Four years ago, we watched proudly as Anze Kopitar led Team Slovenia to a stunning seventh-place finish in men’s hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. We rebranded ourselves as SBN Slovenia, learned how to say Jewels from the Crown in Slovenian (“Dragulji iz krone”), took a history lesson, figured out who the other guys on the roster were, and celebrated as Slovenia took down Slovakia and Austria.
Kopitar’s not at these Olympics, of course, and neither is anyone else currently in the NHL. The NHL season hasn’t taken a break, and we still have to write about whatever happens in our area of the world. (Hi, Dion.) Having said that, we had way too much fun in 2014 to ignore the mighty Lynx this time around.
And if there was any reason not to write about Team Slovenia, I think they’ve made it a moot point in just one game. Slovenia came back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to stun the United States in the opening game of the men’s hockey tournament, 3-2 in overtime.
Four years after losing to the Americans 5-1, it wasn’t going much better for the Slovenians this time around, even against a much weaker USA squad. Even before Manchester Monarchs Legend Brian O’Neill kicked off the scoring for the red white and blue, the best scoring chances were going against Slovenia, though only a desperate shot block by Noah Welch prevented Slovenia from taking the lead halfway through the first. Jordan Greenway’s goal in the second made it 2-0, at which point the US made the unfortunate mistake of switching to a prevent defense.
Once Slovenia capitalized on a third period power play to get within 1, they clearly felt like they could complete their recovery, and Jan Mursak got it done with the goalie pulled. Mursak, the only Slovenian not named Anze Kopitar to play in the NHL, capitalized on a loose puck while planted in front of the net to tie it up. Mursak then came out on the first shift of overtime and again scored from close range, bringing Slovenia a dramatic 3-2 win.
Overtime wins are only worth two points out of three, but tell that to Kopitar.
Anything that makes Anze Kopitar happy makes us happy, so stay tuned for more updates on everyone’s favorite underdog.
(As for you, Team USA, I’m jumping back on your bandwagon now that you’re done with this game.)