Slovenia blanks Denmark
Scandinavian hopes extinguished after 3-0 loss
Unsong heroes Sabahudin Kovacevic and Ales Music fired Slovenia ahead to a two-goal cushion in their pivotal second match against Denmark in Group D. Jan Urbas added a late goal as Slovenia rolled on to a 3-0 with Gasper Kroselj recording a shutout with 32 saves.
Slovenia's second consecutive win at the Final Olympic Qualification mean they are now one game from sealing a ticket to PyeongChang 2018.
"We knew we had to skate really well in all zones and be disciplined in the neutral zone and I think it was the key for us because we take a lot of pucks off them from the neutral zone and counter attack on them," said a delighted Slovenia's defenseman Kovacevic in his post-match interview.
Despite outshooting their opponents 32-21, Denmark failed to find the offensive spark required. With two straight defeats Denmark is down and out in their hopes of reaching their historical first Olympic ice hockey tournament.
"First and second period is ok," said a dejected Denmark's national team coach Jan Karlsson. "But after their second goal our power went out."
An edgy goalless first period saw the Scandinavians win the shots on goal 10-4 and dominate puck possession.
"Technically and skating wise Denmark is really good, so there is no point for us to race against them in that way as then we would then lose," said Slovenia's head coach Nik Zupancic
A sloppy defensive play by Philip Larsen was picked up by Kovacevic who barged ahead to break the deadlock in this pivotal encounter at 24:18, firing a wrister past Frederik Andersen.
With a 1-0 lead, Slovenia shut up shop reminiscent of their last competitive meeting against the Danes, at the 2015 World Championship when the Central Europeans ran out as winners thanks to a sole strike.
When Mitja Robar served a five minute boarding call for Slovenia and then just 18 seconds later was joined by Urbas as the Central Europeans were fielding too many men, Denmark got their big chance to try and hit back.
While Larsen directed most of the play from the point, the Scandinavians seemed to lack any cutting edge in their offensive play as Slovenia weathered the storm to the joy of their travelling contingent of supporters.
"The turning point in the game was when we managed to survive that penalty kill which gave the team a great boost," said Zupancic.
The game tilted further into Slovenia's favour when Anze Kuralt barrelled down the left side to pick out Music in the slot who fired home 2-0 after 49:18.
But when the expected frantic rally from Denmark never gathered momentum, it was Urbas who streched Slovenia's lead to 3-0 on a powerplay with 2:11 left of the game when he fired home a slapper from the slot after Anze Kopitar had squeezed past Jesper B Jensen from the right wing.
While Slovenia one game away from their second consecutive Olympics, it is deja all over for Denmark. During the Final Qualification for Sochi 2014 they lost against both Belarus and Slovenia just as in Minsk this year.
Having mustered two goals from their 64 shots over two games Denmark will now be looking to restore some pride in final game against Poland. Meanwhile, Slovenia's head coach is doing his best to put lid on the expectations ahead of their final day showdown in Group D versus Belarus on Sunday.
"There is no time to celebrate but just to prepare for our final game which will come down to 60 minutes of play, so let's see what will happen," he said.