Latvia made it to the Olympics, Belarus was left behind the Games. Full qualification totals
The ice hockey tournament at the Olympic Games in China will be held from 4 to 20 February 2022. The top eight teams in the world rankings as of 2019 received an automatic spot in the Olympics. The IIHF rating was calculated based on the performances of the national teams in five tournaments (World Cup 2016, World Cup 2017, OI-2018, World Cup 2018 and World Cup 2019). As a result of the calculations, the national teams of Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, USA, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland have already been selected for Beijing. The national team of China became another participant as the hosts of the tournament.
The rest of the teams had the opportunity to get to the Games through special qualifying tournaments. The Olympic qualification started in November 2019. Since then, three tournaments have taken place, resulting in 12 teams making their way to the final qualifying round. The final qualification was originally supposed to take place from August 27 to 30, 2020 in three groups in Bratislava (Slovakia), Riga (Latvia) and Oslo (Norway). In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, the dates were postponed exactly one year – to August 26-29, 2021. Only the winners of the groups received a ticket to Beijing, and on August 29, the holders of the coveted licenses were determined in three European capitals.
Standings before the last round
According to the results of two playing days, six teams (Slovakia, Belarus, Latvia, France, Denmark, Norway) continued to fight for Olympic licenses, while the other six teams (Austria, Poland, Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, South Korea) lost all chances for getting to Beijing. From the standpoint of the tournament situation, the simplest picture for understanding was in the second (Riga) and third (Oslo) groups. The winner takes it all. This is exactly what will happen on August 29 in the matches Latvia – France and Norway – Denmark, where the winners guaranteed themselves the coveted tickets to China. The other two matches in these groups did not carry any practical meaning.
In the Bratislava group, the hosts just had to transfer the match against Belarus outside of regular time in order to qualify for the Olympics. But only if Woodcroft’s wards won in regulation time, the alignment in the group could get very confused. If in the first match of the playing day the Poles lost at least a point in the match with Austria, then the Belarusians could take first place in the quartet due to the victory over the Slovaks in the face-to-face match. But, if the Poles still managed to defeat the Austrians in three periods, then three teams could score the same number of points (six each), and the difference in goals in personal meetings (excluding games with Austria) would come to the fore. In this case, Belarusians would have to not just defeat Slovakia, but beat it with a difference of three goals or more.
Group D (matches in Bratislava)
However, the morning match brought positive news to the Belarus national team. The Polish team was able to provide decent resistance to the Austrian national team only in the first period, by the 12th minute of which the scoreboard was burning 1: 1. Later, the striker of the Austrian team, Brian Lebler , was the soloist , who scored a hat-trick and brought his team the first victory at the final stage of the selection for the Olympics. The 33-year-old striker generally had an excellent tournament in the capital of Slovakia, excelling in all three meetings. As a result, Lebler scored 71% of his national team’s total goals (five out of seven).
In the group stage, each team will play three matches, after which the final table of the group round will be calculated. The top four teams will advance directly to the quarterfinals, while the other eight teams will face off in the 1/8 finals (5-12, 6-11, 7-10 and 8-9). Next, the classic playoffs will take place, the crown of which will be matches for gold and bronze medals. It remains to wait for the decision of the NHL on the participation of the strongest players on the planet in the Olympic players.