Slovenia overpowers Poland
Slovenia overpowers Poland
Kopitar's return lifts Slovenia to easy win
A goal in each period by the NHL star saw Poland emphatically toppled 6-1. Another of Slovenia's big hitters, Jan Mursak contributed with 1+1 while Blaz Gregorc and Ken Ograjensek both recorded two helpers.
Poland who last featured at the Olympic Winter games in Albertville 1992 can look back at an afternoon they soon want to forget with Krystian Dziubinski scoring Poland's sole marker with 2:48 left of the game.
Slovenia, who made their first appearance at an Olympic ice hockey tournament in Sochi two years ago, top Group D for a place in PyeongChang 2018 after their bright opening day performance.
"Our goal was to win the game, but it is only one win and tomorrow is a new game," said Slovenia's head coach Nik Zupancic trying to keep lid on expectations for what is to come.
Poland who entered the Group D as the lowest ranked teams in Minsk, had their game plan clearly set out ahead of their game.
"We tried to play as hard as we could with the key for us not to give up any goals, and surprise with one or two ourselves," said Poland's defenceman Adam Borzecki.
"But we were perhaps a bit too open against a really strong team and we made a couple of mistakes and it cost us goals as they capitalised on their chances."
Poland's game plan held out until 4:10 left of the first frame. During their third consecutive minor penalty, Kopitar stepped up to convert a rebound to open the scoring. Before the period was over Rok Ticar combined with Ziga Jeglic, with the latter doubling Slovenia's lead at 17:38.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, played at the end of April at the 2016 World Championship Division IA, Poland prevailed thanks to a strong second period showing as they rallied back to 4-1 win.
This time around, Slovenia proved to be a different propositon. Mursak, one of Slovenia's returning stars, picked up the puck from his own defensive zone and surged ahead to beat Przemyslaw Odrobny in Poland's net with a backhand for Slovenia's third. At 24:46 Kopitar added Slovenia's unanswered fourth and before the middle frame was over a top drawer finished by Ales Kranjc had made it 5-0.
The teams had barely got out of the ice for the final frame when Slovenia wasted little time to add a sixth unanswered goal as Kopitar completed his hat-trick with an emphatic low strike.
With the game already well dead and buried, Kroselj's shutout big held out until 2:48 to go when a Pawel Dronia looping pass from defensive zone, saw Dziubinski race clear to hit home high past Slovenia's netminder.
As Poland look to lick their wounds and aim for an improved performance against hosts Belarus tomorrow evening, Denmark awaits for Slovenia. For Zupancic, it is Denmark who will enter tomorrow's battle feeling the height of expectations.
"Denmark are a really creative team who play with a lot of passion and a lot of skill. In my opinion the favourite of this tournament," he said.
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