Danes stronger than ever
Danes stronger than ever
NHL-laden squad aims at first Olympic qualification
The Danish national team made the World Championship quarter-finals the second time ever last month in Russia, the U20 national team will play among the top-ten countries in the World Junior Championship in Canada for the third consecutive year and seven Danes played in the National Hockey League in the 2015/2016 season with goaltender Frederik Andersen and six forwards: Mikkel Bodker, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nikolaj Ehlers, Lars Eller, Jannik Hansen and Frans Nielsen.
For Andersen the season even ended with the Jennings Trophy because he and his colleague John Gibson allowed the Anaheim Ducks to concede the fewest goals in the NHL regular season.
Now the Danes want to achieve something they’ve never reached before in ice hockey: qualifying for the Olympic Winter Games.
“I hope we can continue the positive trend from the World Championship in Russia where we reached the quarter-finals and I’m enormously looking forward to working with this squad for the Olympic Qualification. It’s a bunch of players of the highest international quality,” Denmark’s national team head coach Janne Karlsson said when presenting the preliminary roster.
Despite climbing up the ladder – Denmark qualified for the top division of the World Championship for the first time in 54 years in 2003 and has never been relegated since – the number 13 of the 2016 IIHF Men’s World Ranking has never managed to succeed in the Final Olympic Qualification.
The Danes were optimistic before Sochi 2014 when they earned the right to host one of the three Final Olympic Qualification groups on home ice in Vojens as top-seeded team.
The organizers were ready for a party and the team started with a 2-0 blanking of Ukraine. However, few may have counted in Slovenia as party spoilers. The Slovenes had a 4-2 upset win against Belarus on the opening day and stunned Denmark 2-1 in front of 5,000 fans in Vojens on the second day to make it to the Olympics for the first time in the post-Yugoslav era.
Now the Danes want to make up for the bad results from last time. Ironically they are again seeded in the same group with Slovenia and Belarus, which will host the event at Minsk Arena from 1-4 September. Poland joins the trio as a qualifier from the preliminary round.
Coach Karlsson can count on all NHL players for the Mission PyeongChang and will coach a Danish team that is on paper better than ever before.
“We have never been at the Winter Olympics before and I can guarantee that all these players will do anything to bring Denmark to the Olympics,” the national team’s General Manager Kim Pedersen said. “The squad is stronger than ever and we would be disappointed if we didn’t make it for 2018.”
Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders, Denmark’s best point scorer in the last NHL season, was named captain of the team that includes 26 players before the roster will be reduced to 23 for the tournament. Eleven players have either played in the NHL before or are under contract with a team from the National Hockey League. 14 players join from club teams from other European countries, most notably from Finnish and Swedish teams, and four from the domestic Metal Ligaen.
The roster also includes four players who will join Team Europe for the World Cup of Hockey after the Final Olympic Qualification with Andersen, Bodker, Hansen and Nielsen.
The team will come together on 26th August in Copenhagen and play an exhibition game in Riga against Latvia on 30th August before starting the tournament in Minsk against host country Belarus two days later.
“It won’t be an easy task and we have biggest respect for our opponents,” Pedersen said. “We will meet a Belarusian team with 15,000 fans in their back and huge pressure; a Slovenian squad that always acts smartly and took ‘our’ spot at the Olympics in 2014 and a Polish team on the way up. It won’t take many years until we will see them in the top division. I can guarantee that we won’t take anyone lightly.”
The three open spots at the 2018 Olympic Winter Game’s men’s ice hockey tournament will all be determined in early September at three Final Olympic Qualification tournaments. Latvia, Germany, Austria and Japan will play in Riga; and Norway, France, Kazakhstan and Italy will play another group in Oslo. The seeding was done one year ago based on the 2015 IIHF Men’s World Ranking.
The three lucky qualifiers will join the top-eight teams that are already set – Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, the United States, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Slovakia – and host Korea in PyeongChang 2018.
Preliminary Roster Denmark
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Patrick Galbraith, Krefeld Penguine (GER)
Sebastian Dahm, Graz 99ers (AUT)
Simon Nielsen, Blue Fox Herning (DEN)
Daniel Nielsen, Herning Blue Fox (DEN)
Emil Kristensen, Linköpings HC (SWE)
Jesper B. Jensen, Jokerit Helsinki (FIN)
Markus Lauridsen, Leksands IF (SWE)
Nicholas B. Jensen, Esbjerg Energy (DEN)
Oliver Lauridsen, Jokerit Helsinki (FIN)
Philip Larsen, Jokerit Helsinki (FIN)
Stefan Lassen, Pelicans Lahti (FIN)
Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders (NHL)
Frederik Storm, Malmo Redhawks (SWE)
Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
Lars Eller, Washington Capitals (NHL)
Mads Christensen, EHC Red Bull Munich (GER)
Mikkel Bodker, Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
Morten Green, Rungsted IK (DEN)
Morten Madsen, Hamburg Freezers (GER)
Morten Poulsen, Pelicans Lahti (FIN)
Nichlas Hardt, Malmo Redhawks (SWE)
Nicklas Jensen, Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets (NHL)
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Lake Erie Monsters (AHL)
Peter Regin, Jokerit Helsinki (FIN)
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