The bronze medalists of the last Olympic Games stand in the way of the Swiss team, this Wednesday evening (7:20 p.m.) in Helsinki, on the occasion of the fourth match of the group stage of the world championship.
On February 22, Slovakia signed one of the finest feats in its history by winning the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. An exceptional result for this small country of 5.5 million inhabitants, a real land of ice hockey. And as the appetite comes with eating, the selection of Craig Ramsay hopes to continue in Finland, on the occasion of the world championship which started last Friday. The timing would be more than ideal since the country located in the heart of continental Europe celebrates this year the twenty years of its (unique) planetary coronation, won in 2002 at the Swedish neighbor.
“All the teams participating in a world championship want to fight for medals and that is also our objective,” confirms Jan Pardavy, assistant coach of the Slovak selection. The latter is also aware that any other speech would be poorly received in the country, only three months after the glorious epic made in China.
Big impact in Slovakia
“You can feel that there is more pressure, concedes the 50-year-old technician. Before the tournament, people back home were talking about winning another medal. It must be said that the third place won at the Olympic Games had a great impact in Slovakia. Everyone celebrated that bronze medal. We are therefore not surprised, because we knew that the result achieved in Beijing would increase expectations around our team.
If she can always count on her prodigy Juraj Slafkovsky (18), author of two points during her first three outings in Helsinki, the Slovak selection has evolved since the Olympic tournament. “The group is even younger than in February, slips the former international. We will do our best to be successful in this tournament, in order to make our people happy again. But it will not be easy because our opponents are strong.
The start of the World Cup made by the Slovak selection is proof of this. Because with only three units on her clock, won in as many outings, she was not completely convinced. She now finds herself in the obligation to make points. And this, quickly.
“We had two complicated first matches against France (4-2 win) and Germany (loss 1-2), continues Jan Pardavy. We only managed to win one, although the match against Germany was very tight. Despite a good performance, we also failed to win against a very strong team from Canada (loss 1-5). We would obviously have liked to collect more points, but we are gaining momentum, match after match. That’s why we hope to be able to take points against Switzerland.
Because it is indeed the troop of Patrick Fischer which constitutes the next deadline for the Slovaks, this Wednesday evening (7:20 p.m.) at the Helsinki Ice Hall. While the latter impressed their world on the Beijing ice, the white cross selection completely missed its Olympic meeting. Since then, the curves have clearly reversed.
“Yes, Switzerland is the favourite, willingly blows the Slovak assistant coach. We play rather similar hockey. I like the way Switzerland play, which Patrick Fischer has been implementing for a few years. He managed to develop a strong team. It is no coincidence that Switzerland is aiming for the gold medal at this tournament. She has more NHL players than us. At the moment T, she probably has a better level than us. But we are not going to give up before the meeting and we will want to win it.
To achieve this, the Slovak staff dissected the Swiss game. “We could see during the video analysis that Switzerland was playing very well,” he continues. This team is very dangerous in power-play, they skate very fast and are able to counter-attack very quickly. We will have to be ready, but also stay focused on ourselves, on our way of playing. One thing is certain, we will have to score more goals than in our first meetings. We had a lot of chances, but we scored too few goals.
Reto Berra or Leonardo Genoni (the name of the titular goalkeeper has not yet filtered) and the Swiss defense to be irreproachable.