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Kopitars lead Slovenia to first Olympic berth

Friday, 02.08.2013 / 7:13 PM / News

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Kopitars lead Slovenia to first Olympic berth
For the first time in the country's history, Slovenia will be playing in the Winter Olympics men's hockey tournament.

For the first time in the country's history, Slovenia will be playing in the Winter Olympics men's hockey tournament.

The Slovenians clinched an Olympic berth on Friday with a shocking 2-1 win over host country Denmark, giving the Slovenians a 2-0-0 record in the four-team qualifying tournament being staged this week in the small Danish town of Vojens.

Slovenia came into the tournament ranked third among four teams, ahead of only Ukraine. But a tournament-opening 4-2 victory over Belarus set the stage for the win over Denmark, qualifying the underdog Slovenians for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will kick off Feb. 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia .

"A great success, not only for our sport, but for our nation," Slovenian coach Matjas Kopitar told the International Ice Hockey Federation's website.

Kopitar, the father of Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar, has spearheaded the Slovenian national program for the past few years. When asked by the IIHF's Szymon Szemberg, the elder Kopitar confirmed that his NHL star son would represent Slovenia at the 2014 Winter Games.

"He told me before we came here that if we make it to Sochi, he will be with us," said Kopitar. "At that point, we were maybe not thinking of this seriously."

Anze Kopitar's brother, Gasper, is a forward on the team, which is arguably the least likely country to qualify for 2014 thus far.

David Rodman scored both goals for Slovenia against Denmark , continuing a great run for the 29-year-old veteran of the Austrian League who played junior hockey with the Val d'Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Rodman scored a goal and added an assist in the tournament opener against Belarus, which competed at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"I am speechless," Rodman told IIHF.com. "Nobody expected this from us, we came here as the third-ranked team. We have beaten both the favorites and we are going to the Olympics."

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