Article written by Casey Courtright - Community Contributor
History Made as Slovenia Takes Down Slovakia
Nobody could’ve seen this coming before the tournament started.
Slovenia entered the Olympics with one NHL player, one KHL player, and everyone else playing in various leagues while Slovakia had plenty of NHL and KHL-experienced players. Even after the Slovenians kept with Russia and Slovakia was annihilated by Team USA, the Slovaks were heavy favorites going into this one.
But that didn’t stop Slovenia from making history.
Behind 27 saves by Robert Kristan and captain Tomaz Razinger’s game winning goal, Slovenia won an Olympic hockey game for the first time in the nation’s history, prevailing 3-1 over Slovakia at Bolshoy Ice Dome early Saturday morning. Tomas Jurco had the lone Slovak goal.
First period was relatively back and forth, neither team getting much pressure aside from a Slovenia power play off of a hook by Martin Marincin which prevented an open shot for Robert Sabolic. Scary moment for Slovakia midway through as Sabahudin Kovacevic hit Tomas Kopecky with his head down, and Kopecky skated off very wobbly. With Marian Gaborik, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Tomas Marcinko already done for the tournament, another serious injury is the last thing Slovakia needs.
The injury seemed to aggravate the Slovaks and spark some life as they took over the play late in the first until Tomas Surovy then tripped up Robert Sabolic in the offensive zone, giving Slovenia a power play. The Slovenians pressured on the power play, but couldn’t cash in. The buzzer sounded with the game still scoreless and 24 seconds to go on the Slovenia power play.
Slovakia killed off the remaining 24 seconds of the power play and got the first big chance of the game when Milan Bartovic and Tomas Surovy surged on a two on one, but Robert Kristan made a sensational pad save. Slovenia took momentum from the save and Anze Kopitar nearly banked one in off the back of Jaroslav Halak’s pad as Halak lost sight of the puck. Late in the period, Slovenia ran into penalty trouble, which led to a brief 5 on 3 for Slovakia in which the Slovaks did nothing. The period ended, still scoreless, and still with some time on the Slovakia power play.
Slovenia finished the penalty kill from the second and then got a power play of their own. Anze Kopitar had a wide open net early in the man advantage but Ivan Baranka made a dazzling diving block with Halak out of position.
Still on the power play, the Slovenians took advantage of a turnover by Andrej Sekera as Ziga Jeglic set up Rok Ticar’s backhanded that slipped through the pads of Halak, giving Slovenia its first Olympic lead ever, and how fitting that it was Jeglic, who scored the nation’s first two Olympic goals against the Russians, setting up this goal. Slovenia took a 1-0 lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Slovakia as Halak lost sight of the puck on a shot again. Jan Urbas took a shot from the wing that Halak stopped, but he couldn’t find the rebound. Slovenia captain Tomaz Razingar did, and Slovenia’s lead was doubled to 2-0. The Slovenian onslaught kept coming, as just over a minute later Kopitar drew Halak out of position and outwaited him before firing a dart top shelf. All of a sudden it was 3-0 Slovenia, and the hockey world’s collective jaws were on the floor.
Late in the period, with less than two minutes to go, the Slovaks got themselves a power play, one they couldn’t afford to fail on after either failing or negating all of their previous attempts. With 17.8 seconds to go, Tomas Jurco banked one in off a mad scramble, but all that does is break Kristan’s shutout; the Slovenians still earned the historic win.
Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves in a losing cause. It’ll be interesting to see if Slovakia turns to one of Peter Budaj or Jan Laco against Russia.
Player of the Game
I’m going to give this to Tomaz Razingar, the Slovenian captain. He’s been a staple on the team since 2001, and he’s been captain for four years. It’s fitting how he scored the game winning goal. This was a win for him, and for his team.
Note, Scores and highlights can be found at our Scoreboard!