Skip to content

Slovenes have ‘heads up high’ after Olympic elimination, and rightly so

Feb 19, 2014, 9:06 AM EDT

Slovenia2 AP

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.”

Latest Posts
  1. Sharks’ goalie Niemi pulled early in third period

    Apr 25, 2014, 12:48 AM EDT

    Sharks Kings Hockey AP

    They’ll rest him for Game 5 – unless San Jose comes back.

  2. Wild hold off late Avalanche push to even series at 2-2

    Apr 25, 2014, 12:16 AM EDT

    Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild - Game Four Getty Images

    All Minny in this one, as we said earlier.

  3. Marchand was so relieved Boston won, he ‘kissed’ Iginla

    Apr 25, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT

    marchandap AP

    Insert “Did he miss Iginla’s head?” jokes.

  4. Video: Sheppard shows hand-eye coordination to even the score for Sharks

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT

    San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four Getty Images

    Timing of the goal couldn’t have been better for San Jose.

  5. Video: Brad Marchand misses the mark a few times

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT

    Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings Getty Images

    His haters rejoice on Thursday (at least so far).

  6. WATCH LIVE: San Jose Sharks at L.A. Kings

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT

    San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three Getty Images

    L.A. looking to stave off elimination.

  7. Selanne brushes off healthy scratch

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT

    Teemu Selanne AP

    “No hard feelings.”

  8. Monster of a surprise: Red Wings start Gustavsson over Howard

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    jonasgustavssonap AP

    It’s due to flu-like symptoms for Detroit’s normal starter.

  9. All signs point to Zetterberg playing for Red Wings in Game 4

    Apr 24, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT

    Mike Richards, Henrik Zetterberg AP

    This post will be updated if there’s a late swerve.

  10. WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Detroit Red Wings (Game 4)

    Apr 24, 2014, 7:31 PM EDT

    Brad Marchand, Tomas Tatar, Mark Shewchyk, Scot Driscoll AP

    Whether Henrik Zetterberg can go or not.

  11. PHT Extra: Why so many blown leads? Does Fleury have the yips?

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT

    Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Getty Images

    He sure looked yippy last night night in Columbus.

Featured video

No lead is safe in the playoffs?
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. D. Backes (3333)
  2. M. Duchene (2344)
  3. B. Bishop (2130)
  4. H. Zetterberg (2094)
  5. S. Mason (2082)
  1. T. Oshie (1986)
  2. N. MacKinnon (1938)
  3. R. Getzlaf (1578)
  4. T. Bertuzzi (1546)
  5. B. Seabrook (1445)