When Czechoslovakia split into Czechia and Slovakia on January 1, 1993, the IIHF decided that the team lineage would continue with the Czechs, meaning that while the Czechs could continue in the Top Division and retain their spot at the 1994 Olympics, the Slovaks would be forced to start from the bottom, joining Pool C of the World Championship in 1993.
It should have taken a generation for Slovakia to reach the top, to rejoin the ranks of the best teams in the world and establish a championship program. But, quick to buck expectations, Slovakia was already competing for Gold by 2000, and in 2002, they would upset the Russian Goliath in Gothenburg to win their first World Championship and the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
Slovakia struck early to strike fear into the hearts of Russian fans and players alike, with Ľubomír Višňovský burying the opening goal just 22 seconds into the game, whipping a wraparound pass from Jozef Stümpel and rifling it top corner off the post and in past Russian keeper Maxim Sokolov, moving so fast that the puck quickly came back out of the net, with the Russians trying to continue play as if nothing happened. Bondra would add a second ten minutes later on the power play, being spotted streaking to the goal by Miroslav Šatan from behind Sokolov’s net, feeding him the puck where he would bury the goal untouched by Russia’s stunned defence.
With the chance to regroup after first intermission, Russia stormed back early in the second period, with a weak slapshot attempt from Dmitri Zatonski deflecting off of Slovakian netminder Ján Lašák, landing right on the stick of Maxim Sushinski, making no mistake this time by blasting the rebound over Lašák’s blocker and in to halve the score to 2-1. Slovakia would strike back, however, needing just three and a half minutes for Šatan to take a drop pass from Michal Handzuš from behind the goal line, slapping in the one-timer to beat Sokolov and retake the two goal lead into the second.
With their backs to the wall, Russia roared back early in the third period, with Viktor Antipov first pouncing on a failed Slovak clearing attempt, redirecting a Valeri Karpov pass through Lašák’s five-hole and in just 2:09 into the third period. Then Sushinski would net the equalizer midway through the period, leaving the puck behind the net for Alexander Prokopiev after his play fell apart, but he quickly readjusted in front of Lašák, blasting home the return pass from Prokopiev to redeem the play and tie the game at 3-3. With just one shot on Russia in the third period with time winding down, it seemed nearly a certainty the game was going to overtime, and maybe even Russia could pull off the comeback in regulation.
But being a game that can change dramatically on the bounce of a puck, it was defender Dmitri Ryabykin who would fall victim to the unlucky bounce that cost Russia the gold. Cycling the puck in the Slovak zone, Ryabykin coughed up a routine pass to the point, suddenly giving up a 2-on-2 break against Bondra and Žigmund Pálffy, arguably two of Slovakia’s top snipers, with Ryabykin struggling to make it back to the play. Palffy was sure to put the puck perfectly on the stick of Bondra, who ripped a laser of a wrist shot on Sokolov, who, left stunned, could only muster a weak kick save attempt, letting the goal fly by with just 100 seconds left in regulation. They would hold off the Russian onslaught to tie the game for a third time, leaving the Russian bench stunned, the Swedish fans excited, and the crowd of thousands in Bratislava elated at Slovakia’s first World title in history.
With the win, Slovakia captured only their fifth International Hockey Lineal Championship, and first title in over a year, which they lost to Sweden just prior to the 2001 World Championship. This marked just the third meeting all-time between Russia and Slovakia since both became independent nations in 1992 and 1993, respectively, with both previous meetings in Lillehammer, Norway – a 5-3 Slovakia win in a 1993 Nations Cup Game, and a 3-2 Russian overtime win in the 1994 Olympic Quarterfinal.
Slovakia became the fourth team to take the IHLC in Sweden, with Canada entering the tournament fresh off their Olympic Gold in February, dispatching Latvia, Italy, Team USA, Germany and Switzerland, before losing to the Czechs in their final group game. Russia defeated the Czechs in the Quarterfinal and Finland in the Semifinal en route to falling to the Slovaks in the final.
00:22 – GOAL – Višňovský (Stümpel)
01:10 – PEN – Milo, high sticking
10:57 – PEN – Lyashenko, interference
12:10 – PP GOAL – Bondra (Šatan, Pálffy)
16:17 – PEN – Koznev, interference
19:37 – PEN – Butsayev, elbowing
21:20 – PEN – Lintner, tripping
23:27 – GOAL – Sushinsky (Zatonsky, Prokopiev)
26:59 – GOAL – Šatan (Handzuš)
27:25 – PEN – Koznev, high sticking
33:14 – PEN – Országh, hooking
39:00 – PEN – Čierny, roughing
39:00 – PEN – Lyashenko, roughing
42:09 – GOAL – Antipov (Karpov)
50:38 – GOAL – Sushinsky (Prokopiev)
58:20 – GOAL – Bondra (Pálffy)
W: Lašák (18-21)
L: Sokolov (17-21)
SHOTS ON GOAL
11+8+2 = 21
5+8+8 = 21
Goaltenders: Ján Lašák, Rastislav Staňa. Defence: Jerguš Bača, Ladislav Čierny, Radoslav Hecl, Richard Lintner, Dušan Milo, Peter Šmrek, Martin Štrbák, Ľubomír Višňovský. Forwards: Ľuboš Bartečko, Peter Bondra, Michal Handzuš, Miroslav Hlinka, Ladislav Nagy, Vladimír Országh, Žigmund Pálffy, Rastislav Pavlikovský, Róbert Petrovický, Miroslav Šatan, Radovan Somík, Jozef Stümpel.
Goaltenders: Yegor Podomatsky, Maxim Sokolov. Defence: Sergei Gusev, Alexander Guskov, Dmitri Kalinin, Dmitri Ryabykin, Anton Volchenkov, Sergei Vyshedkevich, Alexander Yudin, Sergei Zhukov. Forwards: Maxim Afinogenov, Vladimir Antipov, Vyacheslav Butsayev, Valeri Karpov, Andrei Kovalenko, Alexei Koznev, Roman Lyashenko, Alexander Prokopiev, Alexander Savchenkov, Maxim Sushinski, Ivan Tkachenko, Dmitri Zatonski.
|First IHLC Meeting (SVK vs. RUS)
SVK 5-3 RUS – 11/20/1993 – THC – Lillehammer
|Previous IHLC Meeting (SVK vs. RUS)
RUS 3-2 SVK (OT) – 02/23/1994 – OG – Lillehammer
|Last IHLC Game
RUS 3-2 FIN (SO) – 05/09/2002 – WC – Gothenburg
|Next IHLC Game
CZE 4-3 SVK – 11/05/2002 – EX – Plzeň