Feb 19 2014, 6:29 AM EST -
By Steve Keating
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Sweden brought Slovenia's fairytale run in Sochi to an end with a 5-0 win on Wednesday to become the first team to reach the semi-finals of the Olympic men's ice hockey tournament.
While Slovenia head home for what is sure to be a heroes' welcome, Sweden await the winners of Russia's game with Finland later on Wednesday.
Slovenia, playing in their first Olympic ice hockey tournament, did not go out without a fight and battled the top-seeded Swedes all the way to the final buzzer of their quarter-final.
But goals from Alex Steen, Daniel Sedin, Loui Eriksson and a pair from Carl Hagelin, along with a shutout from netminder Henrik Lundqvist, finally put the brakes on Slovenia's joyride.
"It's definitely a disappointing feeling right now," said Slovenian forward Anze Kopitar. "We felt that we could maybe surprise another team but it didn't happen today.
"We're very proud of this team. We've had a hell of a tournament."
On paper the contest appeared a major mismatch - Sweden, twice Olympic champions, against Slovenia, a small nation with seven hockey arenas and 148 registered senior male players.
But after a win over Slovakia and creditable showings against Russia and the United States in the preliminary round, followed by a 4-0 victory over Austria in their qualification game, the Slovenians were bristling with confidence.
Following a tense start, Sweden made their breakthrough with 70 seconds left in the opening period with a powerplay goal, Steen slamming the puck into a gaping net.
The goal did little to discourage the Slovenians who battled through a scoreless second before the Swedish floodgates opened in the third with a four-goal burst.
"They had a few chances, not a lot, but as long as it's just a one-goal game, you never know," said Lundqvist after making 19 saves to record his second shutout of the tournament.
"In the third we took over and started creating big chances. It was just a good feeling to see the second and third goal go in and kind of feel that we had this one.
"But it was a nerve-racking game, for sure, in the first periods."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford and Robert Woodward)