The Slovenian National Hockey Team Qualified for the Olympic Winter Games 2018

For the second time in a row, the “Lynxes” won the Olympic license.

After an intriguing end of the meeting and a series of shootouts, Slovenia beat Belarus in Minsk and qualified for the OWG 2018.

The Slovenian national hockey team scored three wins in a row in the qualifying tournament in Minsk and will participate in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games 2018 in South Korea. It beat Poland (6:1), Denmark (3:0) and Belarus (3:2).

Minsk. The Slovenian national hockey team made a new sports feat by winning a series of shootouts over the host and favourite of the qualifying tournament — the national team of Belarus. The first place in the qualifying tournament provided the Slovenes with the cherished ticket to the Olympic Winter Games 2018. At the Games in South Korea in February 2018, the same as in Sochi 2014, Slovenia will challenge teams from the US, Russia and Slovakia. Germany, the Riga tournament winner, and Norway, as the best in the home tournament in Oslo, also qualified successfully for the OWG.

In the capital of the Republic of Belarus, you can hardly find a fan who does not remember the famous world championship, which took place two years ago (in May 2014). The modern Minsk-Arena was then packed to capacity. The same full house was on the day of the match against Slovenia. Already a half hour before the meeting, numerous fans of the Belarusian national team gathered at the arena. They would have probably come much earlier, but the traffic along the central avenue towards the arena was limited due to the half-marathon, which was held the same day. Those who looked forward to the victory of local hockey players over the Slovenes expected for an even more festive atmosphere. However, the latter had their own opinion on this subject. That was felt from the first minutes of the match. The “Lynxes” not for a single moment feared the star players from Belarus, who, despite the enthusiastic support of native fans, could hardly hide their increased nervousness. It was quite clear that the second consecutive absenteeism of the Belarusians at the Olympic football tournament, besides again for the reason of losing to Slovenia, would be a tragedy for the nation.

In fact, the Zupančič’s trainees controlled cleverly and skilfully the course of events on the field, and only occasionally allowed the hosts to carry out dangerous attacks, resembling the best examples of the last years games with their discipline and total dedication. Individual skills of Anže Kopitar and his teammates promised new goals to the host’s gates. In the first third, there were no goals scored, but later something happened that silenced 15,000 fans on the stands.

During the second third, the Slovenian team twice crowned their numerical advantage with a goal. Rok Tičar made a brace. However, the road to the Olympic Games was still closed. The goalkeeper Gašper Krošelj saved the team selflessly for several times. His rival, the hosts’ goalkeeper Michael Karnaukhov, also behaved worthily. With the warm support of the fans, the Belarusians ones managed to find the net. The Slovenes replied with wide balls by Žiga Pance and Jan Urbas (from the penalty). The defender Aleš Kranjc, who had the cheekbone and nose injuries, prematurely ended the thrust match. The Belarusians managed to equalize the score, but it did not bother the Slovenian players. They continued looking for a chance at the rival’s net and created more possibilities for goals than their opponents did.

The fate of a pass to South Korea could have been decided during the overtime, but since it also did not define the winner, the time for shootouts started. The Slovenian heroes were the best there — the goalkeeper Gašper Krošelj, Anže Kopitar, the NHL star and a rising KHL star — Rok Tičar.