For Team USA fans, this game was a matter of formalizing their advance to the Semi-Finals. For Habs fans, this game was a matter of watching Cole Caufield hopefully get more of a chance to contribute. For Slovakia, it was a chance to pull off the upset.
The Americans put on the pressure early, forcing Slovak goalie Simon Latkoczy to make a number of saves early — which you will see is something of a theme throughout.
John Farinacci was forced to temporarily exit the game after a hit early (though he did return), and Matthew Boldy took a penalty, though Slovakia wasn’t able to capitalize.
Following a nice rush led by Caufield, the USA drew a power play of their own just prior to the ten minute mark of the period.
The USA made no mistake, Arthur Kaliyev smacked the puck past Latkoczy from Matthew Boldy and Trevor Zegras at 10:44. Caufield was also in the mix earlier in the play.
Caufield was also involved in a nice chance a minute or two later that didn’t get past the goalie.
Slovakia returned to the power play at 12:30 when Landon Slaggert was given a two minute penalty and a ten minute misconduct for a high hit on the boards.
Andrej Golian and company made life interesting for the States, but the score remained unchanged. Despite that, Slovakia continued to press even after the game returned to full strength.
Slovakia played well, as the period continued, but not well enough to tie it up before the period came to an end. There was some concern about Zegras at the end of the first, but he was back on the ice for the second, seemingly none-the-worse for wear.
Caufield, who seemed to create something good every shift, flew into the zone about two minutes into the frame, but his point-blank chance was turned aside.
Five minutes in, the teams exchanged roughing minors after a battle over a puck on top of the Slovakia net.
Latkoczy held the Americans off for a time, but a blast from Ryan Johnson bounced off about four skaters in front of the net before winding up in the net at 11:55. The goal was ultimately attributed to Farinacci.
The Americans have doubled their lead to 2-0 over the Slovaks.— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) January 3, 2021
Ryan Johnson (@BuffaloSabres) with the point shot.
It's John Farinacci's (@ArizonaCoyotes) goal for now, but...
It appears to hit Landon Slaggert (@NHLBlackhawks) on the way.
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Slovakia rang iron on the next shift, and the game heated up considerably with four to go, both teams giving as good as they got, Slovakia taking the only penalty, Roman Faith being sent to the box for roughing. Things didn’t improve for them, as they were dinged with a late hit against Zegras, giving the States a 1:21 five-on-three with 3:31 to go.
To the delight of Habs fans everywhere, and of Caufield himself, Caufield made them pay following some back and forth passing between he and Zegras.
Another goal for the birthday boy Cole Caufield (@CanadiensMTL/@BadgerMHockey) with this rocket of a shot.— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) January 3, 2021
Trevor Zegras (@AnaheimDucks) gets the assist.
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Caufield nearly had another on the next shift, but it would be Slovakia who struck next with 1:28 to go, Matej Kaslik breaking Spencer Knight’s 218:53 minute shut-out streak.
Team USA got a couple of chances in the first 30 seconds, but Latkoczy continued to hold the fort through. Drew Helleson took a penalty at 7:55, but though Slovakia made some plays, a few key blocks, and Knight made a save, but Dominik Sojka made it 3-2 with ten to go.
The Slovakian team put up a good fight, spending a lot of time in their own zone, but often holding onto the puck, occasionally making trips into the offensive zone, and generally making the USA work.
Caufield danced into the zone with five to go, but rang iron and then Farinacci got his second of the game, this one going in off his stick this time.
This one is definitely his, and it might be the dagger.— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) January 3, 2021
John Farinacci (@ArizonaCoyotes/@HarvardMHockey) with the wraparound goal to make it 4-2 for the Americans.
Bobby Brink (@NHLFlyers/@DU_Hockey) with the assist.
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Slovakia pulled their goalie with just over 1:20 to go, but Matthew Beniers immediately put in an empty-netter to expand the lead to 5-2.
Though the final result was a lopsided 5-2 win, with the States outshooting Slovakia 43-17, Slovakia put up a gallant fight.
The United States will play Finland in the semifinals.