Anze Kopitar already had a pretty impressive resume. He was the first Slovenian player in the NHL, has been named to two All-Star teams, and has won the Stanley Cup, but today’s 3-1 win against Slovakia could be one of the things he’s most known for in his home country long after his career is over.
It might not seem like a big deal compared to his other feats, but for a nation of a little more than two million people to come away with a win in its first ever trip to the Olympics, this is a special moment.
We got our first indication that something like this could happen when Slovenia held its own at times against Russia. While that was largely looked at in the context of what it said about the Russian squad, Slovenia has shown that it’s capable of more than what many would assume.
Perhaps it helps that, unlike Russia, which has the weight of a nation on its shoulders, or Slovakia, which was trying to live up to its impressive fourth place finish in 2010, Slovenia entered these games with rock bottom expectations.
“I don’t think the guys were nervous, not against Russia, not against Slovakia today, because we don’t have anything to lose,” said 34-year-old forward Tomaz Razingar, per the Olympic News Service.
He was playing in Sweden’s second-tier hockey league before the Olympics. He scored the opening goal against Jaroslav Halak.
“It’s kind of a miracle, but we know inside the locker room that we have good hockey players who can play at the top level,” said 30-year-old goaltender Robert Kristan.
He plays hockey in the Slovak league and today turned aside 27 of 28 shots, including four from Marian Hossa.
Slovenia’s next game is against the United States and it’s likely that this win will be the highlight of the tournament for Slovenia. Even still, if nothing else, Kopitar is hoping at least one thing comes from all of this.
“I hope now they’re not going to mix us up with Slovakia anymore,” he said.