It took a few games against other struggling teams, but Slovenia finally found its groove as this year’s World Championship Division I Group A competition came to a close.
In a crucial game on Sunday, where Slovenia needed a win to avoid relegation, they scored nine goals on Lithuania. 25-year old goaltender Luka Gračnar, who played in three of Slovenia’s five games, had his second shutout of the tournament, stopping all 31 shots he faced.
Gračnar finished the tournament with the best save percentage of all goalies, at 0.965, and the 1.01 goals against average, the lowest of all goalies.
Slovenia got out to a quick start in their final game of the tournament, opening scoring at just under four minutes into the first period. While Slovenia didn’t score on the power play during the game, nearly all of their goals came almost immediately after the conclusion of a power play, showing that they retained possession and continued to be a threat even when Lithuania was back to full strength.
Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist in the game. His assist was on Slovenia’s opening goal:
First blood to Slovenia (@lovehokej) in the first game of the last day of the Div 1A Worlds. Robert Sabolic, Anže Kopitar of the @LAKings picks up his tournament leading fifth assist pic.twitter.com/qg1f0f4iP6— Oliver Hampson (@OliverJHampson) May 5, 2019
And his goal? Pure Kopitar magic.
HOLY MOLY! Look at this goal from @AnzeKopitar in @lovehokej's game against Lithuania! Slovenia is on its way to maintain in the Div. IA with the 4-0 lead, Lithuania on its way to relegation. CC @LAKings pic.twitter.com/1gpxIzXP82— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 5, 2019
Kopitar finished the tournament with two goals and five assists over five games. He led all skaters in the tournament in assists and his seven points had him tied with three other players, including countryman Jan Drozg, for the lead in overall points.
Slovenia led the tournament in total goals with 21. With four power play goals, the Slovenian team had the second best power play, with a success rate of 22.22%. They struggled on the penalty kill, coming in fifth out of six teams with a kill rate of 76.47%. The Slovenian team allowed four goals while shorthanded.
While a fourth-place finish isn’t what Slovenia had hoped for, coming into the tournament, they were also playing without several of their regular national team players.
At the conclusion of the tournament, Slovenia announced its intention to bid to host the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship for Division I Group A. If selected, the competition will most likely be held at Arena Stozice in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city.