Slovakia played their second game in less than twenty-four hours after an 8-0 loss at the hands of Canada in their tournament opener last night. Finland took the United States to a shootout in their first contest, losing the game but granting their opponent just a one-point lead over them in the Group A standings.
The game didn't have the flat-out pace that has been seen in the first games of the event, with neither team possessing many quick, high-intensity players. The exception was Finland's sixteen-year-old Jesse Puljujärvi, whose speed and forechecking pressure helped to generate a few scoring chances for Finland in the first.
Puljujärvi wasn't able to convert any of those chances into goals thanks to some great work from Denis Godla in the Slovak net. After being replaced the night before after letting in several goals against Canada, Godla made several great saves in the first period as his team was outplayed by the higher skill of the Finns. His team was outshot 16-4 in the opening twenty minutes.
He was able to get a piece of a quick shot by Mikko Rantanen in the first period, but not enough to prevent his team from giving up the first goal of the game.
Slovakia was able to answer back soon after on a powerplay opportunity as Canadiens' prospect Martin Reway held the puck at the point, slapping a pass toward the crease where Peter Cehlarik tipped it passed Juuse Saros.
Finland carried the play in the second period, with some solid defensive play from Julius Honka allowing Finland to maintain possession to enter the offensive zone. Despite being significantly outshot over the course of the game it was the Slovaks who were able to grab the lead on a Matus Holenda slapshot from the point. Martin Reway picked up his second primary assist of the game on the play.
Down a goal, Finland's most dangerous forward in the final period was Puljujärvi, who had several great opportunities to tie the game for a Finnish team that was otherwise unable to ratchet up the intensity necessary to force the tying goal.
In the end the Finns lost 2-1 and now have just one point through two group games to begin the tournament. With a three-point win, Slovakia may have done enough to avoid the relegation round and earn a quarter-final berth.
After both teams played on the first two days of the tournament, Slovakia and Finland will have a day off on Sunday before resuming play on Monday, December 29th. Slovakia will take on the United States while Finland will go up against Canada in the final game of the day.