Slovaks move to 2-0 with win
by Andrew Podnieks|27 DEC 2023
Adam Gajan was a difference-maker in goal for Slovakia today.
photo: Chris Tanouye/IIHF
Goaltender Adam Gajan stopped all 36 shots and Samuel Honzek's first-period goal stood as the game-winner in a 3-0 Slovakia victory over Switzerland in afternoon action at Frolundaborg. The win moves the Slovaks to 2-0, the first time since 2002 they have started a World Juniors with consecutive wins.

Switzerland was playing its first game but are back in action tomorrow at Frolundaborg, with an afternoon tilt against the United States. Slovakia, meanwhile, now has a day off before facing Norway on Friday.

"I thought we played a really good game and showed character," Honzek said. "We had a couple of little mistakes, but we had an amazing goalie and he had our backs. It's another big win, and now we have to get ready for Norway. We had a game yesterday and today was their first game, so maybe from a physical point of view they were a little more ready to go, but we pushed back. They play really good hockey, but our goalie was there for us."

"We had a lot of chances but we couldn't score," lamented Swiss catain Jonas Taibel. "That was the biggest thing. Overall, it was a pretty good first game, but maybe we were holding our sticks too tight today. We just have to shoot more and go to the net more, and good things will happen."

The first period was a tame affair with few good scoring chances, most of which came on the Swiss goal. Defender Rodwin Dionicio made sure his goalie was alert when he made a bad giveaway behind his net, firing a pass in front that was picked off by Peter Repcik. His bullet shot was snared nicely by Alessio Beglieri to keep the game scoreless.

Several minutes later, the Slovaks opened the scoring on an impressive effort by Repcik. He made some nice moves to create a great scoring chance, and when the puck went behind the goal he followed. He got to the puck first and moved it in front where Honzek knocked it in at 8:33 for the only goal of the period.

Coach Marcel Jenni must have had a few choice words for his Swiss players in the dressing room, however, because they came out and dominated the second period, moving the puck around with confiidence and stifling the Slovak attack efficiently. Still, they couldn’t manage to tie the score and, in fact, gave up the best chance of the period—a penalty shot. 

Early on, Honzek was hooked by Thierry Schild going in alone and was awarded the free shot, but he did little with it, going in too slowly and then trying to beat Beglieri with a backhand between the pads. 

The Swiss, meanwhile, controlled play for long stretches inside the Slovak blue line but couldn’t get the better of goalie Adam Gajan, whose best stops were off two quick shots by Leo Braillard from in close.

In the third, the Swiss continued to press but misfired time and again. Gregory Weber was stopped by a great glove grab from Gajan, and later in the period Miles Muller elected to shoot on a two-on-one and misfired. The Slovaks had a power play late to extend their lead, but the best chance came when Rico Gredig slipped away on a short-handed breakaway. Alas, the tying goal was not on his stick either.

Repcik and Servac Petrovsky added empty netters to seal the victory for the Slovaks, even though Switzerland was the better team for long stretches. As they say, that's hockey.