Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bucek masterpiece stuns 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.
One thing must be made abundantly clear, though. 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. 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.
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.
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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