International Ice Hockey Federation

Ciger makes changes

Ciger makes changes

Nine new faces in Slovak camp

Published 06.05.2017 13:45 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Ciger makes changes
Vladimir Dravecky will captain the young Slovak team in Cologne. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis / HHOF-IIHF Images
Unable to exit the group stage since 2013, Slovakia is pinning its hopes on a revamped roster in Germany. Nine players could debut in this year's competition.

Recent championships have been hard work for Slovakia. Since taking silver behind Russia in 2012, the country has struggled to make much of an impact, missing the knock-out rounds in the last three editions. This season, Zdeno Ciger’s roster is entirely European-based, drawing heavily on players from the Czech League and the KHL. The head coach has called up nine World Championship rookies and the roster has an average age of 26 as Slovakian hockey looks to start a new era.


Veteran Jan Laco, 35, is still around to backstop Slovakia. He was the leading goalie on the 2012 roster, saw action in Sochi in 2014 and remains a solid option for his country after a season with Pirati Chomutov in the Czech league. Orebro’s Julius Hudacek, brother of forward Libor, has been the most impressive performer for his country this season and will likely start as #1 here. Jaroslav Janus, once of Slovan Bratislava and now playing for Litvinov, completes the trio.


Michal Sersen rates the teams goaltending and defence as its strongest features – and the stats support that. Over the season just gone, Slovakia had the best defensive record in the Eurochallenge, allowing just 12 goals in eight games against a range of opponents from those European nations knocking on the door of international hockey’s  “big six”. Sersen, 31 is a key part of Slovakia’s blue line, bringing the experience of six World Championship campaigns and six seasons in the KHL, but this year he has struggled with injury and finished the season in the Slovak Extraliga where he helped Banska Bystrica to the title while boosting his fitness.

Edmonton defenceman Andrej Seker has indicated a willingness to join the roster if his NHL playoff campaign comes to an early end, but there are four newcomers in the 25-strong party that travelled to Germany: Michal Cajkovsky (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, KHL), Czech-based Martin Gernat and Peter Trska, and Kosice’s Eduard Sedivy.


Vladimir Dravecky wears the ‘C’ for the first time in his senior international career as he returns to the city where he made his World Championship debut in 2010. However, his predominantly defensive style is – in itself – unlikely to fire up an offence that managed just 15 goals in seven games last year. Those problems have continued this season: in eight Eurochallenge games, Slovakia managed 14 goals; only Denmark had fewer.

To add some firepower, Ciger has turned to Jakub Suja (HC Kosice), Lukas Cingel, Andrej Kudrna (both Sparta Prague) and Slovak titled winners Tomas Zigo and Tomas Matousek of Banska Bystrica. All five are in line for World Championship debuts in Cologne.

Aside from Dravecky, the other experienced man on the roster is Marcel Hascak, a silver medallist in Helsinki in 2012. His preparations for the championship were disrupted by the birth of his son – a happy event that had him shuttling rapidly between Cologne and Slovakia to be with his wife.


Zdeno Ciger, now 47, was one of the players who straddled the transition from Czechoslovak to Czech and Slovak hockey, picking up bronze medals at World Championships for both countries. He also played for Slovakia at the 1998 Olympics. After ending his playing career he became an assistant to Julius Supler on the national team in 2006 before taking up a role with Slovan. Ciger took over as head coach of the national team in September 2015 and is making his second appearance behind the bench at a World Championship.

Projected results

According to the seeding, Slovakia should manage fourth place in its group – and a QF berth – behind Russia, Sweden and the USA. In recent competitions, though, things haven’t gone to plan. The Slovaks were pipped by Belarus in 2015 despite big travelling support in Ostrava, then last time around Germany took fourth place in the group in St. Petersburg. This time around, the schedule is kind to the team: the opening three games against Italy, Latvia and Denmark are all eminently winnable, and that could be the boost needed to push the team into the last eight for the first time since 2013.


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