Martin Bodak scored twice for Slovakia who fell 3-2 to Sweden in the quarter-finals last January.
“Still a little disappointing,” Ruzika said. “We played a pretty good tournament. When you play against Sweden, 3-2 game, it’s kind of letting you down. When you go back to your junior team, you still talk about it every day, what we did wrong and stuff like that.
“Sweden is a real good team. They have talented players, they were really fast and doing everything correctly.”
Ruzicka finished the tournament, his second representing Slovakia, with two assists in five games.
As he heads to his third under-20 event, the 19-year-old is hoping to take on more of a leadership role.
“I know a lot of the boys. We’re going to have a really good team this year,” said Ruzicka. “Just go there, play my game and show the boys how to play in the small rink. I think we’re going to have a lot of players from the CHL this year, which is really good, they’re already adjusted to the smaller arena.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to meet the boys again from Slovakia and players from other leagues - the CHL, USHL - and it’s going to be a good experience to play in the tournament again against the best countries in the world: Canada, USA, Sweden and Russia.”
A fourth-round selection of the Calgary Flames, Ruzicka is currently in his third season with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.
Derian Hatcher, head coach of the Sting, has a lengthy international resume from his 16 seasons in the NHL. A veteran of over 1,000 NHL games, Hatcher represented the U.S. at two Olympics, two World Championships and a World Cup of Hockey.
The 46-year-old didn’t play at the Under-20 tournament, but sees the value of the international experience.
“It’s great for the player,” said Hatcher who spent time with the Stars, Red Wings and Flyers during his playing days. “At the end of the day, anytime you can go to those big tournaments on the big stage, it’s just great to see him be a part it and if you take something out of everyone you go to, you just become a better player.”
Now in his third year in Sarnia, Ruzicka admittedly started the 2018/19 season slowly. After scoring in each of his first three games, the 194-cm (6-foot-4), 95-kg (209-pound) centre went 18 games without finding the back of the net.
One season removed from a career-high 36-goals, the slump was admittedly difficult
“It was a pretty slow start for me, I couldn’t score a goal, but I got through it and I feel good now,” said Ruzicka.
“I just stick to my game, I knew it was going to come and I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty goal.”
Part of the problem for Ruzicka was adjusting to life without teammate Jordan Kyrou. The St. Louis Blues prospect had a team-leading 10 points in seven games for the Canadians who won gold at the World Juniors last year.
Kyrou graduated to pro hockey this season and has split time between the Blues and American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage.
“We were playing pretty good together,” Ruzicka said. “That was really good chemistry there, but I can’t rely on one player. I’ve got to play my game. Obviously I miss him, but I’m doing good now.
“I keep in touch with him almost every week and we’ve been texting about how he’s doing, how I’m doing.”
Since he was selected in 2017, the native of Bratislava, Slovakia will need to sign his entry-level contract with Calgary before the 2019 NHL Draft in order for the Flames to retain his rights.
Described as a big, offensive centre, he is well-aware of what the Flames need him to work on.
“They just want every game, every shift the same pace - compete hard and everything else is going to come the right way,” said Ruzicka.
“Just be a two-way centre man, compete hard and the consistency of every game, every shift - that’s the most important part for me, that’s what my NHL team wants, that’s what I’m focusing on.”
For Hatcher, it’s a no-brainer that Ruzicka will play at the next level and have success.
“I think he’ll play at the next level, I don’t think there’s any question about it,” said Hatcher. “He has all the tools and I think he realizes its hard and that it’s going to be hard and I think that’s the biggest thing is realizing how hard it’s going to be.”