The Norwegians scored their winning 2:1 goal 4 minutes into overtime, when Alexander Bonsaksen managed to beat Slovenia’s goalkeeper Gašper Krošelj. The Lynx have missed out on a great opportunity. After thrilling everyone in South Korea with their group stage performance, bringing the US and Slovakia to their knees and finishing second only to Russia, Slovenia had a nice opportunity to improve its remarkable success from Sochi 2014 when it played in the quarter-finals and finished eighth. In the play-off ranking in Pyeongchang Slovenia placed sixth, which means that it will now end the Olympic tournament in ninth position.
The Slovenian team received bad news going into today’s match. All of a sudden, the nice story being written by the Lynx in Pyeongchang was stained, and it seems that the stain will not be that easy to clean. Žiga Jeglič, an important member of the team, tested positive for doping. He was immediately suspended from the Olympic Games and Anže Kuralt had to jump in and replace him in the match against Norway. Žiga was with his teammates for the morning skating session, but had to leave the team right before the match. This is his second consecutive suspension at a big tournament. Last year at the Ice Hockey World Championship for a kicking violation, and this year because of a careless doping violation.
"We suffered from inefficiency"
The players say the incident did not affect them or the result, and declined to comment the Jeglič doping issue any further. "Of course it wasn’t easy. It was not an easy situation, but the players stayed in good spirit throughout the match. You could see that on the ice. Otherwise, I really don’t know the details and have no further comment," said coach Kari Savolainen. Because of its excellent group stage results Slovenia faced Norway in the play-off match. Norway was second to last in the play-off ranking. But the Scandinavians, who play a specific style of ice hockey, have been the better team in the two teams’ recent head-to-head encounters. Their style of play clearly doesn’t suit the Slovenians. At the 2013 and 2015 world championships Norway was the better team with 3:1, and last year in France it was 5:1 for Norway.
However, the Lynx had a very good start to the match at the Olympic arena in Gangneung. They quickly created several chances and managed to score in the seventh minute, taking advantage of a power play situation and Norway’s lack of discipline. From the left wing Jan Muršak made an excellent pass to the other side to Jan Urbas. They combined that play three times, and it was third time the charm for Urbas when he managed to beat the excellent Norwegian goalie Lars Haugen.
"We played a very good match but sadly it’s the result that counts and not how you played. We had a lot of chances, which we could have, and should have taken advantage of. The Norwegians were a bit lucky and sadly that’s how it ended. We are disappointed. We knew before the match that we were quicker, stronger, and maybe even better. We proved that but suffered from inefficiency. We played three matches really well and will take the positive aspects from them, but it is hard after losing a match when you were the better team. It does have a bitter aftertaste, but life is short and you mustn’t look too negatively on such things. After some time we’ll remember and look back at these Games in a positive light," said the scorer of Slovenia’s only goal, Urbas.
If you don’t score, you concede
The Lynx had several great chances to score, especially in power play situations as the Norwegians received a total of twelve penalty minutes, while the Slovenians only four. But goalkeeper Haugen was always at the right place, and in those situations when he was beaten, the puck went flying only inches from the goal or hit the post. Another post, in the closing minutes of the match, denied a Slovenian celebration. In the first two periods Slovenia was the better team with the shots statistics 25:13 in favour of Slovenia, which was unable to score a second goal. And then, three minutes into the third period, Norway equalized through Tommy Kristiansen. In the minutes that followed Norway was the better team, but towards the end Slovenia started playing well again and created several more nice chances, which it always failed to exploit. They were punished for that in overtime.
"If we look at the last minutes, the last goal was really unlucky. It was a really close match and we did have our chances. Unfortunately, there is a sport rule which says that if you don’t score, you concede. Twice at this tournament we were lucky in overtime, but not this third time. We wanted to dominate, as in recent years we’ve always had problems with the Norwegians. We wanted to be tough and strong, but remain calm at the same time. I think we managed that pretty well," concluded the Finnish expert on the Slovenian bench, coach Savolainen.