Austria, Latvia and Slovenia Advance to Sochi after Weekend Olympic Qualifiers

Austria, Latvia and Slovenia Advance to Sochi after Weekend Olympic Qualifiers

11 Feb 2013 | Tim Bourcier
 

Latvia hangs on through regulation to prevent a weekend of upsets across Europe.

 
 
 
 

Ice hockey qualifiers teams for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, were set on Sunday after the final round of the European tournament.  Latvia, Austria and Slovenia all advanced to join the top nine IIHF ranked teams next year for a gold medal opportunity.

Slovenia locked up the first Olympic spot from Group F on Friday, but Sunday’s games continued with Slovenia and Belarus emerging victorious.  In the first match, Slovenia dominated the Ukraine 6-1.  Slovenia started strong, going up 4-0 after the first period and 5-0 after the second.  Slovenia’s Sabolic lead the way with two goals and Rodman notched another for his fourth goal of the qualifications.  

Belarus controlled the first two periods of the Group F second match, but went back and forth with a determined Denmark side heading into the third period 2-2.  With 2:17 into the third period Stepanov got the go-ahead goal with an assist from Chernaok.  The goal was enough to give Belarus the victory and landing Denmark with two losses as hosts of the round robin.

The other two groups needed their last day to decide who would represent in Sochi.  Austria, Italy and host Germany all had an opportunity to advance today from Group D.  However, it would be Austria who ended 50 years of Olympic ice hockey for the home side with a 3-2 overtime loss from Bietgheim-Bissingen.  Being undefeated, Austria only needed to tie it through regulation to advance after Germany lost to Italy on Friday.  Germany dominated regulation, allowing Austria to have only 19 shots on goal to 38 for the hosts.  The strong showing from Germany was not enough to keep Austria out of Sochi.  Kohl and Wolf both scored on the power play against Austria, keeping their side tied or leading throughout most of regulation.  Peintner got the equalizer goal for Austria at the 12:22 mark in the third.    Pulling Rob Zepp for the man advantage with less than two minutes left to play did not lead to a game winner as Austria did just enough to end Italy and Germany’s hopes.

Earlier in the day, Italy did their part to hang on to a last hope of making the Olympics.  The difference in the first Group D game of the day was goalkeeping as Bellissimo saved 31 of 32 shots while Meierdres let in four, leading to Italy’s 4-1 win.  Vincent Rocco bookended the game with the team’s first and last goals, while ten other Italians got points in the win.  Willemse scored the only goal for Holland in the second period, but 3-1 was the closest the game would get.

The Group E tournament in Riga, Latvia also left opportunities for Kazakhstan, France and Latvia to all punch their ticket for Sochi.  The Kazakh side did their part in dictating today’s 6-0 victory against Great Britain, where Romanov and Alexandrov both had a goal and an assist.  Yeremeyev earned the shutout by saving all 19 shots he saw on the day.  

Kazakhstan needed the French side to win but not to score too many so they could advance.  This scenario looked promising as France took a 2-0 lead deep into the second period before Lauris Darzins scored his third of the tournament.  With efficiency, 12 seconds into the third and Darzins assisted Karsums on the game tying goal.  Trying to play spoiler, France pulled Cristobal Huet with two minutes to go in the game.  However, the French upset chance fell short as Hecquefeuille earned his third minor penalty of the game, allowing Latvia to hold on and take the game into overtime.  France prevented the shootout by scoring with :40 seconds left in the extra frame to get the victory.  Bellemare put in the game winner for France who fell just short of causing all three groups to have underdogs represent their country in the Winter Olympics.  

The three round robin groups are set for the Olympics per the table below.  There is a lot of international hockey left as the top division IIHF World Championships take place in May with most of the lower divisions competing in April.

Group AGroup BGroup C

Tim Bourcier is a writer for Eurohockey.com following the MOL Liga and hockey in Hungary.  Follow him on Twitter @bourciertm and read his blog Sport Exec in Training.

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