The full 12-team slate has been determined for the men’s Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China after Latvia, Denmark and Slovakia earned berths to the tournament.
In Group D play, the game was highlighted by incredible goaltending at both ends. Branislav Konrad held the fort for Slovakia, while Danny Taylor played his best game of the tournament for Belarus. Belarus needed to win the game in regulation to advance, but the team struggled to gain momentum for a sustained period of time.
Slovakia was one of the favorites to make the Olympics and pleased fans in Bratislava. Slovakia has never missed the Olympics since splitting from Czechoslovakia, with a team-best fourth-place result back in Vancouver 2010. Slovakia struggled the past two events, finishing 11th in both.
Latvia returns to the Olympics after missing the 2018 event following a tough final clash against Germany. Latvia won all three of its games, highlighted by a tremendous goaltending performance by goaltender Ivars Punnenovs. Punnenovs allowed just one goal in the tournament, coming on Stephane Da Costa’s goal late on Sunday.
The win also comes over a month after the tragic loss of Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Matīss Kivlenieks, who was killed in a tragic fireworks accident on July 4. Kivlenieks was Latvia’s starting goalie at the men’s World Championship in the spring, pulling off an incredible shutout victory over Canada to kick off the event.
In Group F, Frederik Storm, one of Denmark’s better non-NHLers in Oslo, scored a huge goal for the Danes late in the second. His breakaway marker stunned Norway after a flurry of chances at the other end, but it proved to be the difference-maker in an otherwise tight game.
The win marks Denmark’s first foray into the men’s Olympic hockey tournament, a surprise given the team’s long-standing status at the top men’s World Championship event since 2003. If NHLers are allowed to participate in the Olympics, the Danes could get Nikolaj Ehlers, Frans Nielsen, Joachim Blichfeld, Frederik Andersen and Oliver Bjorkstrand, among others.
The Olympic groupings are as followed: