Photo: AFP/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND
Slovenia was supposed to be the butt end of jokes in Olympic hockey. They were supposed to compete with Latvia for last place. Instead, they finished in seventh place in a pool of 12 teams. They managed to win one of their round robin games and shutout Austria to get into the quarterfinals.
The Slovenians were making life tough for the Swedes through the first 40 minutes and Robert Kristan did everything he could to give his team a chance to at least tie the game. The lone goal in the first period came on the powerplay as Alex Steen converted on a powerplay. Slovenia was doing a pretty good job in the first, but hurt themselves by taking too many penalties, which led to Steen’s goal.
The second period was all about Robert Kristan while Henrik Lundqvist did his best not to fall asleep. No truth to the rumor that the Swedes pulled Lundqvist and replaced him with a shooter tutor. Slovenia was outshot nearly 2-1 in the second, ending the period with only five shots on goal, none of which were credited to Kopitar.
Things started to unravel quickly in the third period for the Slovenians. They were still desperately clinging to a one goal deficit when a Daniel Sedin goal opened the floodgates for Sweden. Loui Eriksson fed Sedin from behind the net who standing all alone in front and easily buried it. Sweden tried hard to allow Slovenia back in the game by taking a couple penalties and even allowing a shorthanded opportunity, but no dice for Slovenia. Eriksson and Carl Hagelin both scored in the latter half of the period to secure Sweden’s victory and a place in the semifinals.
So the team that had become a dark horse for a possible medal came up short as they were unable to top Sweden’s high powered offense. But for a country with a population of approximately two million people, less than 900 hockey players and only seven ice rinks, it was a proud moment in spite of the outcome. A team that was expected to finish dead last fought and clawed their way into the quarterfinals while facing some extremely difficult competition. They were able to hang on with the U.S. and Russians, handily beat Austria and topped Slovakia all of whom featured more NHL players than Slovenia, who only had Anze Kopitar and Jan Mursak as the guys with NHL experience.
It was a great first Olympics for this hockey team that went farther than anyone could’ve predicted and (presumably) no one involved regrets a thing.
— Anze Kopitar (@AnzeKopitar) February 19, 2014