2018 Winter Olympic Men’s Tournament is Set

After Norway, Germany, and Slovenia won their qualification tournament over the weekend, the field for the 2018  Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea is set.

The tournament will follow the same format as Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, a 12-team tournament with three groups of four teams. Each team will play the other three in their group, with the top four overall seeds advancing to the quarterfinals and the remaining eight teams playing a qualification round to determine the other four quarterfinal teams.

2018 Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament
Group A: Canada (1), Czech Republic (6), Switzerland (7), Korea (12)
Group B: Russia (2), USA (5), Slovakia (8), Slovenia (11)
Group C: Sweden (3), Finland (4), Norway (9), Germany (10)

Following the 2015 IIHF World Championships, the top eight teams automatically qualified using a rolling point system using finishes from the last four World Championships (2012-2015) as well as the 2014 Olympics. The 2015 World Championship results earned 100% point value while each previous finish earned 25% less. This meant Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, United States, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and the Slovakia all qualified as the top eight teams, leaving the rest to qualify except for South Korea the host nation. The first qualification game was a October 2015 playoff between Georgia and Bulgaria to determine who would travel to Estonia a month later for the first preliminary round. Other nations played four team/three game tournaments with the group winners advancing to the next round with the final three groups playing this weekend. The top nations in each round were the host, with Norway being the only host to win their group in the final round.

In Group D, host Slovenia and Belarus remained deadlocked 2-2 after regulation and a five-minute overtime. It all came down to a shootout, where Robert Sabolič of Slovenia  and Alexander Kulakov of Belarus missed in the first round. The second round saw successful attempts from Slovenia’s Anze Kopitar  and Belarus’ Andrei Stepanov.  In the final round, it came down to Andrei Kostitsyn of Belarus after Rok Tičar scored. Kostitsyn’s shot was saved, putting the Risi in the Olympics for the second time.

Group E saw Germany and Latvia combine for four power play goals in a 3-2 decision in favor of Germany. The last of which came from Pittsburgh forward Tom Kühnhackl slid a rebound under the pads of Elvis Merzlikins 14 seconds after Kaspars Daugavins was sent off for tripping. Germany took a 2-0 lead at 4:51 of the second period when Felix Schutz scored the only even strength tally of the game. Latvia got back in the game with power play goals from Miks Idrasis (14:55 second period) and Martins Karsums ( 6:19 third period) before Germany got the go ahead goal. Latvia got one last power play when Marcel Goc was penalized for tripping with 2:58 left in the game but couldn’t score even after pulling Merzlikins for an extra attacker in the final minute.

Norway was the only team this round to book a trip to South Korea with a loss (in overtime to Kazakhstan), as well as the only final round host to advance. What wound up hurting France was discipline, racking up 24 minor penalties and a 10-minute misconduct by Stephanie De Costa for Abuse of Officials. While NY Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello (2-3–5) and Patrick Thoresen (0-4–4) led the group in scoring, it was Mattias Norstebo scoring a power play goal with 2:29 remaining to break the tie and eventually put the Isbjørnene in the Olympics for the third straight time and 12th overall.

Group C will begin play February 10, 2018 while Group B and Group A start the following day.

The women’s tournament qualification will begin next month with the 1st Qualifying Round in Mexico City. The Final Qualifying Tournament will be held February 9-12, 2017 in Japan and Switzerland. The winners at each location will join Canada, United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia and host South Korea.

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