Slovakia thumps Czechia in opener
by Lucas AYKROYD|26 DEC 2023
Slovakia celebrates after Peter Repcik's second-period goal in a 6-2 romp over Czechia on Day One of the 2024 World Juniors in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Servac Petrovsky scored two goals and added an assist as Slovakia hammered Czechia 6-2 to kick off the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden.

It was the most goals and biggest margin of victory for the Slovaks against Czechia in World Junior history.

"It feels unbelievable, especially against Czechia," said Petrovsky. "It's a great first win for us."

With the 2023 silver medal in Halifax, the Czechs broke a medal drought dating back to 2005’s bronze in Grand Forks, North Dakota. But they've got a lot of work to do after this humbling debut.

"I don't know what happened," said third-time World Junior blueliner Tomas Hamara. "We gave them the goals that they scored. Pretty tough when they score [four] goals in the [third] period. It's hard to come back. We made some not-so-good mistakes that we shouldn't make."

This was a classic Boxing Day matchup between brotherly rivals at Frolundaborg, but Slovakia's combination of resilience, skills, and special teams savvy won the day. Coach Ivan Fenes's boys killed off five minors and capitalized twice on the man advantage.

Slovak starter Adam Gajan, the surprise winner of Best Goalie honours last year, made 27 saves.

The Slovaks’ last medal was bronze in 2015 in Montreal. They came sixth in 2023 with a dramatic 4-3 overtime loss to host Canada in the quarter-finals.

Just 1:01 in, Dominik Rymon gave Czechia the early lead with a terrific back-door redirect, converting Ondrej Becher’s feed off the rush.

The Slovaks picked up their tempo after killing off two minors. Late in the first period, towering Czech goalie Michael Hrabal foiled Dalibor Dvorsky, the #10 overall pick of the St. Louis Blues this year, on the doorstep.

"We said something in the locker room after the first period," Petrovsky said. "We knew it wasn't our best period. We just had to play simple, get the shots, and move the puck quicker. We did that in the second period and it was way better."

The second period belonged to Slovakia as coach Patrik Augusta's Czechs ran into penalty trouble. Petrovsky, playing his third World Juniors, made it 1-1 on Slovakia's second power play at 2:00 with a lightning one-timer. The 19-year-old forward is on a point-per-game pace with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack this year.
Slovakia vs Czechia - 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship
Peter Repcik put Slovakia up 2-1 with 1:26 left in the frame with a shot that handcuffed Hrabal on the short side. Seconds later, 17-year-old Czech defensive star Adam Jiricek got helped off after getting tangled up with Juraj Pekarcik in the corner. Jiricek, the younger brother of David Jiricek (2023's Best Defender), came back for the third period, but soon had to leave again.

Slovakia's Samuel Honzek shoveled home a loose puck on the power play at 1:22, and Boris Zabka surprised Hrabal with a long shot to make it 4-1 shorthanded at 4:15. Petrovsky converted a set-up from assistant captain Filip Mesar just 1:08 later to put the game out of reach.

Hrabal stopped Repcik's five-hole attempt on a penalty shot midway through the third. Czechia's Matyas Sapovalivov cut the deficit to 5-2 at 11:55, but Maxim Strbak restored the four-goal Slovak gap 30 seconds later.

The last time Czechia lost to Slovakia was 3-0 in the 2015 quarter-finals. Slovakia's all-time record versus their neighbours improves to five wins, one tie, and 12 losses.

On Wednesday, Slovakia faces Switzerland, while the Czechs take on Norway. Looking forward to the latter matchup, Hamara said: "We didn't compete enough. We need to compete. Tomorrow we will be ready to go from the start. This is a good wake-up call for us."