Sochi Preview: USA vs. Slovenia; Quick & Brown vs. Kopitar (Feb.16/14; 7:30am PST)
Photo credit: Morry Gash/AP Photo
On Saturday, they celebrated an epic shootout win over Team Russia and on Sunday, they hope to close out their preliminary schedule undefeated. After defeating Slovakia, then Russia, Team USA will next face off against a Slovenian team that has already proven to be the dark horse of this tournament.
Before the preliminary round started, critics were saying that Slovenia was simply happy to be there, especially considering Anze Kopitar is the only NHLer on his country's roster. But to their immense credit, the Slovenes have given their opponents fits. After keeping Russia at arm's length on Thursday, Slovenia defeated Slovakia early Saturday morning in what many are calling an upset.
While Kopitar has a goal and an assist to his record thus far, the Slovenes are getting support from captain Tomaz Razingar who has a goal so far and Ziga Jeglic who leads the club with a pair of tallies already. But the arguably the most valuable player on the Slovenian side has to be netminder Robert Kristan who has, so far, frustrated some of the NHL's best. But his biggest test will come on Sunday morning against a powerful United States team.
As for Team USA, they spent their Saturday morning showing the rest of the world the resolve they possess. After allowing the game's first goal and almost the game-winner in regulation, the Americans hung in there. Then in the shootout, the US were down to their final shooter three times but overcame defeat each time before ultimately winning - and that was thanks to the resiliency of St. Louis's TJ Oshie who kept shooting for the US in the extra session. Oshie finished Saturday's game a hero and hopes to extend his luck on Sunday.
As for as the Los Angeles Kings go, there was some controversy brewing following Saturday's US/Russia game. Netminder Jonathan Quick had accidentally knocked his net off its moorings ultimately costing the Russians a goal. Kings teammate Slava Voynov told reporters that a move like that is Quick's style. Of course, in what context that was said is unknown.
But with Voynov in his rearview mirror for the time being, Jonathan Quick must focus on a way to stop another Kings teammate: the aforementioned Anze Kopitar, among others. It will be fascinating to see what gives between these two Kings. While Slovenia is a sentimental favourite of this tournament, Team USA simply want to stay undefeated heading into the medal round with as much momentum as possible.
Enjoy the game!