-1 tie in regulation, Nagy's hometown crowd in Kosice got to spend a little longer in the company of their favourite when the action went all the way to a shootout following a 1-1 tie.

And, fittingly, the first penalty shot converted was Nagy's, firing Slovakia's third attempt into the roof of the net to draw a huge ovation from a partisan home crowd. Michal Kristof added a second, Denis Godla kept the Danes at bay and Nagy had the farewell victory that the occasion demanded.

The post-game presentation saw Nagy - who else - awarded the player of the game award for Slovakia. Once again the crowd rose as one to hail a local hero at the end of a great career. And after the anthem the celebrations continued - presentations, speeches, a lap of honour before a capacity crowd at the Steel Arena.

"Thank you all for a beautiful farewell," an emotional Nagy told local TV reporters after the game. "I think we gave everything in each game of this tournament. All the younger guys who were here worked hard and contributed to the team. Now it's time for them to take it further."

Fellow forward David Buc, another of the older players on the Slovak roster at 32, reflected on the occasion. "It was a special for everyone but especially for him," he said."Laco has a great career behind him, you could see that people came here to say thank you to him, that’s how we wanted to thank him for everything he did for this team, for this country.

"That crowd was unbelievable, not only tonight but all tournament. It’s amazing when you play a World Championship at home. I just want to say thanks to all our fans, they were perfect."

As the game went into overtime, the atmosphere kicked up another notch. Twice in the extras Nagy got on the ice, both times greeted by a crowd bellowing his name. But the best opportunity for a Slovak winner was fashioned by one of the youngsters aiming to fill the forward's ample skates. Matus Sukel's break-out saw him look to slide the puck on to the stick of Robert Lantosi, but the pass was too far in front of his team-mate and the Danes cleared.

That was a 'not quite' moment in a tournament that was full of Slovak near misses. Four wins and 11 points was not quite enough to clinch a play-off place and that meant it was a bittersweet experience for Lantosi.

"It's sad because I think we had some really good games," said the 23-year-old of his rookie Worlds campaign. "We scored five goals against Canada. I feel like we deserved to go to the quarter-finals but we didn't get it done for our fans. It's sad, but life goes on.

"I can't describe playing here. This has been my dream season. In the beginning, I had no idea I'd be playing here. This has been so special. I'll remember my whole life that I played my first World Championship here in Slovakia. It's amazing, and I appreciate it so much."
Slovakia vs. Denmark - 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
SVK DEN 21 MAY 2019
Nagy confirmed during the season that he was hanging up his skates at the end of HC Kosice’s Extraliga campaign. A home-ice World Championship was to be his swansong and, with Slovakia unable to reach the quarter-finals, Tuesday’s concluding group stage encounter was the final appearance.

Around the Steel Arena, several banners read ‘Dakujeme, #27’ in thanks for the local hero’s efforts. The veteran forward, who turns 40 on 1st June, was born in Saca, just south of Kosice city and began his illustrious career as a junior with his local team. That career took him to the top of the world – part of Slovakia’s golden roster of 2002 and a bronze the following year. He also enjoyed a long career in the NHL, making 435 appearances for 311 points across spells with St. Louis, Phoenix, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Fittingly, his 122nd and final international appearance saw him wear the ‘C’ against Denmark. While there was no chance of making the play-offs, there was still every hope of finishing with a flourish against a Danish team that would also go home after Tuesday’s game.

In truth, the action on the ice was rather overshadowed by the sense of occasion. The first period was slow, with the teams mustering a mere 10 shots between them. It got better. As the second session got underway, Slovakia sought to force the pace. David Bondra shot wide from a good position, Tomas Tatar did the same soon afterwards. Denmark’s Sebastian Dahm also came up big when Michal Kristof raced through one-on-one.

At the other end, the Danes went close when a mix-up between Tomas Zigo and Michal Cajkovsky presented Frederik Storm with the puck in the Slovak zone. Denis Godla made the save to keep the scoresheet blank.

Slovakia got in front just before the second intermission with a freakish goal. There seemed to be little danger when Martin Marancin banged in a routine point shot and Dahm went to push it away. But the Danish goalie watched in horror as the puck flew into the knee of Jesper Jensen and looped up over his shoulder and into the net.

That relaxed the crowd, which entertained itself by trying to start off a Mexican wave. But there was still work to do when Slovakia ran into penalty trouble and presented Denmark with a two-man advantage for 1:48. It took just 19 seconds for Mikkel Boedker to tie the game, rifling home from a tight angle off Patrick Russell's feed. The home team killed the rest of the penalty and set off in search of another lead, with Marian Studenic giving the Danish defence plenty to think about with a surge down the left that ended when Dahm got his stuck to the puck.

Meanwhile, a simmering feud between Libor Hudacek and Niklas Jensen finally boiled over in the last couple of minutes. The pair had traded a few big hits during the game and tempers flared when Hudacek wrestled the Dane to the ice in an off-the-puck incident. Punches were thrown, Hudacek was identified as the guilty party and Slovakia finished regulation on the penalty kill.

The Slovaks went on to take the verdict, but the Danes had grounds for satisfaction too. Julian Jakobsen summed up his team's tournament. "Overall we're pretty satisfied. We got six points. We're still a small nation. Obviously our goal was to reach the quarter-finals but we still did really well."

And there's a sense that Denmark has grown from a team worried about relegation into a side confident of remaining at the top level.

"To be honest, relegation is always in our thoughts," he added. "We've had some tough stretches over the years, but we have a bit of an older team now, so we know how to handle it. But we learn to stay humble about it. We had a couple of years where we almost went out of the A group, but we also feel pretty safe about those games now."  
Slovakia vs. Denmark - 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship