Danes shock Czechia
by Andrew Podnieks|09 FEB 2022
Frans Nielsen scores Denmark's 2-0 goal on a penalty shot.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Denmark stunned Czechia, 2-1, in the nation's first ever Olympic men's hockey game tonight. Goalie Sebastian Dahm was the star for the winners, stopping 39 of 40 shots at the National Indoor Stadium. The Danes had only 17 but scored their two goals in the first period and got stronger and more confident as the game went on.

"The win means everything to us," said a jubilant Mikkel Aagard. "The boys have been working so hard towards this and just looking forward to today, and it’s unbelievable to get the win tonight. We trust in Sebastian. He’s an unbelievable goalie and a great teammate, and it’s great to see him have success. He was a big part of our win tonight."

"What can I say?" asked Czechia captain Roman Cervenka rhetorically. "We’re disappointed. We have to improve our game, for sure. Their goalie played well, but this is the Olympics. You have to expect that goalies are going to play well. We made it easy for him; we need to make it more difficult. We have to go more in front of the net, and we have to be more effective on the PP."

Playing in Group B with Switzerland, ROC, and Czechia, Denmark is now in a much more favourable position as the preliminary round continues while the Czechs have to be disappointed with the loss.

"We got enough shots but need to make some adjustments to improve the quality of shots," offered Czechia coach Filip Pesan. "We did a good job in terms of possession and limiting their chances. They didn’t have many shots, but they scored two goals. And that was enough."

The first period could not have started more predictably as the Czechs dominated play and spent most of the first ten minutes in the Danish end. They controlled the puck, played physically, and challenged for every loose puck. They were unlucky not to score first. Lukas Sedlak came out of the corner with the puck and barged in on goal, but his quick shot to the short side hit the post along the ice and stayed out.

Denmark coach Heinz Ehlers tried to get his team to calm down, and the midway TV timeout certainly seemed to help. Soon after, the Danes opened the scoring. David Sklenicka bobbled the puck just inside his blue line, and the Danes got control. Markus Lauridsen took a harmless shot that hit the stick of Czech forward Vladimir Sobotka and fooled Simon Hrubec. The goal, at 11:21, will go down in history as the first Danish score in men’s Olympic history, and it came off the stick of a player who has a mere five goals in 45 career World Championship games.

"It's surreal," Lauridsen said. "I can't really believe it. It's obviously an historic goal for us, but I'm more proud of the win than the goal. It's just a huge accomplishment for Danish hockey."

But rather than sit back again now that they had the lead, the goal gave the Danes some confidence. They were awarded a penalty shot when Patrick Russell was hauled down on a partial breakaway during a Czechia power play. Ehlers selected Frans Nielsen to take the shot. Nielsen has more shootout goals in NHL history than anyone except Jonathan Toews, and he is one-for-one in World Championship competition. He made no mistake tonight, freezing Hrubec before roofing a backhand on the deke at 17:33.

It was the first goal on a penalty shot at the Olympics sicne Andrejs Maticins of Latvia beat Kostyantyn Simchuk of Ukraine in 2002. Since then, there have been six other freebies, all stopped by the goalie.

It was a most improbable period in which the Danes were outshot 17-4 yet ahead, 2-0.

The Danes played a nearly flawless second period. The only blip came 3:45 in when captain Roman Cervenka was allowed to skate into the slot and rifle a shot over the blocking arm of Dahm, cutting the Danish lead in half. But the rest of the period was uneventful, which is just how the Danes liked it. Play went back and forth without incident, and the Danes neither gambled to create offence nor made any other errors in their own end.

Surprisingly, teams opened up in the third. Cervenka had a great chance early, but Dahm got a glove on a quick shot. At the other end, Mikkel Bodker came out from the corner but ripped a shot high over the net. The Danes played it simple in their own end--get it out--and once in the Czechia end held onto the puck effectively, not always looking for the shot but concerned more with maintaining possession.

Midway through, Nicholas Jensen took an unnecessary hooking penalty, causing anxiety for the Danes. The Czechs moved the puck around well but got only one good chance, a quick shot by Matej Stransky that was kicked out by Dahm with a lightning pad save.

Soon after, with the Czechs pinching, the Danes created a two-on-one ending with Frans Nielsen going in alone on Hrubec. He tried to shoot five-hole, but the goalie squeezed the pads to make a crucial save. Soon after, Bodker turned a broken play into another great scoring chance, but Hrubec kicked a shot out with a fine right-pad stop.

In the final minute, with Hrubec on the bench, Czechia struggled to gain control in the offensive end, but they did have one final chance. Tomas Kundratek snapped a shot off the post with 18 seconds left, but the Danes got to the rebound and killed the remainder of the game.

"My favourite sound in the world!" Dahm enthused after. "My favourite noise! I saw the shot going off and I tried to challenge him, cover as much net as I could. Once it went by me, I was hoping for one of two noises: either a ring, or a hit off the boards. The ring is the best, though."
Czech Republic vs Denmark - 2022 Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Tournament