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.”
Apr 25, 2014, 2:44 AM EDT
That game is on Saturday.
Apr 25, 2014, 2:19 AM EDT
Apr 25, 2014, 1:55 AM EDT
Yet this game was close on the score board.
Apr 25, 2014, 1:32 AM EDT
San Jose can’t complete the sweep.
Apr 25, 2014, 12:48 AM EDT
They’ll rest him for Game 5 – unless San Jose comes back.
Apr 25, 2014, 12:16 AM EDT
All Minny in this one, as we said earlier.
Apr 25, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT
Insert “Did he miss Iginla’s head?” jokes.
Apr 24, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT
Timing of the goal couldn’t have been better for San Jose.
Apr 24, 2014, 11:19 PM EDT
Boston wins it on an odd goal.
Apr 24, 2014, 11:19 PM EDT
All Minny through two – except on the score board.
Apr 24, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT
His haters rejoice on Thursday (at least so far).
Apr 24, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT
Out of his control, however.
Apr 24, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT
L.A. looking to stave off elimination.
Apr 24, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT
“No hard feelings.”
Apr 24, 2014, 9:18 PM EDT
More playoff hockey.
Apr 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
It’s due to flu-like symptoms for Detroit’s normal starter.
Apr 24, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT
This post will be updated if there’s a late swerve.
Apr 24, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT
Whether Henrik Zetterberg can go or not.
Apr 24, 2014, 6:25 PM EDT
He’s glad the former got some playoff reps, though.
Apr 24, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT
He sure looked yippy last night night in Columbus.
- ‘We’re going into the cage,’ says Kings’ coach Sutter about Game 5 0
- Kings stave off elimination, force Game 5 against Sharks 21
- Wild hold off late Avalanche push to even series at 2-2 53
- Bruins scratch out OT win, push Red Wings to brink 42
- WATCH LIVE: San Jose Sharks at L.A. Kings 0
- WATCH LIVE: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild (Game 4) 5
- Monster of a surprise: Red Wings start Gustavsson over Howard 5
- WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings (Game 4) 2
- Bylsma rips Penguins, calls effort level ‘troubling’ 64
- Cooke: I didn’t intend to collide knee-on-knee with Barrie 99
- Video: Seabrook ejected for charging Backes; will face hearing (update) (153)
- Bad luck strikes twice: Lightning goal waved off, Stamkos takes knee to head (137)
- Keith doesn’t remember if he taunted Backes after Seabrook hit (125)
- Video: Lucic spears DeKeyser from behind (118)
- Wild’s Cooke offered in-person hearing for knee-on-knee collision with Barrie (111)