Olympics

Kopitar leads Slovenia into hockey quarterfinals

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CBC
2/18/2014 6:26:38 AM
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Anze Kopitar scored 5:29 into the first period to help Slovenia beat Austria 4-0 on Tuesday in the qualification round of the Sochi Olympics, extending the experience of playing for his father in international competition.

The Olympic hockey rookies will face top-seeded and 2006 Olympic champion Sweden on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Kopitar, who plays for the Los Angeles Kings, is the only NHL player on the Slovenia squad. His father, Matjaz, is the national team's coach.

Robert Kristan had a 30-save shutout for the Slovenes, and he got plenty of support offensively.

Jan Urbas scored a short-handed goal midway through the first period, and Sabahudin Kovacevic's slap shot put Slovenia up 3-0 early in the second.

Austria called timeout late in the game to add an extra skater and Slovenia's Jan Mursak took advantage with an empty-net goal.

The Austrians lost their first two games by a combined score of 14-4 to Finland and Canada before beating Norway 3-1 in their final game of the preliminary round.

Their goaltender, Mathias Lange, made 31 saves.

Kopitar beat him with a shot from the slot early in the game, and that proved to be the only goal the feel-good team needed to keep playing in the tournament it wasn't expected to be in a little more than a year ago.

Slovenia earned a surprising spot in the Sochi Games by knocking off Belarus, Ukraine and Denmark in last year's qualification tournament.

It was an impressive accomplishment for a hockey team ranked 17th in the world from a nation with fewer than 2 million people, only seven hockey rinks and only one professional team.

Instead of being just satisfied to be here, Slovenia beat usually steady Slovakia 3-1 in the preliminary round.

Austria, meanwhile, is eliminated with one victory and three lopsided losses.

Slovenia got two key players back in the playoff round.

Kopitar didn't finish the previous game against the U.S. because of flu-like symptoms. Kovacevic was suspended for the previous game for hitting Slovakia forward Tomas Kopecky in the head with his left elbow in a game last week.

Slovenia celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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