The Slovenian men’s hockey team had the unlucky draw of facing Team Russia to start the 2014 Sochi games. Team Russia supporters packed the Bolshoy Ice Dome, making it a festive atmosphere and a definite home ice advantage for the Russians.
Things started out as expected: Alex Ovechkin put the Russians on the board a little over a minute into the game, much to the delight of the Russian supporters. Evgeni Malkin put Team Russia up 2-0 two minutes later. It appeared that it was going to be a long and ugly game for Slovenia. However, after that things settled in and Slovenia was able to weather the Russian attack.
Slovenia finally got on the board early in the second, on a Ziga Jeglic goal that brought them back within one. The Russians maintained the one goal lead for the majority of the second period and Ilya Kovalchuk provided some breathing room 17:48 into the period. Ziga Jeglic was not done and once again brought Slovenia back within one a little over a minute later.
With Slovenia keeping the game close, there was already a buzz about a potential Slovenian upset over Team Russia. Was the Russian team collapsing over the immense pressure put on them by the Russian press, government and fans?
Any worries of an upset were quickly quelled in the third period by Team Russia. Valeri Nichushkin put the Russians back up by two 4 minutes into the period. Anton Belov followed suit 4 minutes later. Russian goaltender Semyon Varlamov would stay perfect in the third, and did not surrender another goal.
While the score after two indicated a close game, the Russians out shot Slovenia 35-14. Slovenia’s two goals came on 8 total shots through the first and second periods.
Team Russia is expected to give Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender, and last year’s Vezina trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky a shot in goal on Saturday against the United States. After Varlamov surrendered two goals on only 14 shots against a much weaker Slovenian team, it appears Bobrovsky has a solid chance of stealing the starter role.
The Slovenian team next plays Slovakia on Saturday.