International Ice Hockey Federation

Bucek masterpiece stuns U.S.

Bucek masterpiece stuns U.S.

Durny the difference in goal as Slovakia wins, 3-2

Published 28.12.2017 23:37 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Bucek masterpiece stuns U.S.
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 28: USA's Kieffer Bellows #23 and Slovakia's Martin Bodak #5 battle for the puck behind the net during the preliminary round of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Slovakia's Samuel Bucek put on a one-man show to score the winning goal at 17:52 of the third to give his nation an unexpected 3-2 win over the U.S.

Bucek roared down the left side, went behind the American goal when Joseph Woll over-committed, and tried to tuck the puck in the back side. Woll made a great lunging save, but Bucek got the rebound and found the net.

Bucek also assisted on the other two Slovakian goals, both scored by Filip Krivosik.

The Americans got goals from Brady Tkachuk and Casey Mittelstadt.

"I drove in and faked a shot, and the defenceman dived in," Bucek described. "I went wraparound and the goalie made the save, but then I saw the loose puck there, and I just put it in."

One thing must be made clear. Yes, the Americans were heavy favourites coming into the game. Yes, their loss was stunning. But, the Slovaks deserve all the credit in the world for the win. They got timely scoring, played great defence, and got the better goaltending. 

It was the first Slovak win over the U.S. at the World Juniors since the 2009 quarter-finals, a string of six losses in between.

"I remember that game," Bucek recalled. "I was a kid watching with my parents, and you know, something was going through my head. I’m like, ‘I want to be here one day and want to accomplish the same as what the Slovakians did in 2002 [winning World Championship gold].’ We did it tonight. And it’s just something amazing. It’s a big moment for our country and our hockey."

The result puts the U.S. and Slovakia in second place with Finland, all three nations with three points in the Group A standings behind Canada (six).

Goaltender Roman Durny was the hero for the winners, stopping 43 of 45 shots. Joseph Woll was a bit uneven in the U.S. net and faced 25 shots.

"This was the biggest game of my life," Durny enthused. "We have to enjoy the win but then on our day off tomorrow get ready for our next game."

"You can’t take anyone for granted," Mittelstadt lamented. "We’ve just got to be better, plain and simple. We’re excited to get out there tomorrow, but at the same time, we’re definitely disappointed in tonight."

It was a game of few scoring chances and even fewer goals, but in the end the Slovaks showed a resilience the Americans couldn't match.

The scoreless first period featured an American team that dominated puck possession but couldn’t penetrate the Slovakian defence or get many clear chances on goal. 

Tkachuk hit the post with one shot and Bucek made a nice dash in on goal, crashing into Woll as the puck rolled by the goal.

In a game like this, the superior team had to be patient, and that’s what the Americans were. But instead of being rewarded, they found themselves trailing 1-0 at 4:52 of the second period.

Krivosik skated down the right wing on a three-on-one, but he saw an opening and instead of trying to pass he beat Woll between the pads to give the visitors a shocking lead.

But the Americans did not respond to the challenge right away. They took a penalty, and on the ensuing power play Marian Studenic had two nice chances to give Slovakia a 2-0 lead. He missed on the first and Woll came up with the big save on the second, and a short time later the Americans finally created—and converted—a nice chance.

Even that came as a result of a counter-attack after another good Slovak scoring chance. Ryan Poehling drove down the right side and fed a perfect saucer pass to Tkachuk cutting to the net. Tkachuk controlled the puck, made a slick deke, and tucked the puck five hole on Durny, who had been impressive in goal for Slovakia.

The Americans had a great chance to take the lead in the third when Mittelstadt set up Kailer Yamamoto for a point blank shot, but Durny was right there. 

And then, the improbable happened. Krivosik took advantage of a turnover behind the U.S net and swiped a backhand from in front that somehow found the back of the net at 15:15.

That seemed to be the game winner, but the game was, in fact, far from over.

A minute and a half later, Mittelstadt scored a highlight-reel goal, stealing the puck at the Slovak blue line, deking one player and then Durny to tuck the puck home for a 2-2 tie at 16:49.

Slovakia would not take disappointment this night, however. Bucek replied with a stunner of his own, giving Slovakia an incredible victory.

"This is unreal," Studenic enthused. "This is like a dream. This is the first time I’ve beaten an opposing team like the USA. For our small country, it’s like winning the Stanley Cup. I’m so proud of these guys. We worked like a team, and we won. We wanted to play our hockey and be good on defence. We knew we could score some goals on an odd-man rush or stuff like that."

The U.S. now has to collect its thoughts before playing Canada in the outdoor game tomorrow. Slovakia has a day off before facing Finland on Saturday.

 

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