They entered the final match well, pushed the Russians into the defense, and had several opportunities to score. However, coach Ivan Feneš’s Slovak team did not manage to follow up on this success and in the end, they lost to Russia 7-2 in the gold medal game.
Nevertheless, the silver medal of Slovaks is a historic success for them. How did the home coach Ivan Feneš evaluate the finals? What does he say about some mistakes in the Slovakian game? And why is the Hlinka Gretzky Cup so important?
Are the Russians so talented that Slovakia could not defeat them?
The Russians are currently the best team in the world in this category. We tried to compete with them. I don´t think we disappointed our fantastic fans today. The boys worked hard the whole game and they tried their best.
Russia scored seven goals. Can you tolerate it? If we consider that these players are 17 years old.
Of course, we made some mistakes. These are exactly the things we need to improve in the future. So that we can win such games. And so that we can play them at all.
In which way is the Hlinka Gretzky Cup important for you?
Mainly because of the quality of the international confrontation. The best players under 18 played here, and, although I am a modest person, I think our boys were great and proved that they can compete with the world´s elite.
Are you surprised that your team made it to the final?
We were without an international confrontation for a year and a half, so we also wanted to see if we follow the right path. Well, we see that we can compete with the world´s elite. Also, thanks to the excellent conditions that Hockey Slovakia (the association) created for us in the project.
You have selected several talents from that U18 project team (plays the second-highest senior Slovakian league). Was that a big advantage for you?
Of course. The boys know each other and know what to expect from each other. Then we just added players who play abroad to this core. And there were several guys who get space in the highest senior Slovakian league… If the team gets together like this, you can make miracles with it.
Whose tournament performances would you point out? Some of your players were expected to be among the best even before the tournament.
For example, Šimon Nemec, Filip Mešár, Dalibor Dvorský, Juraj Slafkovský, Rastislav Eliaš. They were very important to us, but to be honest… The whole team worked perfectly, and everyone helped. This includes boys who may not have been high in scoring but did a great job in defending, for example. That is very, very important to us.
What does the Slovak national team needs to win a medal at a senior national team event?
On one hand, there are expectations and some dreams. On the other hand, you must fulfill them. And for that, you need to work enormously hard. Last, but not least, we need to be united for Slovak hockey - just as we did in this tournament. Then we can achieve such results.