The Slovaks will come out of Group D to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games after a 2-1 victory over Belarus today in Bratislava.
Slovakia needed just one point to get to Beijing while the Belarusians needed a win in regulation to advance.
Belarus got into some penalty trouble early, setting the tone for the game. Just 1:50 into the contest, Vladislav Kolyachonok was called for hooking, putting the Slovaks on the power play early.
Then, at the 4:05 mark of the first period, Sergei Sapego was called for boarding and received a game misconduct to go along with it, meaning he was lost for the game for Belarus.
Slovakia took advantage on the power play from the boarding call, being served by Alexei Protas. Peter Cehlarik scored from Marek Hrivik to make it 1-0 Slovakia.
From there, a penalty-filled last of the first gave way to the second frame.
And the Belarusians tied it just 1:07 into the new period. Yegor Sharangovich scored unassisted to tie things up at one.
And then it was back to the penalties, as Belarus’ Geoff Platt took a tripping call at 1:20 and Belarus’ Nikita Komarov took a cross-checking minor at 2:04. Then it was the Slovaks’ turn as Tomas Jurco took a cross-checking call on the same paly as Komarov’s cross-check, Christian Jaros was called for a trip at 3:15 and Marko Dano was called for slashing at 11:22. Belarus player Andrei Stas finished off the flurry of penalties at 12:03 when he was called for slashing.
The third period was a lot less hectic but did see Slovakia break the 1-1 tie.
Marian Studenic was called for a trip 2:42 into the new period, but the Slovaks killed that off.
The game winner came off of an unusual, but logical strategy. Belarus pulled goaltender Danny Taylor with 3:20 to go in regulation. At first, this seems weird to do in a 1-1 game, but once you understand that Belarus needed to win in regulation, it made sense. They needed to get the extra attacker on to win the game before time ran out and we headed to overtime or a shootout, a win in either would do Belarus no good.
But with that cage empty, Slovakia had their chance. Libor Hudacek potted one into the empty net to give Slovakia the 2-1 lead. Peter Ceresnak had the lone assist on the goal.
Belarus would continue to keep pulling Taylor as tien ran down, but to no avail. When Stas took a charging penalty with less than a minute to go, that was fatal.
Slovakia won the game and will advance to the Olympics.
Taylor faced a total of 28 shots and was equal to 27 of them, the second goal going into the empty net and not being charged to him. For Slovakia, Branislav Konrad saw 11 shots and got ten of them.
As for Devils in the game, Jaros had the two penalty minutes from the minoir and two total shots on goal. Marian Studenic had two shots on net. For Belarus, Sharangoich had the goal for a point off of two shots on goal.
So that does it on the tournament, Slovakia finishes in first with two wins, six points and a plus-five goal differential. Belarus finishes in second with one win, good for three points, and a plus-two goal differential. Austria, by virtue of a 4-1 victory over Poland, finishes third with one win, three points and a minus-one goal differential. Poland comes in last with one win, three points and a minus-six goal differential.