The men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games is expected to be the most thrilling and popular even at the Olympics. We’re breaking down all 12 teams until the tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Slovakia competes in Group A in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are five reasons why they could totally medal in Sochi:
1. They’ve Contended Recently
Slovakia finished fourth in the 2010 Vancouver Games and fifth in the 2006 Turin Games. They also captured a silver medal in the 2012 IIHF world championships. Everything’s coming up Slovak!
2. Zdeno Chara
While the larger ice surface might cause him some issues, he’s still Zdeno Chara and, hence, Slovakia has one of the best defensemen in the world patrolling their blue line.
3. Marian Hossa
The Slovaks suffered a blow losing Marian Gaborik to injury, but Marian Hossa is a pretty good player on the Olympic stage: 25 points in 15 games in his career, including nine in seven games in 2010.
4. The Halak Factor
The Slovakians have two capable goalies: Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj. But it’s Halak that’s shown in the past that he’s capable of stealing a game or two, which is what the Slovaks will need to compete.
Not only are the Slovaks trying to overcome a number of injuries – Gaborik, Lubomir Visnovsky – this is also the first Olympics since 1998 with Pavol Demitra, who perished in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash in 2011. They say they’ve moved on, but he’ll no doubt be on the minds of veteran players.
C’mon, Can These Guys Actually Medal?
It’s an injured team in a transition phase as a hockey nation. We doubt it, but never count out the Slovaks.