Latvia, Denmark and Slovakia secure final three Olympic spots for men’s ice hockey competition at Beijing 2022

The three nations finish top of their International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) qualification groups to complete the 12-team field at Beijing 2022.

By William Imbo
Picture by 2017 Getty Images

Latvia, Denmark and Slovakia will compete in the men’s ice hockey competition at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games after winning their respective Olympic qualifying tournaments.

The three nations finished top of their International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) qualification groups to complete the 12-team field at Beijing 2022, which already features the top eight teams in the IIHF world rankings, as well as hosts China.

The battle for Olympic qualification came down to the final day of action on 29 August, with six teams vying for three spots.

Latvia beat France to win Group E

Latvia came into the final contest of Group E with a 100 percent record, posting a goal difference of +15 after beating Italy 6-0 and Hungary 9-0 in their first two games of the tournament on home ice in Riga.

They faced undefeated France in the final game of the group, with Les Bleus pushing for a first Olympic berth since 2002, when they finished 14th in Salt Lake City.

Miks Indrasis
Picture by 2017 Getty Images

Latvia started the stronger of the two teams, with Rihards Bukarts bagging the crucial goal just before the 11-minute mark in the first period of the game.

A defensive contest ensued before Miks Indrasis scored Latvia’s second (and his third goal of the tournament) in the third period. However, a long-range effort from Stephane da Costa brought France back in the contest to set up a thrilling finish.

Despite being on the penalty kill for the final two minutes of the game, Latvia were able to hang on to win 2-1 and qualify for Beijing 2022.

Denmark beat Norway to win Group F

Denmark stunned hosts Norway in Oslo 2-0 to finish top of Group F and qualify for the Olympics for the first time in their nation’s history.

Both teams entered the decisive game with undefeated records after beating Slovenia and the Republic of Korea, but goals from Frederik Storm and Nikolaj Ehlers secured a 2-0 victory for Denmark over their arch-rivals to book their passage to Beijing.

Winnipeg Jets forward Ehlers sealed victory for the Danes with just over three minutes remaining, forcing Norway to pull their goaltender for the extra attacker in search of a goal that never came.

Slovakia beat Belarus to win Group D

A fiery contest at the Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava saw Slovakia beat Belarus 2-1 to grab the third and final spot in the men’s ice hockey competition at Beijing 2022.

Goals from Peter Cehlarik (SVK) and Yegor Sharangovich (BLR) saw Slovakia and Belarus enter the third and final period level at 1-1, though both teams would have been well aware that a draw after regulation time would see Slovakia progress as group winners on seven points.

However, a crucial goal from Libor Hudacek with just over three minutes to go gave Slovakia a 2-1 victory to ensure their return to Olympic ice.

Groups and schedule for Beijing 2022

Following the final games of the Olympic qualifying tournaments, we now know the full groups of the men's ice hockey competition at Beijing 2022, which is scheduled to start on 9 February 2022.

Reigning world champions and nine-time Olympic gold medallists Canada headline a star-studded Group A which also includes Team USA, 2018 silver medallists Germany and hosts China.

Denmark's qualification sees them join Group B alongside 2018 Olympic champions OAR, while Slovakia and Latvia join Finland and Sweden in Group C.

Group A: Canada, USA, Germany, China

Group B: ROC, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark

Group C: Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Latvia