Photo Credit: Stecak (Video Still)

The Blowout Sale is a series that discusses the biggest blowout games in sports history.

On Saturday, September 6th, 2008, the Slovakia women’s national ice hockey team took on the Bulgaria women’s national ice hockey team in a qualifying match for the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics.

While the Games themselves were held in Vancouver, British Columbia, this qualifier was at the brand new Liepaja Olympic Center (known locally as “Liepājas Olimpiskais centrs”) in Liepaja, Latvia, opened just over one month prior to this game taking place.

Slovakia was looking to make their first Olympic appearance in women’s ice hockey since becoming a separate country in 1993, however they were coming off of a strong showing in the IIHF World Championships just five months before this game, finishing second in their division by just one point and coming in 11th in the tournament overall.

Bulgaria, on the other hand, was having their first ever season as a national women’s ice hockey team at any level of international competition. There were reported to be only about 37 women’s ice hockey players in Bulgaria at the time. With 17 players on the roster coming into the game, approximately 46 percent of Bulgaria’s population of women’s ice hockey players were a part of the national team.

Being a new team, the team had already taken its share of tough losses coming into this game, with a 41-0 loss to Italy the previous Tuesday, a 30-1 loss to Croatia on Wednesday and a 39-0 loss to the host country of Latvia the day before. However, the team looked to turn around their fortunes in the final game of the qualification tournament against Slovakia and hopefully at least get some positive momentum going into next season with a strong showing.

Slovakia started 19-year-old Monika Kvakova at goaltender, who was making her first career start after regular starter Zuzana Tomcikova was rested after winning the first two games of the tournament.

Bulgaria starter Liubomira Shosheva made her fourth appearance of the qualification. Despite being the losing goaltender in the three preceding games, she was able to rack up a large number of saves on the tournament with 143, including an 80-save performance against Italy in her debut.

The game got underway at 4:30 p.m. local time, and it didn’t take long for Slovakia to get on the board as defensewoman Iveta Karafiatova scored 57 seconds in, giving the team a 1-0 lead. However, just 13 seconds later, Slovakia would double their lead as forward Nikola Gapova scored to make it a 2-0 game. A bit of time passed before forward Petra Dankova made it a 3-0 lead at the 2:37 mark. At 3:55, Karafiatova earned her second of the game before forward Martina Velickova got back-to-back goals 27 seconds apart. At the 4:54 mark, Gapova scored her second of the game to make it a 7-0 Slovakia lead and essentially put the game out of reach five minutes in.

Forward Janka Velickova was the first to earn a hat trick at the 11:46 mark of the first period, making it a 21-0 advantage, with fellow forward Nikoleta Celarova not far behind with another hat trick completed at the 13:12 mark. Eventually, the first period came to a close with Slovakia holding a 31-0 lead. Celarova and forward Janka Culikova led the Slovakian offense with four goals each, with Velickova following with three. Nine other players had two goals each, while defensewomen Veronika Konecna and Barbora Bremova each tallied one.

The second period continued the same trend, with defensewoman Romana Vargova capitalizing on a power play chance 34 seconds in to get a hat trick (a rarity for a defensive player), followed by Culikova getting her fifth of the game 22 seconds after. At 1:39, Velickova also got her fifth of the game. 3:01 saw forward Zuzana Moravcikova earn a hat trick, giving Slovakia a 35-0 lead, while less than a minute later forward Anna Dzurnakova scored to get a hat trick as well. Karafiatova got the team’s sixth hat trick and second for a defensewoman at 4:50. Just over a minute later, forward Maria Herichova completed another hat trick, then Vargova got a hat trick on the power play at the 9:35 mark to make it 41-0. Velickova had a fifth goal at 10:30 as Slovakia continued to put in goal after goal for the remainder of the period.

When the dust settled at the end of the second, Slovakia bumped their advantage up to 55-0. 10 players had scored hat tricks by the start of the third period, with Culiakov leading the way with nine goals, followed closely behind by Velickova with seven and Vargova, Celarova and Gapova with five apiece. Slovakia also registered 92 shots on goal with one period remaining.

Slovakia kicked off the scoring in the third 1:21 in, with Vargova getting her sixth of the game, followed by Velickova getting goals eight and nine back-to-back 16 seconds apart. The same theme as the first and second continued into the third period, with Slovakia continuing to score goals like clockwork. Late in the game, Shosheva was pulled in favor of backup goaltender Kamelia Drazheva with less than three minutes remaining, with Slovakia holding a 77-0 lead. As the game wound down, Slovakia was awarded two penalty shots after a pair of Bulgaria delay of game penalties, which Slovakia converted on both of. Slovakia tacked on three more goals in the final minutes, with Herichova getting the last goal with 49 seconds remaining. The game also appeared to get rough at the end, with Dzurnakova and Bulgaria forward Tina Lisichkova each being assessed a match penalty with 10 seconds remaining. However, it would do little to change the outcome as Slovakia held on for the 82-0 victory.

Kvakova picked up the win, however she didn’t have to do much in the victory as Bulgaria was unable to register a shot on net throughout the game, allowing Kvakova to get the shutout with 0 goals allowed on 0 shots. Shasheva took the loss, allowing 77 goals on 134 shots, however she was able to make 57 saves for a total of exactly 200 saves in the four game tournament. Drazheva came on in relief, but was unable to make a save on five shots, as Slovakia had 139 total shots on the game.

I was unable to find very many post-game quotes from the players and coaches involved, however a quote that I did come across was from Slovakia head coach Miroslav Karafiat, who stated, “We took it as training.”

Not surprisingly, Bulgaria was not invited to the 2010 Olympics for women’s ice hockey, while Slovakia was invited for the first time in women’s ice hockey. However, in an ironic twist, they were defeated by eventual gold-medalist Canada 18-0 in the first game of the tournament, the biggest blowout game in the history of (non-qualification) Olympic ice hockey and never recovered, eventually losing to China in the seventh-place game.

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