2012 IIHF World Championship: Four goals in four minutes as Slovakia broke Belarus’s back
HELSINKI – Boom. Slovakia’s goal scoring exploded in the second period as the team scored four goals in three minutes and 40 seconds en route to a 5-1 win over Belarus.
Andrej Sekera, Juraj Mikus, and Michel Miklik each scored one and got an assist to another for Slovakia. Jan Laco made 28 saves for Slovakia.
“We knew coming into the tournament that we weren’t going to be favorites, so we have been flying under the radar a little bit, but we try to win every game, whoever we play,” Sekera said.
“It was a bad game. It was our worst game in the tournament. We didn’t do much in the offensive zone and made a lot of mistakes in the defensive zone,” said Belarus captain Vladimir Denisov.
Even before the game, Belarus was in a team in turmoil. Goaltender Andrei Mezin had suddenly left the team, unhappy with his role as Vitali Koval’s backup.
They had also added the Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei and Andrei, to their lineup, in the hopes of getting some additional scoring from them. The team had scored just eight goals in their first four teams.
However, the first goals the Kostitsyns witnessed from up close was scored by Slovakia when Andrej Sekera’s wrist shot from the point found its way through some traffic in front of the net, beating Vitali Koval high at 6:45. Koval didn’t see the shot coming at all.
“We had good traffic in front of |Vitali Koval in Belarus’s goal], he didn’t see much and they went in for us,” said Sekera.
The start of the second period was a nightmare for Belarus. Slovakia scored four goals in a span of just three minutes and 40 seconds.
First, three minutes into the period, when team captain Vladimir Denisov tried to clear the puck, it hit the referee in the corner and bounced to Sekera who found Branko Radivojevic in the slot, and Radivojevic fired a wrist shot over Koval’s shoulder for 2-0 at 3:16.
“I saw their guys were changing a little bit so I took a bit of a risk and fortunately, the puck bounced to me, and I saw Branko open,” Sekera said.
“It was just bad luck. This whole tournament, the other teams have scored unbelievable goals against us, but that’s hockey,” Denisov said.
A minute and a half later, the game seemed to be practically over when Michel Miklik gave Slovakia a three-goal lead with a backhander that somehow found its way under Koval’s left pad and into the net at 4:58.
In the next shift it was Tomas Kopecky’s turn to score. Radivojevic and Kopecky cycled the puck in the corner before Kopecky drove to the net, and Radivojevic sent a pass right to the tape of his stick and Kopecky onetimed it in at 5:48, just 50 seconds after their third goal.
After coach Kari Heikkilä took a timeout and shuffled his lines, Belarus tried to press Slovakia, but an offensive blueline turnover and poor defensive zone coverage cost them yet another goal. Tomas Tatar and Miklik set it up and Juraj Mikus made it 5-0 at Koval’s doorstep before the game was halfway through.
Belarus didn’t quit and with 5:24 remaining in the game they got on the scoreboard. Heikkilä had all both Grabovski and the Kostitsyns out on a power play. Sergei and Andrei moved the puck on the point, Andrei took a shot and Alexei Kalyuzhny slammed the rebound in, breaking Jan Laco’s shutout bid.
“We knew they had a lot of fast skaters on their team, but we were able to control the play for the most part,” Slovakia’s Milan Bartovic said.
When Yevgeni Kovyrshin was pulled down on a breakaway in the next shift, Belarus got a penalty shot, but Laco made the save on Kovyrshin’s attempt to beat him on the five-hole.
The last period was scoreless, and Slovakia took three big points in their hunt for a spot in the quarter-finals.
“This was a step to the right direction, but we have a big game [against Switzerland] tomorrow, too. That’s all or nothing,” said Sekera.