Russia advance, Slovenia surprise

Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:56pm EST
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By Frank Pingue

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russia marched into the quarter-finals of the men's ice hockey competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Tuesday, joining a feel-good Slovenian team, the Czech Republic and a surprising Latvia in the last eight along with the four automatic qualifiers.

Despite struggling at times with their offense, the Russians scored twice in each of the last two periods to beat Norway 4-0 and set up a quarter-final clash with Finland on Wednesday.

"It is do-or-die games right now," said Russian forward Alex Ovechkin. "I'm pretty sure everybody on Finland is going to be ready for tomorrow, and we're going to be ready as well."

Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk each had second period goals before Radulov scored an empty netter with 67 seconds left then Alexei Tereshenko finished off the rout in the last minute.

Sergei Bobrovski stopped 22 shots for the shutout while Radulov, who also had an assist, enjoyed his best game of the competition.

Slovenia, a country with just seven ice rinks, continued their fairytale run to reach the quarter-finals in their first Olympic appearance in men's ice hockey.

Their 4-0 victory over Austria set up a semi-final with a powerful Swedish team that finished the preliminary round with the best record of the 12 competing teams.

Anze Kopitar, who missed most of the previous game with a stomach flu, provided Slovenia with the perfect start when his shot from the slot squeezed through Mathias Lange's pads and trickled over the goal line less than six minutes into the game.   Continued...

Russia's Ilya Kovalchuk (R) celebrates his goal against Norway with teammates Alexei Yemelin (C) and Alexander Radulov (L) during the second period of their men's qualification round ice hockey game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch