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 3, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT
Yeah, it was quite a goal from No. 8.
May 2, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
Didn’t waste time getting on the board in Game 2.
May 2, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
But it doesn’t sound like there will be a dramatic, sudden return.
May 2, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
“You only have one life, enjoy it.”
May 2, 2015, 7:59 PM EDT
Without a goal in this post-season.
May 2, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT
Minnesota almost completed the comeback in Game 1.
May 2, 2015, 5:43 PM EDT
“Since the voting period began, we’ve received an astounding 20.4 million votes…”
May 2, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
The Caps were out-shot 15-4 and out-scored 2-0 in the opening 20.
May 2, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Lundqvist made 30 saves as New York edged Washington 3-2 in Game 2.
May 2, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT
The highlight-reel goal pulls the Caps to within one.
May 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
He suffered a lower body injury on Friday.
May 2, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Paperwork filed for environmental study.
May 2, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT
One of four first period saves made by the Rangers’ starter.
May 2, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT
Opened the scoring 38 seconds in.
May 2, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT
Puck drop is at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
May 2, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT
He made his NHL debut in April.
May 2, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT
He didn’t play a shift in the third period of Thursday’s loss.
May 2, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
How a conversation in Vegas changed the forward’s game.
May 2, 2015, 1:41 AM EDT
Been through adversity before this season.
May 2, 2015, 12:28 AM EDT
- Rangers hang on, even series with Caps 55
- Video: Ovechkin splits ‘D’, scores while falling 31
- Flames’ Gaudreau wasn’t happy with benching in Game 1 1
- Video: Blackhawks hold off Wild to take series lead 23
- Video: Therrien fuming after Bolts appear offside before OT winner 45
- Video: Lightning bolt to series lead on Kucherov’s double OT winner 14
- WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup Playoff action 8
- Report: BOG to vote on Vegas expansion in September 1
- Vigneault: ‘Standards have been set’ after Ovechkin, Backstrom hits 100
- Howard won’t demand trade out of Detroit 19
- Niklas Kronwall suspended for Game 7 vs. Tampa Bay (116)
- Vigneault: ‘Standards have been set’ after Ovechkin, Backstrom hits (101)
- Another Blues campaign ends in disappointment as Wild advance (99)
- Friedman: Penguins need to ‘think about’ trading Malkin (89)
- Report: Developers file intent to build arena in Seattle suburb (81)