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Goaltenders take center stage ; Riecicky leads Slovakia to win over Germany

Sporting a backwards hat, Slovakia goalie Dominik Riecicky used a teammate here and a team official there to help translate. To somehow articulate his 47-save masterpiece.

Was this his best game ever? The message was relayed to Riecicky; he paused for a second and cracked a smile.

No need for English. His performance spoke for itself.

Behind a remarkable game from its 18-year-old goaltender, Slovakia (1-0) stunned Germany, 2-1, in overtime Monday in the World Junior Hockey Tournament before 12,942 in HSBC Arena. Riecicky dumbfounded Germany (0-2) all night, one point-blank save at a time. And on the power play, with 1:21 left in OT, Marek Hrivik provided the knockout punch, scoring off a cross-ice pass from Richard Panik.

Hrivik stuffed the puck home and was swallowed by a mob of teammates.

"It was a big wave," Hrivik said. "They jumped me in the corner. This was a big win."

Slovakia was outplayed and outshot (48-39) most of the night but managed to keep breathing thanks to Riecicky, who sure looked like another Dominik that used to reign in this arena.

"I'm satisfied with my performance," Riecicky said through a translator. "It's very important for us to make it to the next round."

Combined, Germany and Slovakia have one World Juniors medal. But Monday night was proof that both teams have the goalies to give any team a scare. In addition to Riecickys big night, Germany's Philipp Grubauer made 37 saves himself one night after getting pulled from his team's opener.

If the Germans' energy was depleted after a draining 4-3 loss to Switzerland the night before, it didn't show Monday. With end-to-end energy all night, Germany challenged Riecicky. Sixteen shots in the first period. Eighteen in the second.

When Slovakia's Panik scored the game's first goal -- eight seconds into the second period. Germany's lone goal, on its 31st shot, came from Norman Hauner in the second and that would be all.

In the third period, Riecicky denied back-to-back missiles from Bernhard Keil and Marcel Noebels in close range. All game, he stopped a smorgasbord of wraparound attempts, uncontested shots in the slot and 2-on-1 rushes.

Hrivik speaks crisp, clear English. But shaking his head, he was even at a loss for words trying to describe his goalie's game.

"The goalie made so many incredible saves," Hrivik said. "We need to play better for him."

Not much is expected of Slovakia in this year's world juniors. But more games like this from Riecicky could quickly morph Slovakia into a dark horse.

"You never know what's going to happen," Hrivik said. "But if we stick together, we could go far."

e-mail: tdunne@buffnews.com

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