Feb 19, 2014, 9:06 AM EDT
Slovenia’s Olympic journey came to an end on Wednesday as it was defeated 5-0 by Sweden in the tournament quarterfinals.
While it wasn’t the way any of the Slovenes wanted it to end — it was a one-goal game heading into the third period, after all — players were quick to put the loss in perspective.
“It’s been a great tournament for us,” leading scorer Ziga Jeglic told IIHF.com. “We’ll have our heads up high when we come home.”
In terms of Olympic Cinderellas, Slovenia has etched itself in history alongside Belarus in 2002 and the Slovaks in 2010. But to be honest, those don’t really compare — Belarus really only did one notable thing at the Games (beat Sweden in which was, admittedly, one of the biggest upsets in hockey history) and were routed on a number of occasions. The Slovakians certainly surprised in ’10, but had a roster rife with NHL talent: Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Lubomir Visnovsky and Jaroslav Halak, to name a few.
What Slovenia did in Sochi was unique.
Selecting from a pool of 148 registered hockey players — which, let’s be honest, is a good-sized North American beer league — Slovenia came to the Olympics boasting just one NHLer (Anze Kopitar) and zero history of international success. Heck, the Slovenes are still playing in the second-tier of the World Hockey Championships, along with luminaries like South Korea, Great Britain and Hungary.
Yet none of that kept the Slovenes from getting after it in Sochi. “Getting after it” is the key, because they didn’t sit back and try to play for ties. They were down 3-2 heading into the third period of a daunting opener against Russia. They beat the Slovaks 3-1 while putting 31 shots on goal. The Slovenes then scored three more against Austria in the opening playoff round to advance to the quarterfinals. They were aggressive. They worked hard.
Slovenia even kept in close in today’s loss to the Swedes, despite the 5-0 scoreline. Sweden needed four third-period goals to put the Slovenes away, an effort that drew high praise from goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“They hang around for two periods and you never know if it can be a different game,” he said, per NHL.com. “You just need to play your best and have that little extra luck in these types of games by working hard.
“This was a game we had to win. We didn’t expect to go easy and it didn’t, until the end. Up until then, it was a big fight out there.”
With their Olympics now over, the Slovenes will head home with an unexpected eighth-place finish and the respect of the hockey world. It’s quite the accomplishment — just ask Kopitar.
“To be quite honest, we thought we could come in and stir the pot a little bit, maybe get a point here and there, and see what happens,” he said, per NHL.com. “After we played Russia I thought our confidence came up a bit. The way we played against the Slovaks was obviously a huge confidence-builder. After that, I mean, we were a confident bunch.
“We felt we got a few more tricks up our sleeves. Again, the quarterfinals at the Olympics is really well done for us.”
May 23, 2015, 12:26 AM EDT
But will it last?
May 22, 2015, 11:42 PM EDT
Kucherov, Paquette, and Glass all receive misconduct penalties.
May 22, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT
The score was one-sided, but this game could have gone the other way if not for the Rangers’ netminder.
May 22, 2015, 10:40 PM EDT
Leon Draisaitl’s late goal can’t turn the tide.
May 22, 2015, 9:53 PM EDT
Keith Yandle got his first marker of the playoffs.
May 22, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT
Will we see more goals like that from him before the playoffs are over?
May 22, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT
All three of their teams are still in the running for the Stanley Cup.
May 22, 2015, 7:35 PM EDT
San Jose has been linked to several high profile coaches.
May 22, 2015, 6:31 PM EDT
He was credited with turning around the Red Wings’ power play.
May 22, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT
Will New York be able to contain Tampa Bay this time around?
May 22, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
“No one wants to back up. Everyone wants to play.”
May 22, 2015, 4:34 PM EDT
Not only did the Ducks block 27 shots last night, they clogged up the neutral zone too.
May 22, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
Can’t imagine Teuvo Teravainen was, either.
May 22, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT
Canucks GM witnessed the goalie get a shutout in the AHL playoffs.
May 22, 2015, 1:41 PM EDT
Coach Q: “He’ll need a few days out here. We’ll get an evaluation and go from there.”
May 22, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT
Son of ex-NHLer Brian is off to Boston University next year.
May 22, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT
“It’s been real special, to say the least.”
May 22, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT
The third ‘tender taken at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft had a rough first pro season in North America.
May 22, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Finnish forward joined the organization last year after solid production in the SM-liiga.
May 22, 2015, 12:21 PM EDT
That’s him, with Vladimir Putin.
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