International Ice Hockey Federation

Verlic makes Slovenia dream

Verlic makes Slovenia dream

Big comeback win against Kazakhstan

Published 27.04.2018 20:20 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Verlic makes Slovenia dream
Miha Verlic celebrates a Slovenian goal against Kazakhstan. Photo: Laszlo Mudra
After starting with two losses nobody counted on Slovenia but after beating Kazakhstan they are back in business and can gain promotion against Italy.

Slovenia’s “Mission Budapest” with promotion as goal started in a frustrating fashion with losses against low-seeded Great Britain and Poland. On Wednesday against Hungary the puck finally bounced their way and before tomorrow’s showdown the Slovenes beat Kazakhstan, the team that had started with two wins, 5-3.

Miha Verlic was the man of the match with a hat trick and an assist. The Slovenes outshot Kazakhstan 36-23 and had a strong transition games that led to quick counter-attacks.

“We had a bad start in the tournament and knew that we have to be better. We started to win against Hungary and continued. We were the better team. We knew that they are a strong team too. We had a lot of shots and continued to put the puck to the net,” Verlic said.

“We knew before this came that we can still win the tournament. We knew we had to put everything in the game. And we know it can go the other way to if we lose. Now we’re preparing for tomorrow.”

For Kazakhstan on the other hand the loss was a major disappointment. With a win they could have earned promotion tomorrow without depending on others. Now they will need to beat Poland in the early game tomorrow and hope for favourable results in the other two match-ups.

“Slovenia is a very balanced team, they are good at backchecking, they scored two goals on counter-attacks. We couldn’t play our game today,” Kazakh head coach Galym Mambetaliev said. “We will fight and prepare ourselves for the next game.”

With a win tomorrow against Italy, the Slovenes can not only avoid relegation but even have the chance to win the tournament or reach second place, also enough for promotion. But with a potential 3-2 record and nine points they depend on other results too in a final day that will be a pleasure for the math geniuses.

“Two days ago our team was in a very bad situation and facing a lot of stress and I really respect our players that they could handle this stress and win against two strong teams. The opponent was very good. We know that they are one of the best teams in the tournament and to beat them in this kind of game was very nice for us. The players got a lot of pain and they really paid the price to win today,” Slovenia’s head coach Kari Savolainen said.

About the man of the match he commented: “Miha came back to his leader position. He had some challenges in the beginning of the tournament and we saw that he’s a really good player.”

The game started with goals for both teams. Kazakhstan had a power play early in the game but once it was over, Slovenia reacted with the opening marker on a counter-attack. Jan Urbas entered the zone from the left side and Verlic converted the centring pass at 5:17. The happiness, however, was gone a minute later when Yegor Petukhov attempted to go counter-clockwise behind the net from the right side but then returned to finish the wraparound on the initial side. Slovenian goalie Gasper Kroselj blocked the first shot but was beaten on the second.

Four minutes later Kazakhstan got the lead. Dmitri Grents got the puck between the face-off circles and beat Kroselj with a high shot. But Slovenia found back into the game when Urbas converted a drop pass from Verlic with four minutes left in the opening frame.

The second period started cautious with Slovenia having the edge – and the lead after seven-and-a-half minutes. During a power play Verlic scored his second goal of the game by deflecting Aleksandar Magovac’s shot from the blue line.

The Slovenes had to battle hard for the lead and it took its toll with bruises or even more. Midway the second period Robert Sabolic had to be helped off the ice after a bodycheck from Anton Sagadeyev hit his shoulder badly while many other players needed ice on the bench.

However, the players should be back tomorrow. “We don’t have any big injuries, just these pay-the-price injuries,” Savolainen said.

The Slovenes didn’t get the power play they demanded, instead Bostjan Golicic was sent to the penalty box for Slashing in the next shift. And once Golicic was back, other penalties were handed and with a 4-on-3 power play for Slovenia, Sabahudin Kovacevic’s long shot went through traffic and between goalie Henrik Karlsson and the post into the net.

It would have been a welcome two-goal lead with two minutes left in the middle frame, however, Kazakhstan reacted with the next shift. Just 14 seconds later Alikhan Asetov had the puck, saw it blocked by Slovenian defenceman Ziga Pavlin but scored on his rebound to make it a one-goal game.

Can the Slovenes dare to dream? They at least successfully managed to prevent Kazakhstan from scoring in the third period and at 13:56 scored on a rebound. Verlic, making it a hat trick day, was the man for the 5-3 goal.

 

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