Slovenes score high
by Martin Merk|06 FEB 2020
The Slovenian players celebrate a goal in their high-score win against Lithuania.
photo: Drago Cvetanovic
It was two lopsided affairs on Day 1 of the Men’s Olympic Qualification Group G in Jesenice that make the tournament seem to come down to a Slovenia vs. Japan clash on Sunday. Japan started with an 9-0 blanking of Croatia, host Slovenia followed up with a 12-2 win over Lithuania.

“It’s nice to play at home with the national team and especially win at home. It was not that easy but we scored early in the game, that was key and we scored in the end 12 goals,” said Koblar.

Eight different players scored for Lithuania including local hero Gregor Koblar with a hat trick, and Ziga Jeglic and Miha Verlic each with a pair of goals. Slovenia outshot Lithuania 61-9 in a lopsided game.

Favoured in a clash they clearly won last spring in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A, the Slovenes delivered a fast start on home ice in Jesenice and capitalized on the first big scoring opportunity.

The Slovenes had difficulties getting the puck out of the zone in the first minutes of the game and Slovenia opened the scoring at 2:32. A distance shot from Klemen Pretnar was blocked by Lithuanian goaltender Laurynas Lubys but Koblar was in front of the net to put the puck in volley.

It didn’t take long until the next chance. Ken Ograjensek skated past the net on the left side and Miha Zajc converted the drop pass for the 2-0 goal at 4:01.

At 10:53 the duo of Pretnar and Koblar produced another marker. Pretnar send a diagonal pass from the blueline. Tadej Cimzar’s attempt in front of the goalie was first blocked but Koblar made it 3-0.

Less than two minutes later the Slovenes got their first power play and it took them only 17 seconds to convert it. Jan Urbas one-timed a blocked puck from the right face-off dot.

The Lithuanians had a rough start into the middle frame. Mantas Stankius sat in the penalty box and once he came back after the penalty had expired, there was another hooking call against Vytautas Jagelavicius. The Slovenes outpassed their opponents until Urbas found Ograjensek on the left side with a diagonal pass, who made it 5-0.

Even when the teams played at even strength the Slovenes managed to keep the puck in the Lithuanian zone for longer periods as the 6-0 goal at 9:31 showed. Jeglic intercepted a puck, passed it to Tadej Cimzar at the right boards just to get it back and score.

The Lithuanians fought and had two power plays but at 16:14 Slovenia netted its seventh goal. Anze Kuralt took all the spotlight skating toward the goal while Verlic got in position on the other side to convert the pass. But with 7.3 seconds left in the period the Lithuanians gave a sign of life during a power play. After an Arnoldas Bosas shot from the blue line was blocked Povilas Verenis scored on a rebound to cut the deficit to 7-1.

Artur Pavliukov came into the Lithuanian net for the third period but saw himself beaten the first time at 3:31 by Blaz Gregorc. More goals followed every few minutes until Koblar completed his hat trick with the 12-1 marker at 13:47.

It was a high-score win for the Slovenes while the Lithuanians at least had a positive note to finish. Emilijus Krakauskas scored Lithuania’s second goal with 1.8 seconds left.

Despite winning 12-2 the Slovenes don’t think too far ahead yet.
We will go game by game. It will be a similar opponent. We will play same as today and try to score even more goals.
Gregor Koblar
Slovenian forward
Croatia awaits the Slovenes in a neighbouring clash where the Slovenes are traditionally the favourites – an impression that was only underlined by the two scores. Japan will play Lithuania in tomorrow’s afternoon game.
Lithuania vs. Slovenia - 2020 Men's Olympic Qualification Group G