Slovaks win first game
by Andrew Podnieks|13 MAY 2023
Marek Hrivik celebrates his goal to break a 1-1 tie midway through the third. It proved to be the game winner.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Captain Marek Hrivik got to a rebound at 10:04 of the third period, whipping the loose puck into the goal and breaking a 1-1 tie with Latvia. It proved to be the winner in a tight and thrilling 2-1 game. The goal came off a long shot by Patrik Koch that goalie Arturs Silovs was unable to control and undid an impressive rally by Latvia, which skated with the Slovaks most of the night.

In the end, though, special teams made the difference. Latvia was 0-for-4 with the extra skater, and had 64 seconds of 5-on-3 late in the game with a chance to tie. Andris Dzerins hit the post, but the puck stayed out, and that more or less decided the outcome.

"It was a different game from yesterday," Sloakia's Peter Cehlarik said in reference to his team's 3-2 loss to Czechia yesterday. "We scored the first one quickly, which gave us a lot of energy. The first two periods we were better, but they still had chances when we turned it over. And we took those two penalties at the end, but we got it done. It's only one game, though. There's a ton of tournament left. But it's a big win."

"We did a good job today, but again that first goal early," offered Latvia's Oskars Cibulskis. "We battled, but unfortunately they had that rebound late. We tried to come back, but now we have to prepare for the next game. We have to score more on the power play. That's very important. Today, it didn't work, but it has to be better."

Coming into the game, Latvia had won all three previous meetings between the teams, but both teams had lost their first match yesterday and were desperate for a change of fortunes. Slovakia is now 1-1 while the hosts drop to 0-2.

Both teams get a day off now. Slovakia plays Canada on Monday in the early game while the Latvians take on Czechia later in that evening.

Although the first was a tight-checking affair, the one player who stood out was Slovakia’s Matus Sukel. Playing in his third World Championship, the 26-year-old opened the scoring just 44 seconds into the game. Cehlarik claimed a weak pass behind the Latvian end and fed a nice backhand out front, where Sukel snapped it past Silovs for the early lead. 

That’s all the scoring the first period offered, but Sulek was busy all the same. Buzzing around the goal on a later shift, he fed Pavol Regenda in front only to see Silovs make his best save. And then in the final minute, Sukel was stopped point blank by the Latvian goalie, who stuck out his blocker to take away a sure goal.

The Latvians had chances early and late in the second period on the power play but couldn’t muster anything much, and the one time they did Stanislav Skorvanek, making his debut at the senior level, made a great paddle save on a rebound. In between, Slovakia controlled the game and looked capable of reversing their fortunes yesterday when they squandered two leads in that loss to Czechia.

But then, the pattern repeated. Oliver Okuliar tried to do too much with the puck at the Latvia blue line and Rodrigo Abols stripped him cleanly of the puck. Abols dashed in alone and beat Skorvanek to the blocker side at 16:51 to tie the game and send the Latvian fans into a frenzy.

That set the stage for a crazy finish, first with the 5-on-3 and then with the extra attacker for nearly two minutes, but the Slovaks held the fort.
Slovakia vs Latvia - 2023 IIHF WM