We’ve seen in the past, particularly with Canada, how hard it is for teams who had dreams of gold to get amped up to play a bronze medal game. On the flip side we’ve also seen how easy it is for teams to treat a bronze medal game as though it were a gold medal game. Is disappointment a factor? Is it a residual hangover from going all out in a desperate semifinal loss?
Regardless of what psychological elements may have been at work, Slovakia came out of the gate flying. David Soltes of the Prince George Cougars opened the scoring with his second of the tournament, an unassisted goal. Slovakia further took advantage of a listless Swedish squad when EOTP fave Martin Reway and Pavol Skalicky set up Mislav Rosandic’s first goal of the tourney. Reway picked up his 7th point on the goal further cementing his status as a Habs prospect to watch.
Halfway through the first Slovakia looked like they had the bronze all locked up, but of course there was the formality of playing another 50 minutes. Leafs 2014 first rounder William Nylander got the Swedes back into it with his 3rd goal (and 10th point) shortly after the halfway point of the game. Celebrations were muted as the Swedes still had work to do to claw their way out from the Slovakian lead.
Sweden would soon erase any notions that they were just going to skate through this bronze medal game and hand the medal over to the upstart Slovakians. Jens Looke knotted things up with his 3rd goal of the tournament, an unassisted marker, with just under 4 minutes to play in the first.
The second period continued to be competitive with Slovakia continuing to try to break Swedish goalie Linus Soderstrom’s figurative back firing 13 shots his way in the period. The second was also far more chippy with Slovakia and Sweden trading hooking penalties leading to a 4 on 4. Neither Sweden nor Slovakia would find the twine in the second, but Slovakia would get a five minute power play to start the third due to a Julius Bergman nasty cross-check on Slovakian forward Patrik Koys. The statsheet called it an interference penalty which was puzzling, but regardless of the penalty call, a five minute major to start a tied third period in a bronze medal game is a massive game changer for a team looking to break through.
The Slovaks would take a while to warm up the power play, burning off three minutes before even notching their first shot on net, but what a doozy that shot would be. Reway, who was seemingly on the ice for the entirety of the powerplay, confidently quarterbacked the play and managed to find an open Pavol Skalicky to restore the Slovakian lead at 3-2.
Denis Godla was outstanding again in net for the Slovakians keeping them solidly in the game when the Swedes mounted late pressure. The Swedes took advantage of a tiring Slovakian squad to pull their goalie and play 6 on 5. Patrik Koys would take his revenge for the Bergman cross-check by scoring an empty netter off a pass from Slovakian hero Martin Reway, sealing a 4-2 victory and the Slovakians' first medal since 1999 in Winnipeg.
While certainly bronze isn't gold, it is a medal and it is a triumph, especially when it comes in a win over the previous year's champ. Great to see such a jubilant team claim their medals.