South Korea loses to Slovenia in men's hockey tuneup

North Korea women's ice hockey athletes stand in a line at a dining hall at the Jincheon National Training Centre in Jincheon
North Korea women's ice hockey athletes stand in a line at a dining hall at the Jincheon National Training Centre in Jincheon, South Korea. A delegation of North Korean officials and ice hockey players crossed the heavily guarded border into South Korea on Thursday for joint Olympics training, as Pyongyang called for all Koreans to seek unification of the two nations. Reuter

South Korea suffered a 2-1 loss to Slovenia in a men's hockey tuneup game on Thursday before the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, squandering a lead in the third period of a fast-paced contest.

The 21st-ranked South Korean team held its own against world No. 15 Slovenia at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon, just west of Seoul, but the Europeans prevailed thanks to their superior speed and opportunistic offence, reports Yonhap news agency.

Mike Testwuide put South Korea on the board in the second period, but Slovenia tied things up midway through the third period on Bostjan Golicic's goal. Then Anze Kuralt put Slovenia up for good with 6:41 left in the final frame.

This was the third of South Korea's four tuneup games before the Olympics. South Korea lost to Kazakhstan 3-1 last Saturday but bounced back to beat the same opponent 3-0 two days later.

South Korea will next take on Russia at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Anyang, just south of Seoul.

Slovenia completely dominated South Korea right out of the gate. The Slovenian blueliners had no trouble getting the puck out of their own zone whenever South Koreans tried to dump the puck in and establish forechecking. The Europeans were simply playing at a different speed.

But South Korea came out with far more energy in the second period, and it even looked like a completely different team than the one from the first period. The forwards skated with a purpose, and the defence started shutting things down in their own end, with goalie Matt Dalton providing his usual excellence as the last line of defence.

Their efforts bore fruit in the form of Testwuide's goal at 12:29 in the second, set up by Kim Sang-wook from behind the net.

Testwuide got a quick snap shot off the pass and goalie Luka Grancnar only got a piece of the puck as it trickled past him. Testwuide has now scored in two straight games.

After getting outshot 11-5 in the first period, South Korea turned the tables and had 18 shots on goal in the second period, against Slovenia's three.

There was plenty of back-and-forth action in the third, but it proved to be a dangerous game to play for South Korea. With the players visibly tiring in the final stretch, Slovenia levelled the score on Golicic's goal, as the forward tipped in a shot by Ziga Pance from the right corner with 8:27 remaining in the game.

About two minutes later, Slovenia grabbed the lead on a Korean defensive breakdown. With several players scrambling behind the net, Slovenian Rok Ticar sent a pass toward the middle and found Kuralt all alone between the faceoff circles. The winger then unleashed a slap shot past Dalton for the 2-1 lead.

South Korea had a late power play opportunity but couldn't erase the deficit.

"Our second period was the best period we've played in a long time. We just couldn't sustain that in the third period," South Korean head coach Jim Paek said. "We couldn't take advantage of (the) other team's mistakes. And the other team took advantage of our mistakes. But we're getting better and better. Hopefully, when we hit the Olympics, we're right in stride to play well."

Source: IANS