Slovakia’s teenage sensation Juraj Slafkovsky scored twice to lead their men’s ice hockey team to an historic first Olympic medal as they beat Sweden 4-0 to take bronze at the Beijing Games on Saturday.
As one half of the former Czechoslovakia, they made several appearances on the Olympic podium and as an independent nation reached the semi-finals at the 2010 Vancouver Games but failed to medal, losing to Finland in the bronze match.
“I don’t know how we’re going to celebrate but for sure it will be long,” said forward Kristian Pospisil amid the celebrations after receiving his medal. “It means a lot for the whole country not just for ice hockey in Slovakia.”
Slovakia were determined not to be denied a medal a second time, 17-year-old prodigy Slafkovsky spearheading the attack with a pair of goals and Samuel Takac and Pavol Regenda getting one each while Patrik Rybar was unbeatable in net.
Sweden, Olympic champions in 2006 and silver medallists in 2014, had eased past Slovakia 4-1 in group play put this time faced much more inspired opponents playing with a hunger the Scandinavians could not match.
“It’s an amazing feeling after all we went through to beat Sweden after a tough loss in the group stage - we get them back four goals - amazing weeks and I’m so happy I’m part of this,” said Slafkovsky.
Tipped as a top five pick in this year’s National Hockey League draft, the teenager finished the Olympic tournament as the leading goalscorer with seven.
Rybar, who was magnificent in Slovakia’s shootout quarter-final win over the United States, was equally brilliant against the Swedes, turning aside all 28 shots he faced. The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) will try to clinch back-to-back Olympic titles when they face off against Finland on Sunday in the gold medal game.
After a goalless first period, Slafkovsky opened the scoring three minutes into the second when his wrist shot deflected off a Swedish defender up and over netminder Lars Johansson’s glove.
Takac doubled the lead with a powerplay goal when he was left unmarked to the side of the Sweden net and blasted a shot that beat Johansson to the short-side.
In the third, with time running down, Sweden pulled their goaltender in favour of an extra attacker but quickly found themselves down 3-0, Slafkovsky scoring his second into an empty net.
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This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.