Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Austria vs. Slovenia Recap

Before 2014, Slovenia had never won a game in Olympic competition. They hadn't even qualified for the Olympics. Now they've won two games and they're in the quarterfinals after beating Austria 4-0. Yet another reason to love Olympic hockey.

Austria played with no emotion, until near the end of the game when the only emotion they showed was frustration. They could have come into this game relaxed and loose. Or they could have played with an intense aggressiveness. Either would have been better than the clinical and sterile game they tried to play.

Austria featured three NHL players, including Thomas Vanek. Slovenia has only one NHL player (Anze Kopitar). There's only one pro hockey team in Slovenia, and it plays in Austria's league. There are only 7 hockey rinks in Slovenia. Norfolk County in Massachusetts has more rinks than that.

Most of the Austrian team plays in the Austrian league, while the Slovenian team is comprised of players who play in leagues across Europe. There are representatives from the French Ligue Magnus, the German DEL, the Swedish HockeyAllsvenskan (Sweden's second highest league), Austria's EBEL, the KHL, two Czech leagues, and the Slovak Extraliga.

Maybe that diversity is why the Slovenian national team is able to play above its talent level. They play with pride for their country. They're fighters. They're willing to play anywhere and everywhere just to play the game.

It might also help that 13 players come from the same town (Jesenice)

Anze Kopitar (NHL) scored Slovenia's first goal on the power play, then Jan Urbas (Germany's DEL) scored a shorthanded goal. Sabahudin Kovacevic (Russia's Supreme Hockey League, which is a step below the KHL), scored Slovenia's third goal. Jan Mursak (KHL) scored an empty-netter. Mursak also had an assist. Marcel Rodman (DEL) had two assists. Goalie Robert Kristan (Slovak Extraliga) stopped all 30 shots he faced.

Slovenia advance to play top-seeded Sweden. I don't think Slovenia will win, but they won't be eliminated without a fight.

I really do like this team. They just need to get better uniforms.

Photo Credit:
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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