International Ice Hockey Federation

Rok n Roll

Rok n Roll

Ticar hero as Slovenia does it all over again

Published 15.08.2018 16:14 GMT+11 | Author Henrik Manninen
Rok n Roll
Slovenia's men's team qualified for a second straight Olympic Games. Photo: Andrei Pokumeiko
Rok Ticar silenced the home crowd three times and his game winning penalty shot sends Slovenia to PyeongChang 2018.

“We have once been at the Olympics and said before the game that if we give everything then we can at least look at ourselves in the mirror afterwards, so we kept battling because the prize is unbelievable,” said Ticar, whose game-winning penalty shot won Slovenia a place at their second consecutive Olympics.

It was Ticar’s third puck in the net during a dramatic evening in Minsk. The 27-year-old had scored both Slovenia’s goals in regulation time and once again found the net during a nervy penalty-shot shootout.

Slovenia had gone 2-0 up within 57 seconds in the second period while being on power play. Belarus then hit back to tie a game where the battle for an Olympic ticket between the teams had to be decided by penalty shots.

“The character of this team is indescribable. I think our guys are so passionate to play for our country and every time we come together we believe we can win and I think that is one of the biggest reasons why we did end up winning tonight,” said star forward Anze Kopitar, who was Slovenia's other scorer in the shootout.

Andrei Stepanov scored a brace for Belarus in regulation time and also was the lone Belarusian to find the net during the shootout. 22-year-old Mikhail Karnaukhov got a start in goal with Kevin Lalande still suffering from the effects of a hit to his head sustained during their opener against Denmark.

“I anticipated a game like this, which would go all the way to the end,” said Belarus head coach Dave Lewis. “The difference between winning and losing at this level is so fine, and in this game it came down to one shot.”

After an evenly balanced goalless first period, Slovenia headed into the middle frame playing on power play following a hooking minor by Roman Graborenko. Piling up the pressure, Slovenia soon found themselves on a two-man advantage when Andrei Stas was punished for a game-delaying offence.

Slovenia wasted little time to capitalize on such a golden opportunity. Kopitar assisted Ticar, who scored high past Karnaukhov from the right edge of the goal to put Slovenia in front at 1:48 of the second period.

57 second later the home crowd of 15,086 watched on in disbelief as Mitja Robar instigated a move from the defensive zone to find Ziga Jeglic rushing through the defensive rearguard of Belarus and Ticar followed up to hit home Slovenia’s second marker at 2:49.

Belarus, who earlier this week bounced back after going behind in both of their previous games at the Olympic Qualification, reduced the deficit to a goal when Stepanov scored high past Kroselj from the edge of the slot to give the Minsk Arena crowd a lift and some momentum back.

After a missed penalty shot by Slovenia’s Jan Urbas at 8:19 of the third frame, Belarus got the crowd on their feet as they tied the game with just over nine minutes to go when Nick Bailen’s shot was steered home by Stepanov before both teams went ahead squandering fine goal-scoring opportunities before Ticar won the game for Slovenia.

In 2013 Nik Zupancic was assistant coach when Slovenia qualified for Sochi 2014. Now head coach of the team, it was a very proud moment for him to once again upset the odds thanks to an excellent team effort.

“We grew as a team during the tournament and this is huge for our team to come from such a small country and once again qualify for the Olympics.”


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