International Ice Hockey Federation

Cernak set to defend bronze

Cernak set to defend bronze

Slovak D-man talks Czechs, OHL, and more

Published 25.12.2015 08:54 GMT+2 | Author Juraj Hudak
Cernak set to defend bronze
Slovak defenceman Erik Cernak receives his bronze medal after a bronze medal game win over Sweden at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Slovakia is coming to these World Juniors to defend its 2015 bronze medal. Yet only four returning players know how it tastes to win that medal.

One of those players is Erik Cernak, who's serving as an assistant captain with this new Slovak team. The big, mobile 18-year-old defenceman was chosen in the second round (43rd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 NHL Draft. This season, he's suited up for the OHL's Erie Otters with eight points in 18 games. caught up with Cernak recently.

What is the main goal for Slovakia at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship?

We won the bronze medal last year and every single fan will be expecting similar success again. We don't have anything specific in mind. We just want to win every game. The most important thing for me is to win as many games as we can in the group stage. Then we can play against a more acceptable opponent in the quarterfinal.

Which games will be the most critical?

The first one against Belarus for sure. If we win it, we will be more confident and relaxed. The first match of the tournament is always very important.

The next game in the group will be against your big rivals from the Czech Republic, whom you knocked out of the tournament in the quarterfinals last year. We heard they want revenge for that. Is it true?

Yeah. I spoke with Pavel Zacha, who is playing in the same league as me, and he told me there will be payback. In my opinion, we can play our game against every single team and the Czechs are no exception. We will do everything we can to win against them.

The World Juniors are in Finland. You’re coming to the team from the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Will it be hard for you to jump out and play on the European rink?

I'm experiencing this for the first time in my life and I have felt it from the first practice. But I don’t think that would be a problem for me.

You’ve been playing in the OHL since September. Players there never miss a chance to hit their opponents. Do you like it?

Yes, of course. I use my body to defend myself. I am used to it now. It’s become routine for me.

This will be your third World Juniors. But for the first time you will have a leadership role. How do you take it?

Over the last two years, I was just learning how to play on the international level. This year, I should try to make something special. I am going to show my best performance in every match. The main thing is to help the whole team. I believe that everyone will have a good run throughout the whole tournament.


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