In the opening game of the World Juniors, it was a low-scoring affair where the two goaltenders stole the show. Slovakia won 1-0 in a game that brings them a massive step closer to the quarterfinals thanks to stellar goaltending from Simon Latkoczy, who created a crucial moment late in the game that this game will be remembered for. A moment that turned the game in favor of the Slovaks and got them over the edge in a tight matchup.
The Save Of The Tournament:
When a game finishes 1-0, usually the game-winner is the moment of the game. Especially when it’s scored with around six minutes left. A goal that was created by sixteen-year-old Simon Nemec, who many predict to have a bright future, and it should have been an easy choice as “moment of the game”.
However, tonight it wasn’t, since the star of the opening game of the World Juniors was Slovak goaltender Simon Latkoczy, who had a wonderful game in net. His appearance in the game, however, was surprising to most, as a lot of people were expecting Samuel Hlavaj to be the starter for tonight’s opening game.
It’s still unknown as to why Latkoczy started the game, but throughout the game, he put the doubters to shame, as he was fantastic. Calm and alert in all situations and overall controlling the crease completely. The Swiss had a few looks that were taken away, one of which was a great save on the Swiss captain Simon Knak with three seconds left in the second period, keeping the game scoreless.
It was an important save, but with three minutes left in the game with Slovakia leading by one on the penalty kill, he made the save of the tournament. After a broken play, Inaki Baragano had a wide-open net to shoot at, but a miraculous sprawling glove save from Latkoczy, who was caught out of position, prevented the goal that would have tied the game. Highway robbery and a save that is going to be nearly impossible to beat for anyone else in this tournament.
What Could Have Been?
This moment could have turned the game on its head. Slovakia had just taken the lead of the game against Thibault Fatton, who, just like Latkoczy, had a great game. Had Baragano scored immediately afterward, it could have been a goal that would have broken the spirit of team Slovakia. Especially since the goal would have happened due to a clumsy and unnecessary boarding from the Slovak captain Samuel Knazko. It wouldn’t be unlikely that the Swiss take the momentum from this goal and turn the game on its head, either in the remaining three minutes of the game or in overtime.
Instead, the save frustrated the Swiss players, who must have already been wondering what it took to beat Latkoczy tonight. After that save, it looked next to impossible. The Swiss tried but they also knew that time was running out and that it would require a perfect play to even dream of scoring. It’s comparable to Braden Holtby’s save in the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals against Vegas, where a single save swung momentum and turned the tides of the game.
The save made it possible for Slovakia to get away with all three points, which put them in a prime position to advance from the round-robin, and they can thank Latkoczy for it. His save might have secured them another shot at a fairytale run, similar to 2015, where Denis Godla was the Slovak star in the net.
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