Slovenia shuts out Croatia
by Martin Merk|07 FEB 2020
Slovenian forward Rok Ticar sends off a shot on Croatian goaltender Vito Nikolic, the busiest man on the ice.
photo: Drago Cvetanovic
Slovenia and Japan will play for the group win and a ticket to the Final Olympic Qualification on Sunday night in Jesenice. Despite the heroics of Croatian goaltender Nikolic the Slovenes won 7-0.

The Slovenes aimed at another high-score win against neighbour and bottom-seeded Croatia but saw themselves getting a challenge mainly in Nikolic. The 21-year-old Zagreb native, who after the bankruptcy of Medvescak Zagreb moved to French third-tier team Courbevoie Coqs, caught almost everything there was to catch in an opening frame in which the Slovenes outshot the Croats 20-1.

At 6:15 Rok Ticar had the biggest chance when after a great horizontal pass from Ziga Jeglic he appeared alone in front of Nikolic.

Just one time he had to take out the puck behind his back. Robert Sabolic and Ticar outskated the Croatian defence and Ticar hit the back of the net for the opening goal at 16:15. In the next shift Anze Kuralt almost made it a two-goal lead when he got to shoot right next to the crease but Nikolic kept the score low at 1-0 after the first period.

“We wanted to do the right things in this kind of game. You have to find the right mentality. We had lots of chances, we were shooting but the goalie was sometimes better than us,” Ticar said. “After 60 minutes it was still a good result for us.”

Jan Urbas scored Slovenia’s second goal during a power play at 3:40 of the middle frame. After the Slovenes had lost the puck, Blaz Gregorc passed him the puck to the left boards of the neutral zone and fast-skating Urbas got through to shoot and score. At 12:06 the Slovenes also capitalized on their second man advantage of the period. Ticar scored his second goal capitalizing on a rebound after a distance shot from Klemen Pretnar.

The Slovenes continued to dominate and at 17:54 scored the next power-play goal when Kuralt deflected Blaz Gregorc’ shot from the blue line. 34 seconds later Miha Zajc scored after Miha Logar’s blocked shot to make it 5-0.

Slovenia had a whopping 27-0 shot-on-goal advantage in the second period and not much changed in the third period where Nikolic made 12 saves until Miha Verlic scored the sixth goal on a rebound. With 6.9 seconds left Luka Kalan scored the last goal to make it 7-0.

Slovenia outshot Croatia 67-4 during the three periods and could have won even higher if not for Nikolic’s heroics. After a day off the tournament continues on Sunday including the Slovenia-Japan final for first place and a berth in the Final Olympics Qualification.
Slovenia vs. Croatia - 2020 Men's Olympic Qualification Group G