The Slovenia Times

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While the first two games were easy, as no one expected Slovenia to win, it was when it mattered most - against Latvia, that Slovenia proved that it was not up to the task. That 3-0 loss meant the team went into a best-of-three series against another group loser, deservedly with the prospect of being relegated to Division 1. There was to be no fairytale ending against Slovakia and the former world champions convincingly won the first game 5-1 and the second 4-3 after penalty shots. The conclusion, based on previous Pool A championships, is that Slovenia is not good enough for the elite division and too good for those below it. Hopefully, they will try to redeem themselves by winning next year's Division 1 championships against the likes of Kazakhstan, Japan, Lithuania, Croatia and Australia.

Slovenia's mission seemed doomed from the outset. In the first place, a number of key players such as Ivo Jan pulled out of the team at the last minute then, in a repeat of previous years, there was a dispute over financial matters. With the exception of the world-class An┼że Kopitar from the Los Angeles Kings and goalie Robert Kristan, most of the other players lacked the ruthless determination to play competitively at this level. The coach, Mats Waltin, failed to inspire and did not gel well with the team nor the federation and it seemed as though he regarded it as an evening job. "I am disappointed. Only the last game against Slovakia was at the desired level. I cannot forget the poor performance against Latvia, which was a sure sign that we cracked under pressure. When it was gone, the team played much better," said the Swede. His contract with the Slovenian Ice Hockey Federation has now expired and his successor has not been announced.

The whole direction of ice hockey in this country is also uncertain; the national federation has been struggling financially for many years and, to top it off, its president Damjan Mihevc has resigned. Some observers fear that the current crop of players are simply content to earn a decent income playing with Olimpija or Jesenice in the Austrian league and are not really prepared to push themselves beyond that.

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