The Great Dane
The Great Dane
Andersen getting ready to rumble
Three-and-half years later Frederik Andersen returns between the pipes, eager to write history and propel his country to PyeongChang 2018.
Touching down in Belarus for the Final Olympic Qualification Group D played in Minsk, the 26-year-old netminder is buzzing with excitement as a new season is about to get underway with great challenges awaiting on both sides of the Atlantic.
A freshly penned deal taking him to the Toronto Maple Leafs and a place on the Team Europe roster at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is looming on the horizon for the big netminder. But make no mistake, for now Andersen's sole focus is on his country in their quest to seal their maiden voyage to the Olympics.
Olympic qualification is a sore topic for Andersen and his compatriots. In February 2013 the stage was seemingly set for the Scandinavians to qualify for Sochi 2014. But playing their final qualification on home ice, any Olympic hopes derailed with two successive defeats which in the end saw Slovenia spring a surprise and head to Russia.
"It was a massive disappointment," says Andersen on those dark February days which saw him record his last competitive appearances to date for the Danish national team. "We were then in the same group against Belarus and Slovenia and lost both games. There were many of us who were around at that time, who now are very eager to try and make up for it."
With Belarus, Slovenia and Poland being Denmark's opponents in Group D of the Final Olympic Qualification for PyeongChang 2018, the stage is now set for the Scandinavians to be party spoilers in the Minsk Arena while getting one back on Slovenia. Having built up a growing reputation within the Anaheim organization before recently sealing a transfer to one of the illustrious Original Six, Andersen now returns to the national team fold after a three-and-half year hiatus and is thrilled to be back in a close-knit group of players hailing from the top leagues of the game.
"We have a great bunch of guys who all know each other well and look forward to get together and play for our national team. Our first aim is to start off with a win and take it from there," says Andersen, who will need to be on top of his form from the outset with top seeds Belarus awaiting in their opener at the Final Qualification.
"I've watched Belarus in their recent exhibition game against Germany and it is a very good hockey team and with the home crowd behind them it will be extremely tough," says Denmark's head coach Jan Karlsson on the task ahead of his adepts.
Karlsson, who earlier this year guided Denmark to a record-breaking 11 points and a quarter-final berth at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, is a man well aware of Olympic glory. He was an assistant coach as Sweden won gold in Turin 2006, and now urges his players to step up in all of their three matches if another chapter in Danish ice hockey history is set to be written this week.
"Our second opponents Slovenia are very strong defensively. We played them with Denmark at World Championship in Czech Republic in 2015 and did not manage to break them down and lost. For Poland, things are looking positive, so if we want to win matches in this group, we need to get 100 per cent out of all our players," says Karlsson.
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