International Ice Hockey Federation

Slovenia back up

Slovenia back up

Staying up is a realistic goal

Published 03.05.2017 14:34 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Slovenia back up
David Rodman has been with the Slovenian national team since 2005. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images
One of those teams that seem always to be too good for Division I but not quite up to the top division, Slovenia is back playing with the big boys in Paris.

Between 2001 and 2016 the Slovenes have stayed up two years in a row only twice (2002-2003 and 2005-2006), so it’s clear their goal is to achieve as much this year after playing in Division I-A last year.


Luka Gracnar is likely the top goalie for Slovenia. He played at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships in the top pool as well as the Sochi Olympics. The 23-year-old has played most of his career in Austria and gives the team hope for world-class goaltending. Behind him will be Gasper Kroseli and the 27-year-old Matija Pintaric, who has yet to play for the national team at any level.


There has not been a lot of turnover on defence over the last several years, so the blue line is replete with experienced players. Ales Kranjc, at 35, is the veteran, now in his seventh World Championship since 2003. Right behind him is 34-year-old Mitja Robar, after which there is a cluster of players who all began at the 2011 Worlds: Klemen Pretnar, Sabahudin Kovacevic, Andrej Tavzelj, and Blaz Gregorc among them. Jurij Repe is making his debut with the national team, but overall this is a solid group that makes up in determination what it lacks in pure skill.


In the last 25 top-level games at the World Championships, Slovenia has managed only 42 goals. That has to change, or relegation is a distinct possibility again. The 33-year-old David Rodman is the veteran forward in Paris, having been with the team since 2005. Ales Music is also a veteran of the team for a decade now, but as with the defence, many of the players got their first taste of World Championship play in 2011. The core players are all in their late twenties, meaning it’s now or never for many of them. Rok Ticar, Ziga Jeglic, Ziga Pance, and Robert Sabolic all fit into this category. From a future-looking perspective, one has to be happy to see several new faces. Anze Kuralt is making his debut in top-level IIHF competition, as is Nik Pem.


Nik Zupancic is back for a second year after coaching the team to top spot in Division I-A last year to earn promotion. He has been with the national team in various levels and capacities for seven years, but 2017 will be his biggest challenge. Somehow he has to coax wins out of his players against key rivals, notably Norway, France, and Belarus.

Projected Results

In all, some 18 of 22 skaters from the Olympic team in Sochi will be in Paris, that invaluable experience hopefully contributing to a superior showing this year. But such a high rate of return from three years ago points to the small talent pool from which to work. Slovenia will finish in the 13-16 range, hoping to avoid relegation.


Back to Overview