Once again, Slovakia needed all three points to stay alive in the quarter-final chase and left nothing to chance against Norway. The Slovaks built up a 3-0 lead through a dominant first period, eventually winning 4-1.
Slovakia is now tied for fourth place in Group B with Latvia – both teams on 11 points, but Latvia has one more game remaining. By virtue of winning the head-to-head game against Latvia, Slovakia will advance unless Latvia picks up at least one point against Switzerland.
“We needed three points and we had a good start, we got a couple goals right away,” said Slovak forward Milos Kelemen. “I think we played a pretty good game. They scored one goal but we kept doing the same things, we played well in our own zone.”
With the loss, Norway finishes seventh in Group B with six points, good for 13th overall in the tournament.
“I think we developed throughout the tournament,” said Norwegian forward Mathias Trettenes. “We’re a young team, and there’s a new generation coming up. We knew it would be tough, but I think we showed that when we play well, we can play with anyone. This is something to build on for the future.”
Slovakia outshot Norway 35-25 in the game. Slovakia was 0-for-2 on the power play and Norway was 0-for-1.
Slovakia opened the scoring just shy of the four-minute mark when Richard Panik centred out front for a tap-in by captain Marek Hrivik.
In the eighth minute, Peter Cehlarik was sent in alone only to be robbed by the glove of Henrik Haukeland. However, Cehlarik later scored on the same shift, putting in a rebound after Mislav Rosandic’s point shot to make it 2-0.
Late in the first period, Robert Lantosi scored Slovakia’s third goal on a great solo rush, beating a defender wide at the Norwegian blueline and then cutting across and beating Haukeland on the backhand.
“(Frantisek) Gajdos passed to me beside the goal. I saw the guy jumping on me and then I saw the space next to the D and I tried to take it,” Lantosi described. “I had a window there and I used it.”
“The first period was not our best but we fought our way back and gave ourselves a chance in the third,” said Norwegian captain Ken Andre Olimb. “I’m really proud of the boys.”
After being thoroughly outplayed in the first period, Norway came out stronger in the second and got on the scoreboard in the 24th minute. From below the goal line, Thomas Berg-Paulsen fed out front to Markus Vikingstad, who made no mistake. Norway then went to the power play and generated some good chances to draw closer but Stanislav Skorvanek was in form.
While still shorthanded, breakaway specialist Panik had a chance to restore Slovakia’s three-goal lead when he was sent in alone but, in a curious move, attempted a between-the-legs trick shot and lost control of the puck.
Entering the third period with a two-goal lead, the Slovaks tried to lock the game while Norway tried to open it up. With 12 minutes to go, Haukeland kept his team alive with a brilliant sliding pad save off Lantosi on a 2-on-0 breakaway for Slovakia.
Norway pulled Haukeland for a sixth attacker with more than three minutes to go, and Panik hit the empty net from behind centre ice with 1:19 to play.
With their Group B schedules now finished, Norway is done and Slovakia might be. All there is for the Slovaks to do now is nervously watch the game tonight, which will decide if they play on Thursday.
“Some guys will be watching in the stadium, others on TV,” said Kelemen. “We’ve done everything we can do today, so now we just wait.”