POPRAD – Denmark came into the game as the underdog, and left the rink as the winners, having beaten host nation Slovakia 2-1 in their first Olympic qualification tournament game. Charlotte Densing scored the game winner in the first period, Kamilla Lund Nielsen made 20 saves for Denmark.
“To be honest, I was really nervous before the game. We’re ranked 19th, they’re 7th in the world, that’s a big gap, but I think we played well,” said Lund Nielsen.
Fifty-three seconds. That’s all it took for Slovakia to take a lead in the game. That's the way it was supposed to be with the highest-ranked team against the lowest-ranked team, and Slovakia wasted no time to grab control of the game in front of a loud home crowd.
Martina Velickova weaved her way into the Danish zone, and sent a perfect pass to Janka Culikova who was all alone in front of the net, and beat Kamilla Lund Nielsen in Denmark’s goal.
“I just tried to forget that, and try to make sure I wouldn’t let in any more goals,” said Lund Nielsen.
The crowd went silent at 3:35 when Josefine Persson won a puck battle in front of Slovakia’s net and tied the game three minutes later. And Denmark had more tricks up their sleeve. With 8:04 remaining in the first period. Charlotte Densing’s shot from the blueline found its way through a lot traffic in front of the net, and beat Zuzana Tomcikova in Slovakia’s goal, giving Denmark the lead in the game.
“Our players were thinking about 2014, not today,” said Slovakia’s head coach Miroslav Karafiat.
Also, Slovakia got into some serious penalty trouble, and Denmark had four power-play opportunities in the second period. Zuzana Tomcikova in Slovakia’s goal was tested a few times, but she held her ground.
“We were fortunate that they drew some penalties,” she added.
Denmark outshot Slovakia 39-21 in the game.
With 11:36 remaining in the third period, Slovakia got a golden opportunity to tie the game when Charlotte Densing was sent to the penalty box for interference. Denmark battled and kept Slovakia off the scoreboard.
With a little over eight minutes remaining Slovakia had another two-on-one, a clone of the one that they got their goal on, but this time Lund Nielsen stayed with it, and made a pad save.
In the last two minutes Slovakia created several dangerous scoring chances, but the Danish defence and Lund Nielsen turned away everything. With 27 seconds remaining, Slovakia got their last chance: a power play.
Julie Gregersen got a holding minor and the faceoff was in Denmark’s zone. Sloakia pulled their goalie, but nothing helped. Denmark defended their 2-1 lead till the end.
“I wasn’t sure about anything until about three seconds remaining, when the puck was still in their end,” said Lund Nielsen.
Denmark earned their place in the Poprad tournament by winning their pre-qualification tournament. Now, they’re in the running for an spot in Sochi.
“We’d love to go all the way, but we’ll try to focus on the next game now,” said Kamilla Lund Nielsen.
That next game is tomorrow, against Norway.
“We’re still the underdogs, we’re still ranked last in the world,” said head coach Denis Larsen.
“We’ll just try to have fun, and enjoy every game. With every win, we make Danish women’s hockey history. Today, I was so happy that I was almost sad. I was close to tears,” he said.