Before the tournament started, Slovenia was dubbed as a team simply "happy to be there." Boy, have they proved their skeptics wrong.
In their inaugural Olympic appearance in men's hockey, the Slovenians are making the most of it. In their preliminary opener, they fought Russia long and hard before losing. Then, they earned their first-ever win by beating Slovakia. Despite losing their preliminary finale against Team USA 5-1, the Slovenes bounced back against Austria, blanking them 4-0 in the qualifying round. From there, the stage is set for a quarter-final matchup against Sweden.
The skeptics would be saying that Sloveni'a run in Sochi may come to an end against Sweden - and they'd have good reason for thinking so.
Despite missing key players to injury such as Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin, the Swedes went undefeated in the preliminary round winning Group C in the process. In their three preliminary games, however, Sweden outscored their opposition 10-5 which, while good, definitely doesn't strike fear into anyone, especially a team who has developed the mentality of not having anything to lose.
The Swedes are led in goal by Henrik Lundqvist and up front by, among others, the ageless Daniel Alfredsson. But Slovenia has Robert Kristan in goal who has been nothing short of solid in net. But as great as he has played, Kristan did just play on Tuesday morning. Only time will tell if fatigue plays a factor for the KHL netminder.
Anze Kopitar may be the only NHLer playing for Slovenia but he has received plenty of support around him. Ziga Jeglic, Tomaz Razingar and David Rodman have all contributed offensively but need to contnue that against their opponents on Wednesday. This is especially so since Sweden won't be making any plans on overlooking their Cinderella opponents.
It should shape up to be a good one.
Enjoy the game!