Slovakia entered the qualification round of the men's ice hockey tournament without a win in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and the same would be true when they exited it, as the club was eliminated by the Czech Republic, 5-3 on Tuesday.
The Czech Republic now advances to the quarterfinal round and will face the United States on Wednesday.
The loss completes a disappointing tournament for the Slovaks, which saw the club outscored 11-2 in the preliminary round. While the end result was failure, Tuesday's final score doesn't accurately display how close the Slovaks came to completing a fantastic comeback and dramatically altering the narrative of their tournament.
However, a poor performance in the first period sealed the winless fate of the club.
The Czech Republic opened the scoring nearly seven minutes into the contest after Ales Hemsky registered a power play tally. The club added to their lead shortly thereafter, as Roman Cervenka scored 30 seconds after Hemsky's strike. The Czechs managed to add another power play goal prior to the first period's completion after David Krejci executed a beautiful one-timer from former NHL teammate Tomas Kaberle.
Cervenka continued the offensive outburst with a beautiful breakaway goal in the second period that put the Czech Republic up by four. At the time, the goal appeared to be a glutinous display of power by the Czechs, as the pulse of the Slovaks barely mustered a noticeable beat.
However, the balance of power slowly began to shift after Marian Hossa put Slovakia on the board three minutes after Cervenka's blue-chip strike. Hossa continued to push things in the Slovaks' favor when he registered his second tally of the contest with 13 minutes remaining in the third period. And before anyone could begin to flesh out the logistics of a potential comeback, Tomas Survoy narrowed the Czech Republic's lead to one only 90 seconds after Hossa cut it in half.
The winless Slovaks had 11 minutes to score one goal and had an opportunity to change the entire complexion of their stay in Sochi.
If the club accomplished the feat, they could have taken up the mantle as the 'dark horse' in a tournament primed for upsets. While the United States dominated the preliminary round and were viewed as favorites to compete in the medal round, the Slovaks had the leadership of Zdeno Chara and the wild card element of adversity fueled by monumental odds.
It's a story that movies are made about.
Of course, the potential of that narrative slowly faded when Andrej Meszaros took a slashing penalty with one minute remaining in regulation and met its demise when Tomas Plekanec found pin-point accuracy with an empty-net tally.
While 2014 left much to be desired for Slovakia, the third period of Tuesday's qualification round at least provided the entertainment that we so crave in these kind of games. That likely won't ease the frustrated minds of the Slovakian players, however.
The Czech Republic will now be faced with the task of beating the United States, a club that has aspirations of Gold Medal glory. In addition, the United States defeated Slovakia, 7-1 and outscored opponents 14-4 in the preliminary round.