No team has experienced a more turbulent World Juniors ride in Western New York than Slovakia. From overtime wins to blowout losses to suspensions, the Slovaks have seen it all.
On Sunday, the country took a turn for the better with a 5-0 win over Norway in a relegation matchup at Dwyer Arena in Lewiston. In the other relegation game, the Czech Republic topped Germany, 3-2.
Richard Panik scored four goals and goalie Juraj Holly made 37 saves to lead Slovakia. Though Slovakia will finish its tournament in the consolation portion of the tournament, it will take the win.
Not much was expected from Slovakia, considered a long shot for a medal before the championships began. A thrilling 2-1 overtime win over Germany gave the team hope as goalie Dominik Riecicky made 47 saves, many with great difficulty. Then, things went downhill. Slovakia was beaten badly by the United States, 6-1, as two of its players received suspensions for dirty hits. The Slovaks put a scare into Switzerland, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game, 4-4, before losing. And then, they were shut out by Finland, 6-0.
Slovakia was sharp in somewhat of a meaningless game Sunday. Panik got the party started right away with a pair of goals only 38 seconds apart in the first period. And after a goal by teammate Juraj Majdan, he added two more.
The Czech Republic downed Germany behind a game-winning goal by Ondrej Palat with one minute to go off a pass from Petr Straka.
Palat scored two goals, Michal Hlinka added one and goalie Filip Novotny made 29 saves to key the Czechs. For Germany, Norman Hauner and Marius Mochel scored. Germany led, 2-1, midway through the third period before a pair of Palat goals.
Relegation play continues Tuesday at Dwyer with Norway facing Germany at 3:30 p.m. and Slovakia will face the Czech Republic at 7:30 p.m.