After a disappointing appearance in the last IIHF World Junior Championships, the Slovak preparation format was very criticized. Despite the self-confident pre-tournament statements, the Slovak national team won only one match and lost five. Without the help from the Swiss team, who won its last match against Germany, the 2008 WJCs would be without the Slovak team in the A pool.
But this is not first time that the Slovak team showed poor performance in this tournament. In 1999, it won its last medal. In the final match that year, Slovakia lost to Canada, but despite this loss, it was the most successful U-20 tournament in its short hockey history. Since this big success, Slovakia has come in near the bottom: 2000 – 9th place, 2001 -8th, 2002 – 8th, 2003 – 5th, 2004 – 6th, 2005 – 7th, 2006 – 8th and 2007 – 9th. The U-18 team was a little bit better. In the U-18 championships in 1999, the team won the bronze medal game against Czech Republic, its main rival. And in 2003, in the World U18 Championships in Jaroslavl, Russia, they won the silver medal. But except these two tournaments, the Slovak team finished only in the second half.
Slovak hockey management was under pressure for a long time due to these problems, and in February 2007 they decided that in the next senior Slovnaft Extraleague (the top hockey league in Slovakia) will also play the Slovak 20 National Team (the name will be Vycvikove stredisko reprezentacie (VSR) SR 20). It could be compared to USNTDP and what works in USA can work in Slovakia too. This team will be the set-piece of next U-20 team for the 2008 WJCs, with only the best of those playing in North America added to it.
The Slovak 20 National Team will play in only the first, second and in the last quarter of the senior Slovnaft Extraleague. In the third quarter, they will play in the WJCs. This team will not be eligible to advance to the playoffs and after the regular season the players will return to their home clubs.
Here is the roster for this team (in the brackets is his home team, or last year’s team)
Tomas Hiadlovsky (Dukla Trencin). 15.12.1988, 5’11, 167 lbs.
Played the entire Slovak junior league season and was the only goaltender with a goals-against average below 2.00. He also played eight games in the Senior Second league. He has played his first 8 games in the Slovnaft Extraleague, so he knows what it is about. He was undrafted in 2007.
Július Hudacek (HK Spisská NovaVes). Aug. 9,1988
Last season he was the best goalie in the junior league by save percentage (.937) and helped his team to win the championships.
Juraj Mikus (Dukla Trencin). 6’4, 185 lbs, 30. 11. 1988.
Mikus is the lone drafted player on this team. The Toronto Maple Leafs picked him in fifth round, 134th overall in the 2007 draft. He should be one of the top two defensemen.
Marek Daloga (Hkm Zvolen). 6’4, 176 lbs, 10. 3. 1989.
Last season Daloga played in a few matches in the senior top league (2 in regular season, 8 in playoffs) and was on the U-18 national team, where he performed well.
Adam Bena (HC Zlin/Czech Republic). 5’10, 169 lbs. 14.3.1988.
Bena played in the Czech league last year. Another defensive minded defenseman.
Marek Zukal (HC Usti Nad Labem/ Czech Republic). 6’3, 194 lbs. 23. 8. 1988
Last season Zukal played only in the Czech junior league. He collected 9 goals and 9 assists in 28 matches.
Michal Kozak (HC Kosice). 6’1, 187 lbs, 27. 1. 1989.
Last season he collected 18 points in 44 junior squad matches and also tasted Slovak senior extraleague in 4 matches. He was also member of the Slovak team in the U-18 WC (6 matches, -1).
Kristian Krajcik (HC Plzen/ Czech Republic). 5’10, 167 lbs, 21. 3. 1988.
2 goals, 8 assists, 46 PIM and was +12 in 36 matches in the Czech junior league.
Martin Dulak (HK Spisská Nova Ves). 6’0, 183 lbs, 21.9. 1988.
Dulak is another junior champion from last season, collecting a high 103 PIM in 43 matches.
Erik Caladi (Belleville Bulls, OHL), 5’10, 176 lbs, 1.4. 1988.
His first, and he hopes, that not last, season in North America wasn’t as good as he hoped (3 goals and 3 assists in 52 matches). But it was a good experience. Now he can show his talent against much older and experienced opponents and improve his skills.
Marek Slovak (HKm Nitra), 5’8, 154 lbs, 23.9. 1988.
Last season he was in the junior league one of the best forwards, in 39 matches he had 36 goals and collected 55 points. Slovak played 23 matches in the senior league for Hkm Nitra and therefore is he the most experieced forward among his teammates.
Marek Mertel (HKm Nitra), 6’0, 205 lbs, 7. 6. 1987.
Mertel is a well-built forward who doesn’t hesitate to use his body. Forty-seven points in 45 matches is not bad, but 107 PIM is a lot. He is the oldest player on the team.
Richard Smotrila (HK Spisska Nova Ves), 5’10, 165 lbs, 14. 3. 1988.
Another junior winnner from last season. Richard Smotrila was maybe the key reason for this team success. He had 25 goals in the regular season and in the playoffs was even better — Seven goals and 5 assists in 8 matches. Also in the preseason games he shows a lot of talent.
Matej Cesik (Slovan Bratislava), 6’2, 176 lbs., 26. 6. 1988.
Cesik was at the end of the last season regular player in senior second league and he was very productive there. He had 7 goals in 15 matches and has total of 15 points. In the senior playoff was he also productive, he had 6 goals and assists to 5 others in 9 matches for Banska Bystrica. Slovan Bratislava, the richest club in Slovakia and the last champ showed a lot of interest in him and they brought him to the organisation. He should be the main offensive part of this attack.
Jakub Suja (HK Lietajuce Kone Presov), 5’11, 180 lbs, 1. 11. 1988.
Suja is another player who showed good performance in the senior second league. In 40 matches he collected 31 points, and was +30. Good addition to special teams.
Oliver Duris (Dukla Trencin), 13. 9 1988.
Forty-nine matches, 21 goals, 28 asists and +31 in last junior season.
Milan Jurik (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL), 6’1, 171 lbs, 28.2.1988.
Jurik is the second one that is coming from Canadian junior league. He played his first matches in the Slovak senior top league in 2004-05.
Lukáš Havlícek (BK Mladá Boleslav), 5’10, 180 lbs, 5. 1. 1988.
Last season he was the fourth most productive forward in the Czech junior extraleague (28 goals, 29 assists in 43 matches). The head coach of his current team expects that he will be the leader not only in the locker room, but also on the score sheet.
Jozef Molnár (HC Košice), 5’10, 182 lbs, 8. 4. 1989.
21 points in 40 junior team matches, 6 matches in U-18 WJC (2 goals).
Ondrej Mikula (HC Vítkovice), 5’10, 182lbs, 3.7.1988.
Mikula is still a player of HC Vitkovice, but in the senior squad isn’t a place for him now. So he is coming here, because it’s better for him to play against seniors than juniors. Last season he played in 18 matches in Czech senior Extraleague (2 goals, 1 assist).
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