OLYMPICS: Slovenia Open First Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament
Sochi, 13 February - The Slovenian national men's ice hockey team will take on hosts Russia on Thursday as they open their first ice hockey Olympic tournament in history. Headlined by NHL star Anže Kopitar, Slovenia will later face powerhouses US and Slovakia in Group A of the 12-nation tournament.
The Slovenian team, nicknamed the Bobcats, qualified for their first Olympic tournament by beating Denmark in a qualifying tournament in Vojens in February 2013, a dream-come-true for the generation led by the LA Kings star Kopitar.
"We came here as a team. We came here to show the best from us. We will give our best out there on the ice, while having fun at the same time. This is the best recipe for a great, realistic result," Kopitar told reporters in Sochi.
Besides Kopitar, who won the Stanley Cup with the LA Kings in 2012, the roster of 25 players also features Jan Muršak of the Russian KHL, the world's second-strongest ice hockey league, and captain Tomaž Razigar of Sweden's Ljungby.
Slovenia are the lowest ranked team at the tournament according to the IIHF World Ranking. The team's biggest success at major tournaments is the 13th place at the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2002 and 2005.
The men's ice hockey tournament in Sochi will feature 150 players from the National Hockey League (NHL) and is lauded as the strongest tournament in the history of ice hockey.