VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Slovakia pulled off the biggest ice hockey upset of the Vancouver Games on Wednesday, knocking out defending gold medalists Sweden 4-3 to advance to the men’s semi-finals.
Tomas Kopecky put in the winning goal past a sprawling Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the third period to set Slovakia on the way to a showdown with Canada in the next round that few people expected.
The Slovaks, who sprang an upset earlier in the Games by defeating Russia, celebrated with their sticks in the air taking in the applause at Canada Hockey Place.
“You come into the game against the defending champion, the pressure was on them. We were waiting for our chances and got the most out of them,” Slovakian forward Marian Gaborik told reporters.
After a scoreless first period, Gaborik put Slovakia ahead and Andrej Sekera doubled the lead before the Swedes evened things up through Patric Hornqvist and Henrik Zetterberg. Pavol Demitra added a third for Slovakia before the period was over.
Daniel Alfredsson drew Sweden within one, but they were not able to get any more past Slovakia’s goalie Jaroslav Halak.
“Right now you’re just disappointed about losing. We felt we had a pretty good team. We lost to a good team but we could have done more here so it’s very disappointing,” Swedish captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Slovakia will likely be looked at as underdogs against Canada, who also advanced on Wednesday by beating Russia.
“Every game is a different game. Obviously they have a great team but we will try to do our best,” Halak said.
Slovakia finished fifth in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
additional reporting by Steve Keating, editing by Miles Evans