Slovenian hockey players wanted to hear Zdravljica to say goodbye to the elite division in Riga, but they were also left empty-handed against Kazakhstan. They scored just nine goals in seven games and were the only ones to remain without a point at this World Cup.
Slovenia played 63 matches in the championships of the elite division, and won seven of them. Lynx were much more successful when the system was different and the worst teams played against each other in the survival group.
In the last decade, the two worst teams are eliminated after the group stage of the competition. In 2013 and 2017, Slovenia also did not win a single match, and in 2015 in Ostrava, after six defeats, they won the last match against Denmark with 1:0, but this meeting only had a prestigious meaning.
Kuralt: Defeats by one goal are the most painfulMonday night in Riga, the Lynx scored at the start of each period, but couldn’t hold on to the lead. In the last period, with goals from Yevgeni Rimarev and Maksim Muhametov, Kazakhstan staged a turnaround and looked forward to a 4:3 victory.
“Every minimal mistake we make is taken advantage of by our opponent. We had more chances than the Kazakhs, but we didn’t capitalize on them. We have been plagued by inefficiency for the entire tournament. It is difficult to give a final assessment now. We showed a competitive game, we came from Division I, we were in the role of underdogs. We competed well with almost everyone. Defeats by one goal were the most painful,” thought the best player of the match, Anže Kuralt, who excelled with two goals.
The Fehervar striker emphasized the great quality of the national teams in the elite division: “The difference between the elite division and the division I is very well known. All teams are composed perfectly. We have put together the best team we can at this moment. Everything would be easier if we scored a few more goals.”
Drozg: The defeat against Switzerland with 0:7 sobered us upJan Drozg shone against Canada, scoring twice. Against Kazakhstan, he scored in the 43rd minute for a 3:2 lead.
“We have been making the same mistakes throughout the championship. This is our reality. It wasn’t the best. The defeat against Switzerland with 0:7 sobered us up. We played much better in the following matches. We lost four times by a goal difference.”
Urbas: We move up and down, we are always somewhere in betweenCaptain Jan Urbas has been playing very well in the DEL League for the Fischtown Pinguins for six years, where he will remain next season as well.
“We opened the game well, played the first third well. But we wanted to attack too much and were not collected in defense. That buried us, when you get goals like that it’s hard to win the game. We fought throughout the whole tournament, we did our best, but it wasn’t enough. It’s frustrating because you’re not rewarded for your hard work. This happened to us, but we have said many times that we left our hearts on ice. This time it wasn’t enough. I hope that luck favors us in the future,” Urbas assessed the match for TV Slovenija.
“The goal was to remain among the elite. We did everything to make it happen. The disappointment is great. It seems we are always somewhere in between. We move up and down. We qualified for the Olympic Games and this is definitely the greatest success of this generation. We can be proud of this and look positively forward. It’s been a long season for everyone as June is almost here,” added the 34-year-old striker.
Kopitar: After the defeat against Norway, everything went in the wrong directionThe selector Matjaž Kopitar had a darker face again. “You have to know how to win a game by one goal. We had a good chance against Kazakhstan when we led three times. The last game was not a warm-up or a friendly anyway. The boys tried, but there was no discipline, we lost too many pucks in the wrong places. It wasn’t a real show.”
“We leave Riga with mixed feelings. If the curve turned upwards in the game against Norway, we would probably win another game. So everything went in the wrong direction. Now we can no longer mourn for the past. It was a tough tournament. We all knew where we were going last year. The competitors were at the highest level. I can’t fault the boys. Maybe we lack quality. Everyone can look in the mirror.”
The selector’s contract expiresHe has already led the Slovenian team four times at the World Cup of the elite division (2011, 2013, 2015 and 2023), but not once did he manage to remain among the best.
“My contract is expiring. We will sit down with General Secretary Kontrec. I don’t know anything at the moment. We’ve been together for three months and we need some time,” the selector concluded the conversation for Val 202.
Counter: We have been talking about rejuvenation for several yearsSecretary General Dejan Kontrec has already turned his attention to the following challenges:We have been talking about rejuvenation for several years. That’s easy to say and hard to do. I think it’s time for a change because the seasons are very long for the main players. Young players will have to play in friendly matches in November and December. It may happen to us that the older players will no longer follow the rhythm that is too severe. They have already given enough for Slovenia. We will build a new pyramid from selection to 15 years onwards. The results will not be visible right away. Even with the younger selections, we have problems if the key player is not in shooting form.”
Mašič and Drozg impressed him“Bine Mašič impressed me already in the preparatory matches. Of course, he also made some mistakes, but even the undefeated Swiss made them. Jan Drozg also played very well. We have quite a few quality young players. The biggest leap is from youth to member selection, but it will have to be made. We have to prepare that Kopitar, Urbas, Sabolič, Tičar and Jeglič will not be around forever,” thought Kontrec in an interview for Val 202.
He will soon have a conversation with selector Kopitar: “Kopitar’s contract expires after this season, analysis and talks will follow. We have to look at the long term. We will try to build a young team that will try to get into the elite in the future. It won’t mean a year from now.”
Two canceled championships in Tivoli brought a financial lossThe main candidate to host the 2024 Division I World Championship is Bolzano. “We organized one championship for three years. We put in a lot of work, but twice then everything fell apart. We still haven’t resolved the financial picture with the IIHF. The political decision was that the Austrians and the French went to the elite division, and within a month we had to change the program, the ticket price. It was a huge loss in TV rights, tickets. We certainly won’t get all the money, but we have to reach a compromise.”
The great desire was the joint organization of the SP of the elite division with the Hungarians, but the whole thing quickly fell into the water.
“We were ready to bite the apple, the Hungarians were much less ready, least of all the IIHF. It was a lost opportunity for everyone. Even small unions must progress. The Hungarians can also organize such a championship themselves, as they have halls for 20,000 and 8,000 spectators. I hope they will decide to organize with us. It was an ideal moment as we were both playing among the elite.”
The problems in Jesenice have been going on for 12 yearsThe former standout striker is in a pretty bad mood when it comes to the club scene. What angers him the most is the uncertain situation in Jesenice.
“I still don’t know where Jesenice will play next season. We are all aware that they are an important player in Slovenian hockey. I would like a stable story, but the problems in Jesenice have been dragging on for 12 years. This affects the future. I don’t want such scenarios. We talk about the same things every year. The IceHL doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a year or two to prepare for such a big step. This is a project, you have to be serious. I was very happy that Celje joined the Alpine League.”