JThat wasn’t fair. The fact that one of the teams had to lose the quarter-finals was of course in line with the regulations and was clear to everyone involved. Both sides undoubtedly deserved advances, having thrown a lot into the balance to fight for a better ending. After two and a half hours, during which 50 professional athletes performed the coolest scenes in this Olympic ice hockey tournament to date, the luck of the brave was awarded to Slovaks, who had only 43 seconds left before the end of the original time. With a goal of equalizing in keeping the extension. Then they won 3: 2 after penalty kicks (1: 1, 0: 1, 1: 0, 1: 0).
The only goal scorer in a total of ten shootout attempts was Peter Cihlerek, who had a physical delusion bypassing American goalkeeper Strauss-Mann and pushing the disc in front of him with a clever wrist motion. “I practiced this move in training and knew I would try it if the opportunity presents itself,” said the talented player with strong nerves, who had already scored in the 4-0 win over the Germans 24 hours ago.
While the players around national coach Toni Söderholm have cleared their Olympic Village accommodations and set out on their journey home, the Slovaks are just getting started. “We are far from finished,” said Christian Pospisil. He promised fans at home that they would rest assured that “we will do everything in our power to deliver something we are all proud of”.
Junior with full protection mask
The last notable success of the Slovaks in a major event was now ten years ago – at that time it was the silver medal at the World Championships in Finland. Juraj Slafkovsky knows all too well the stories of some of the participants in the Helsinki final. However, he himself no longer had fond memories of it. Because he was in first grade at school at the time and his parents sent him to bed early, he missed the TV show, he said on Wednesday.
Slafkovsky will reach adulthood on March 30. Even then, as per the laws, he is still considered young, and he must wear a full protective mask in front of his face to protect him in these physical and adrenaline festivals.
He did not accept it during his many interviews at the National Hallenstadion. Slavkovsky is currently a wanted man. Or in the words of Slovakian national coach, Canadian Craig Ramsey: a desirable “big kid.” The left-handed midfielder is still wearing the TBS Turku shirt. However, the path of his further career has been decided – it will also take him to North America.
The teenager is the youngest among many young people on duty in Beijing these days because the big stars were not allowed to come from abroad. Slavkovsky already has huge potential for overseas clubs. This summer in the NHL’s traditional talent division draft, he will presumably be selected in the first round.
Against the United States, Slavkovsky scored his fifth goal in his fourth Olympic appearance. He leads the scorers list. “He is an imposing figure,” Ramsay said of the athlete, who is 1.93 meters tall and 102 kilograms. But Slafkovsky also has fast feet. He can skate, he can jump and he can handle disc.”
Miroslav Satan, now manager of the Slovak national team and once a grumpy young man whose 1,136 NHL defenders couldn’t be sure which trick he would pull next, said it was “fun” to see “young players love seeing Juraj rise”. Slavkovsky will help the team get to a “higher level” – and ideally, perhaps get a long-awaited medal in China.
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