It was a big day for the home country as the Russian national ice hockey team began its quest for Sochi gold. The crowd showed up fashionably late and may have missed the first of five Russian goals in the process, not that it stopped the chants and horns throughout the game. In the end, Team Russia’s high powered offense proved to be too much for Team Slovenia, as the Russians beat the Slovenians, 5-2.
Just 77 seconds into the game, a pass by Alexander Semin caused a two-on-one between Malkin and Ovechkin. A quick shot by Ovechkin gave Russia the lead, as the Russian star crashed into the boards in celebration. Just minutes later, Ovechkin sprung Malkin for a chance to go in alone against the Slovenian goaltender, Robert Kristan, a chance which the center converted. The game seemed to be heading toward a blowout, but the Slovenians quickly righted the ship.
Ziga Jeglic scored for Team Slovenia early in the second period to reduce Russia’s lead to one. It was the first Olympic hockey goal in Slovenian history, as they made their first appearance in the ice hockey portion of the Olympic games. Slovenia has a small presence in the National Hockey League, with Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar being the only Slovenian standout. The Detroit Red Wings also have Slovenian Olympian, Jan Mursak, in their American Hockey League affiliate. Kopitar’s father, Matjas, is the coach of the Slovenian Olympic hockey team. The nation hopes to put up a good showing in Sochi and continue their Olympic hockey program in 2018 and beyond. Kopitar calls the Olympic appearance a great success “not only for our sport, but for our nation.”
The Russian goaltender Semyon Varlamov was unable to see the shot for the first Slovenian goal, as Varlamov was screened by his own defenseman as the shot was taken. Just like that, momentum shifted towards the Slovenians, who forced turnovers and created chances off a Russian team that seemed to be caught on its heels. Despite the worse offense and despite being heavily outshot, Team Slovenia was proving too much for the Russians to handle as they gave the home team fits. In Sochi, the ice hockey momentum has shifted back and forth in many games, and audiences have been riveted by the often high-scoring match-ups.
But it would be Team Russia who scored next, getting a goal from Ilya Kovalchuk on the powerplay late in the second period. It was a two-goal lead for the Russians again, but that lead wouldn’t last long. Just over a minute after the Russians made it 3-1, Jeglic would score his second goal of the game to make it a one-goal game heading into the final period. That would be as close as the Slovenians would get.
Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov scored two quick goals in the third period, solidifying Team Russia’s lead and leaving the Slovenian goaltender sprawling on the ice. That seemed to take the wind out of the sails of Team Slovenia, who battled hard in the first two periods. They barely caused a stir for the remainder of the game. The Russian offense, highly touted coming into the Sochi ice hockey competition, proved to be too much for Team Slovenia in the end as expected. Team Russia beat Team Slovenia by a final score of 5-2.
By Jonathan Gardner