The last games of round 2 of the women's ice hockey Olympic pre-qualification tournament have come to an end, with Poland, Republic of Korea and Italy advancing to November's final qualifiers, which will decide the last three teams on the plane to Beijing 2022.
Poland were the first team to decide their fate, after a narrow 3-2 victory over the Netherlands saw them accumulate maximum points in Group H.
The Poles began the competition with a 12-0 drubbing of Turkey before beating Mexico 8-1 in the second round. It left them needing to triumph over the Netherlands - who themselves had beaten Mexico 7-1 before a 23-0 victory over Turkey - to book their place in the final qualifier. In the end, Poland had to dig deep to secure to win, turning a 0-1 deficit into a thrilling 3-2 victory.
"We could have been up 3-0 in the first period but we missed some of our chances," said Poland head coach, Ivan Bednar. "And then we fell behind by a couple of goals but we just kept battling and eventually it paid off.”
In Group F, Republic of Korea, Slovenia and Great Britain each entered the final day with the chance to progress. As expected, Slovenia beat Iceland 6-2 on Sunday to finish the tournament on six points. It meant the result of the game between pre-tournament favourites Republic of Korea and group hosts Great Britain would decide the group winners, with Britain needing to win by two clear goals to advance.
In a dramatic finale, Great Britain's second-period goal gave the hosts an impressive 1-0 victory. However, the ultimate celebrations belonged to Republic of Korea who did just enough to win the group and become the second team of the day to secure a spot in the final qualifier.
Sunday's last game saw Group G hosts Italy pitted against Kazakhstan, with the winner ensured of a place in November's final qualification tournament. Italy started the game on six points following a 4-1 win over Spain and a 7-0 victory over Chinese Taipei, with Kazakhstan on five after a shoot-out loss to Spain saw them miss out on maximum points after game two.
When the final game began, first blood went to Kazakhstan who scored first to go 1-0 up against the host nation after 16 minutes. However, Italy showed immense resilience to fight back to win 2-1 and keep their Olympic dreams alive.
The final qualification tournament, at which the last three qualifiers for the Beijing 2022 women's ice hockey tournament will be decided, takes place between 11-14 November 2021.