A third-period goal from Peter Ceresnak propelled Slovakia past the Olympic Athletes from Russia 3-2, upsetting the gold-medal favorite to open the men’s hockey tournament.
An uncomfortable night in net for Vasili Koshechkin cost OAR midway through the third, when a delay of game gave Slovakia a power play. A smooth entry into the zone from Martin Bakos eventually set up an opportunity for Ceresnak at the point, and the right-handed forward bombed a slap shot that found a gap between Koshechkin’s glove and pad at 8:30 in the third.
After falling behind 2-0 in the opening minutes, a strong Slovakian response turned the tide. It took a soft goal to begin the comeback: Peter Olvecky skated along the right side and threw a seemingly innocuous shot on net, but it sneaked between Koshechkin’s legs to bring the Slovaks within one late in the first period.
Bakos knotted things up less than two minutes later, when a block from Marek Hovorka released him on a breakaway opportunity. Bakos charged down the right wing and rocketed a shot high glove-side to tie the score on just Slovakia’s fourth shot of the game.
The favorites had seized control of the game early on, opening the scoring less than three minutes in. Vladislav Gavrikov snapped a shot from just inside the blue line, and the puck deflected off of a Slovakian defender into the net.
OAR doubled its advantage soon after as Kirill Kaprizov redirected Nikita Gusev’s wrister in the slot past Slovakian goaltender Branislav Konrad.
After a wild opening period, neither team could find the go-ahead goal in the second. Both goaltenders turned away multiple scoring opportunities to set up the decisive third period.
Konrad finished with 20 saves, while Koshechkin saved just 16 of 19 shots.
Slovakia killed two OAR power plays as time wound down to keep momentum on the underdogs’ side. A tripping penalty against Alexei Marchenko with less than two minutes to go all but sealed the upset.
"After that start especially, quite an amazing show of courage and commitment by this hockey club," Slovakia head coach Craig Ramsay said. "Obviously our goalie played very well after those first couple got in. They just fought so hard [and] blocked a million shots, especially late on those power plays."
While crediting its opponent's effort, OAR was also frustrated by the team's lack of execution.
"In the second period, we did not use our chances to score several times," forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "In the third, we should have scored during the power play, which we didn't. We have been training that constantly, but today it didn't work."
Slovakia looks to carry momentum over to its next matchup against Team USA, who suffered an overtime loss against Slovenia in its opening game. OAR will look to bounce back when it takes on Slovenia.