Martin Bodak (middle) was named one of Slovakia’s three top players of the tournament, along with goaltender Roman Durny and forward Samuel Bucek.

Kootenay Ice defenceman Martin Bodak impresses for Slovakia at World Juniors

Team ousted by Sweden in quarterfinals of tournament but captain named one nation’s three MVPs

The Kootenay Ice may have missed Martin Bodak over the past three weeks, but the 19-year-old defenceman certainly made the most of his experience at the World Juniors.

Leading Slovakia as their team captain at the Buffalo, New York tournament, Bodak proved himself to be one of the top young blueliners in the world. Scoring three goals in five games while logging big minutes, he finished as one of his nation’s three MVPs.

Bodak competed in the World Juniors in 2017, scoring a single goal in five games, and his return appearance helped Slovakia to a slightly better result than last time around.

While the team started the tournament by losing 6-0 to Canada on December 27, he was named his team’s MVP of the game, and the next day Slovakia pulled off an improbable 3-2 regulation win over the host American squad.

Two days later, the Slovaks lost 5-3 to Finland but Bodak picked up a great goal in the second period, jumping into a rush and firing a set up from Alex Tamasi through the goaltender’s legs.

Earning a quarterfinal berth after routing Denmark 5-1 to end the round robin, Bodak nearly led Slovakia to a huge upset against Sweden.

Despite getting down 2-0 early in the second period, Bodak converted on a power play with a perfect wrist shot through traffic from the top of the right circle to rally Slovakia at the end of the frame.

In the third period, while down 3-1, he scored his second of the night, finishing a two-on-one rush with Milos Kelemen.

Unfortunately for Bodak and Slovakia, the Swedes managed to hold on to their 3-2 lead and knocked them out of the tournament for a second straight year. Having had a better round-robin than in 2017, however, the team placed seventh overall, one spot higher than the previous year.

Bodak was named the ‘Player of the Game’ for Slovakia in the knockout match, and was also one of their three stars at the end of the tournament along with goalie Roman Durny and forward Samuel Bucek.

As a WHL rookie for Kootenay, Bodak has a goal and 11 assists in 30 games so far this season and should return to the Ice lineup soon. In his absence, the team has gone 4-2-0-0 but dropped their most recent effort 7-0 in Lethbridge after a lacklustre defensive effort.

While he went unselected in the NHL Entry Draft last year, the Spisska Nova Ves native should garner significant interest from the professional ranks after his impressive showing on the world stage.

The World Juniors semifinals take place tomorrow, with the USA taking on Sweden and Canada playing the Czech Republic to determine the participants of Friday’s Gold medal match.

Casey Mittelstadt, of the United States national team, led tournament scoring with 10 points in five games, while former Ice CHL Import Draft first-overall selection Klim Kostin (who did not report to Cranbrook) finished in third place with eight in as many games.

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