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Slovenia provides test as U.S. tries to win Group A

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:52 AM

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Slovenia provides test as U.S. tries to win Group A
Slovenia vs. United States

SLOVENIA vs. UNITED STATES

When: Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Where: Shayba Arena

What's at stake: While the United States is in the driver's seat in Group A with five points (one regulation win, one shootout win), Russia (four points) and Slovenia (three points) remain alive as well. The U.S. can seal its automatic bid to the quarterfinals with a win, while Slovenia would need a regulation win and some help from Slovakia against Russia in a game also scheduled to face off at 7:30 a.m. (USA, SNET) over at Bolshoy Ice Dome.

Slovenia: In the opening days of the men's hockey tournament, Latvia, Austria, Norway and Slovenia all made bids to pull off a major upset and came up short. Slovenia trailed Russia by just a goal in the third period Thursday before going on to a 5-2 defeat. Instead of letting how close they came get them down, the Slovenians came back with a vengeance Saturday and made history in the process.

Led by goaltender Robert Kristan, who matched Jaroslav Halak of Slovakia with 19 saves through two periods, Slovenia kept the game scoreless into the third and broke through for its first lead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics when Roc Ticar scored on a power play. Captain Tomas Razingar and Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar added to the lead and even a late goal that spoiled Kristan's shutout bid couldn't dampen his brilliant 27-save performance in a 3-1 win.

"It's amazing, but there's not much time to celebrate," Kristan told the IIHF website. "We've got a tough game against the U.S. to come."

United States: Make no mistake, coach Dan Bylsma will have his troops prepared and there will be no way the U.S. overlooks Slovenia. However, it's going to be difficult for the Americans to match the intensity level from less than 24 hours earlier when they survived an eight-round shootout and recorded a dramatic 3-2 win against Russia, putting themselves in control of their destiny in group play.

Bylsma started Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for a second consecutive game Saturday, and Quick didn't disappoint. After a relatively easy 22-save effort in a 7-1 win against Slovakia on Thursday, he had to make 29 stops -- many difficult and under duress -- through 60 minutes of regulation and a five-minute overtime Saturday. Quick then stopped five of eight shootout attempts, including the final two he faced.

Ryan Miller will start in net Sunday, his first Olympic appearance since he won the MVP at the Vancouver Games in 2010, when he led the U.S. to a silver medal.

If the game Sunday needs the penalty-shot tiebreaker to decide it, safe to say St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie will be in Bylsma's plans. He scored on the Americans' first attempt against Russia and then went 3-for-5 over the final five rounds (IIHF rules allow the same shooter to repeat as many times as desired after the third round). The U.S. power play also clicked twice on Saturday, with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski scoring.

"It was awesome," Pavelski said. "Whatever type of game you want to explain it as, it was that."

What's next: If either country wins Group A or ends up as the top second-place finisher among the three groups, it won't have to play again until Wednesday. Four teams gain those automatic berths, while the other eight will be in action Tuesday in the qualification playoff round.

Slovenia
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
71 B. Golicic 6'0" 194 6/12/1989 Kranj, SLO
8 Z. Jeglic 6'1" 176 2/24/1988 Kranj, SLO
11 A. Kopitar LAK 6'3" 224 8/24/1987 Jesenice, SLO
92 A. Kuralt 5'9" 176 10/31/1991 Kranj, SLO
39 J. Mursak 5'11" 187 1/20/1988 Maribor, SLO
16 A. Music 5'9" 181 6/28/1982 Ljubljana, SLO
19 Z. Pance 6'1" 196 1/1/1989 Ljubljana, SLO
9 T. Razingar 6'1" 216 4/25/1979 Jesenice, SLO
12 D. Rodman 6'1" 183 9/10/1983 Jesenice, SLO
22 M. Rodman 6'1" 187 9/25/1981 Jesenice, SLO
55 R. Sabolic 6'0" 198 9/18/1988 Jesenice, SLO
24 R. Ticar 5'11" 181 5/3/1989 Jesenice, SLO
26 J. Urbas 6'3" 216 1/26/1989 Ljubljana, SLO
91 M. Verlic 6'4" 190 8/21/1991 Maribor, SLO
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
15 B. Gregorc 6'3" 209 1/18/1990 Jesenice, SLO
86 S. Kovacevic 6'3" 209 2/26/1986 Jesenice, SLO
28 A. Kranjc 6'0" 201 7/29/1981 Jesenice, SLO
17 Z. Pavlin 6'4" 214 4/30/1985 Kranj, SLO
14 M. Podlipnik 5'11" 181 8/9/1992 Jesenice, SLO
7 K. Pretnar 5'11" 181 8/31/1986 Bled, SLO
51 M. Robar 5'10" 190 1/4/1983 Maribor, SLO
4 A. Tavzelj 6'2" 209 3/14/1984 Jesenice, SLO
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
40 L. Gracnar 5'10" 187 10/31/1993 Jesenice, SLO
1 A. Hocevar 6'0" 183 11/21/1984 Ljubljana, SLO
33 R. Kristan 6'0" 187 4/4/1983 Jesenice, SLO
United States
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
42 D. Backes STL 6'3" 221 5/1/1984 Minneapolis, MN
23 D. Brown LAK 6'0" 212 11/4/1984 Ithaca, NY
24 R. Callahan NYR 5'11" 180 3/21/1985 Rochester, NY
88 P. Kane CHI 5'11" 181 1/19/1988 Buffalo, NY
17 R. Kesler VAN 6'2" 202 8/31/1984 Livonia, MI
81 P. Kessel TOR 6'0" 202 10/2/1987 Madison, WI
74 T.J. Oshie STL 5'11" 189 12/23/1986 Warroad, MN
67 M. Pacioretty MTL 6'2" 219 11/20/1988 New Canaan, CT
9 Z. Parise MIN 5'11" 190 7/28/1984 Minneapolis, MN
8 J. Pavelski SJS 5'11" 190 7/11/1984 Plover, WI
26 P. Stastny COL 6'0" 205 12/27/1985 Quebec City, QC, CAN
12 D. Stepan NYR 6'0" 196 6/18/1990 Hastings, MN
21 J. van Riemsdyk TOR 6'3" 200 5/4/1989 Middletown, NJ
28 B. Wheeler WPG 6'5" 205 8/31/1986 Robbinsdale, MN
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
4 J. Carlson WSH 6'3" 212 1/10/1990 Colonia, NJ
72 J. Faulk CAR 6'0" 215 3/20/1992 South St. Paul, MN
3 C. Fowler ANA 6'1" 196 3/5/1991 Farmington Hills, MI
7 P. Martin PIT 6'1" 200 3/5/1981 Elk River, MN
27 R. McDonagh NYR 6'1" 213 6/13/1989 St. Paul, MN
44 B. Orpik PIT 6'2" 219 9/26/1980 Amherst, NY
22 K. Shattenkirk STL 5'11" 207 1/29/1989 Greenwich, CT
20 R. Suter MIN 6'1" 198 1/21/1985 Madison, WI
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
35 J. Howard DET 6'0" 218 3/26/1984 Syracuse, NY
39 R. Miller BUF 6'2" 175 7/17/1980 East Lansing, MI
32 J. Quick LAK 6'1" 218 1/21/1986 Milford, CT