Slovaks stun Swedes; captures bronze medal

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The last time Slovakia won a medal at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Champions, Cher’s “Believe” was the number-one song on the planet.

16 years ago to the day, Slovakia once again defeated Sweden to win the nation’s second medal at an U20 IIHF event.

In 1999, goaltender Jan Lasak was the Slovak hero in Winnipeg, Man. In 2015, Denis Godla stole the show in Slovakia’s 4-2 victory over the Swedes in the bronze medal game at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Toronto, Ont.,. Godla, 19, became a tournament favourite after posting a 37-save win over the Finns on Day 2 of the preliminary round. The undrafted netminder continued his stellar performance with a preliminary win against the Germans before knocking out the Czechs in the quarterfinals. Despite conceding five goals against Canada in the semifinals, Godla gained the respect of the 18,800 spectators making 39 saves many of which were worthy of a highlight-reel. Godla stopped 26-of-28 Swedish shots on his way to winning the bronze medal and being named the Slovak player of the game.

The Slovaks took the nonchalant Swedes by surprise with two early first-period goals. Prince George Cougars forward David Stoles opened the scoring for Slovakia just two-and-a-half minutes into the contest beating Swedish netminder Linus Soderstrom glove-side with a wicked wrist-shot. Moments later, Croatian-born Mislav Rosandic put the underdog Slovaks up by two. Slovakia opened the game with an unlikely two-goal lead and six-to-zero shot advantage causing the Swedes to call an early timeout.

Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder, William Nylander, got the Swedes on the board with just under ten minutes remaining in the opening period. Nylander, 18, finished the tournament with a team-best 10 points in seven games. Neither Nylander nor his linmates Oskar Lindblom and Axel Holmstrom were among the top three Swedish players as decided by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.

17-year-old Jens Looke evened the score just six minutes later. Looke, 17, is a top prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. The Brynas forward was named the player of the game for Sweden. Looke finishes the tournament with three goals in seven games.

The second period went without a goal from either side; however, as time expired, London Knights defenceman Julius Bergman delivered a cross-check to the face of former Shawinigan Cataractes import Patrik Koys. The play, which left Koys injured, resulted in a five-minute power play for the Slovaks to start off the third period.

Though the first couple of minutes in the Slovak advantage was uneventful, Slovakia did eventual capitalize on Bergman’s major. Pavol Skalikcy beat Soderstrom five-hole for what would ultimately be the game-winning goal. Skalicky’s first of the tournament could not have come at a better time for neither him nor his native country. The 19-year-old forward will join Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League now that his tournament is over.

Koys, no longer feeling the effects of the Bergman cross-check, put the game away scoring an empty-net goal with under a minute to play. Former Olympiques import, Martin Reway, assisted on the game-clinching goal. Reway, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, was far and away Slovakia’s best skater assisting on three of the four Slovakian goals on Monday night. Reway, 19, led the Slovaks with four goals and five assists in seven games.

Slovakia will participate in Group ‘B’ next year in Helsinki, Finland while Sweden will compete in Group ‘A’.

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