Slovenia qualifies for Sochi
The Slovenian men’s ice hockey team qualified for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics following a 2-1 upset over host Denmark in Group F Olympic qualifying in Vojens on Friday. On Thursday, Slovenia had upset higher-ranked Belarus, 4-2.
Jesenice native David Rodman, who plays in Germany’s 2nd Bundesliga and spent two years with the QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs from 2001-03, scored both goals in Slovenia’s historic victory.
“This is a miracle,” said Matjaz Kopitar, Anze Kopitar’s father and the head coach of the Slovenian national team. Slovenia will be placed in Group A in Sochi, where they’ll compete against the host Russia, Slovakia and the United States. Slovenia was ranked 18th in the 2012 Men’s World Rankings. Denmark was ranked 12th; Belarus 13th.
Anze’s brother, Gasper, appeared in both Slovenian wins. When I traveled to Mora, Sweden on assignment with FOX Sports during the lockout, I asked Anze about being on the ice when Gasper, 20, scored his first professional goal. “I think I was probably happier than him,” he said. The two appeared together in a pre-Olympic friendly evaluation tournament in Ljubljana last November, marking Anze’s first appearance with the national team in nearly five years.
No decision has been made on whether NHL players will be released for the 2014 Olympics, though it is a near-certainty that they will. Scott Burnside of ESPN.com has an explanation of the procedural hurdles that remain before the agreement is finalized.
We’ll have comments from Kopitar and his teammates following practice on Saturday. The team was off Friday.