Denmark downs Slovenia
by Adam Steiss|26 AUG 2021

Aiming to reach the Olympic Games for the first time ever, Denmark came out guns blazing and outplayed  Slovenia early to win the opening game of the Men’s Final Olympic Qualification Group F tournament by a score of 4-3.

Nikolaj Ehlers scored the opener and added another in the second period as the Danes overcame a late Slovenia rally to win.

“We had about a week and a half together in Denmark, played a couple of exhibition games and had some minicamps throughout the summer,” said Ehlers. “The preparation we had ahead of this tournament has been outstanding. That gave us a little edge and hopefully that can continue.”

“We’re here to win, every single guy in there has worked hard,” said Ehlers. “So we are playing for us, for Denmark, we want to go to the Olympics it would be incredible.”

It was a tough first matchup for both teams in the three-game tournament, with a loss in regulation all but eliminating any chance to earn an Olympic berth. It would be Denmark who would strike first, as their star player Ehlers fired a shot into the net from the top of the circle as time expired on an Anze Kopitar penalty just over two minutes into the first period.

Maintaining a strong forecheck throughout the frame, the Danes kept the pressure on Slovenia and prevented them from getting any momentum coming out of their zone.

Penalty trouble dropped the Slovenes back further when Robert Sabolic was called for interference on Frederik Storm. On the power play a shot from the point rang off the crossbar but has collected in front of the net by Storm, who bakhanded the puck home for the two-goal lead.

Denmark was cruising after the second goal, cycling the puck freely in the Slovenian zone and leaving their goalie Sebastian Dahm with little to do at the other end. With five minutes to go, another shot from the point by Oliver Lauridsen was deflected in front by Patrick Russell giving Denmark a commanding 3-0 lead.

Team captain Anze Kopitar looked to give Slovenia an injection of life 49 seconds into the in the second period, feeding a pass to a wide open Jan Drozg on the side of the Danish net to cut the lead to 3-1. But Ehlers answered right back, streaking up the ice along the boards and firing a blast that slipped past goalie Gasper Kroselj’s far side to raise the lead back up to three.

Down 4-1 in the third period, Slovenia wasn’t ready to call it quits. An early goal from Jan Urbas cut the lead to two goals, then with just over two and a half mutes left a shot through traffic from Miha Verlic closed the gap to one. But the comeback wasn’t to be as Dahm and the Denmark defence shut the door the rest of the way to seal the victory.

“The first period decided the game,” said Urbas. “We need to start playing from the first second, because against a team like this its hard to come back.”

With the all-important three points in their opening game, Denmark will next face off against Korea, while Slovenia will need to pull off an upset against tournament hosts Norway to have any chance at qualifying for Beijing 2022.