Denmark, Latvia, Slovakia secure final Olympic spots in men's hockey

Denmark will compete in the men's Olympic ice hockey tournament for the first time in its program's 75 year history. (Oksana Dzadan/AP)

Denmark, Latvia and Slovakia have qualified for the final three spots in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics men's ice hockey tournament.

They will join Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, the Russian Olympic Committee, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States in the 12-team tournament.

Denmark qualifies for the Olympics for the first time since its official ice hockey federation joined the IIHF 75 years ago.

The Danes secured their spot with a 2-0 win over Norway to finish a perfect 3-0 in Group F of qualifying, with wins over Slovenia and South Korea earlier in the week. Winnipeg Jets star Nikolaj Ehlers led all skaters with five goals and nine points in the three games while Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand was close behind with three goals and five points.

Latvia returns to the Olympic tournament for the fifth time in the past six competitions after finishing first in Group E with a 2-1 win over France Sunday.

Ivars Punnenovs, starting for Latvia in place of the late Matiss Kivlenieks, allowed only one goal in three wins over France, Italy and Hungary. Sharks forward Rudolfs Balcers and former Canucks forward Ronalds Kenins led all skaters with six points each.

Slovakia advances to Beijing with a 2-1 win over Belarus to finish 3-0 in Group D. The game-winning goal was scored on an empty net as Slovakia only needed one point to win the group and Belarus had pulled their goalie in an effort to avoid overtime.

The Slovaks -- who also beat Austria and Poland to win Group D -- were led offensively by Libor Hudacek, who had three goals and four points. Slovakia has been a mainstay in the Olympics since 1994 and peaked with a fourth-place finish at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

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