Monday, November 12, 2012

Olympic Pre-Qualification Update

Over the weekend the 2014 Winter Olympic Pre-Qualification Phase concluded with action in Groups G, H and J sending three winners onto the Final Olympic Qualification, which will take place from February 7th to 10th, 2013.

Kiev hosted Group H, which saw hosts Ukraine (currently ranked 20th in the IIHF World Rankings) and Poland (23rd) on a collision course following dual shutouts of overmatched Estonia and Spain. While Poland struck first with a goal at 3:28 of the first period, Ukraine evened it up at 1-1 with a power play goal with just over a minute remaining.

Just 39 seconds into the second period, Ukraine capitalized on a late penalty call in the first period to take a lead they would not relinquish, adding a late goal in the second with 31 seconds to go and then their third and fourth power play goals of the game for a final 5-1 margin to the delight of the blue and yellow clad home supporters.

Ukraine, Ukraine
Ukraine celebrates their Group H victory

Things were tighter in Group J heading into Sunday, as three teams had a chance to advance, as Japan (22nd) led with 5 points after a 2-0 victory over Romania and an 3-2 overtime win over South Korea (28th). Great Britain (21st) was second at 4 points thanks to a point from their 5-4 shootout loss to South Korea and 3-0 win over Romania. South Korea were still in with a shot thanks to picking up 2 points from their shootout win over Great Britain and the point gained in their overtime loss to hosts Japan, but needing an outright win over Romania on Sunday to keep their hopes alive.

South Korea got the win they needed in the form of a 2-0 triumph over Romania to give them 6 points in the standings and hoping that Great Britain would defeat Japan in overtime, which would leave South Korea, Great Britain and Japan all tied with 6 points with South Korea holding the tie-breaking advantage to win the group.

Unfortunately for the South Koreans, things did not go their way, as the British capitalized on a power play midway through the first period to take a 1-0 lead and struck again just 30 seconds later against one time Los Angeles Kings goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji, silencing the home fans in Japan.

By no means did Great Britain go into a defensive shell, as they held the advantage in shots on goal in both the first (16-7) and third periods (10-6), while the second was even at nine each. Following a scoreless second period, Japan got one past Stephen Murphy in goal for the visitors at 4:01 of the third, setting up a tense final run to the finish, which included a late power play for Japan with just 1:41 remaining, which became a 6-on-4 when Japan pulled their goalie with 60 seconds left. Murphy and Great Britain stood tall to hold on for a 2-1 win, and the three full points gained from winning in regulation leap frogged them over both Japan's 5 and South Korea's 6 to win the group with 7.

Great Britain vs. Japan, Great Britain vs. Japan
Stephen Murphy's 21 saves on 22 shots led Great Britain to the next round

Group G in Budapest saw hosts Hungary cruise to the deciding game with a 5-1 win over Lithuania  and a 13-0 drubbing of Preliminary Qualification Group K winners Croatia. Their opponents were the Netherlands, who downed Croatia 8-2 before easily handling Lithuania 9-2.

The two clubs then engaged in what was not only the most thrilling game of this round of Olympic Qualification, but perhaps the entire 2012-13 season in the world of hockey.

Hungary opened the scoring at 8:17 with a power play goal just 21 seconds after a too many men penalty on the Netherlands. The Dutch rebounded at 11:59 to even the score before adding two more before the period ended at 3-1 in favor of the visitors.

While Hungary scored at 1:19 to pull within one, the Netherlands captialized on the only penalty of the period to restore their two goal lead at the three minute mark. Just over eight minutes later Hungary again closed to within 1 at 3-2 and then had the building rocking when they tied the score at 16:28.

Netherlands vs Hungary, Netherlands vs Hungary
The hard fought game between Hungary and the Netherlands
could have gone either way

The Netherlands retook the lead at 8:50 of the third period only to have Hungary's Janos Vas matched his brother Marton Vas' earlier goal. Hungary finally was able to lead the game for the first time since midway through the first period when they scored at 15:04, sending the home fans into a frenzy.

Hungary was unable to hold on for the remainder of the game though, as the Netherlands fought back to tie the game at 6-6 with just 1:30 left in regulation.

Neither team was able to score during the remainder of the third period or the five minutes of overtime which followed, meaning the winner of not only the game, but the group, would be decided by a three round shootout.

After the first two shooters missed the net, team captain Diederick Hagemijer scored for the Dutch and Csaba Kovacs of Hungary was stopped by goalkeeper Ian Meierdres for Holland. Marcel Kars then advanced the Netherlands to the Final Olympic Qualification in February with the clinching goal to make the final score 7-6 in a terrific night of hockey as the 24th ranked Netherlands upset the 19th ranked Hungarians at home.

Netherlands flag, Netherlands
Everyone loves winning a trophy, and that is a seriously nice one
the Dutch they are clearly enjoying

Remember, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Ukraine will not be advancing to the 2014 Olympics just yet, as they must participate in another phase of the competition, the Final Olympic Qualification, which will take place from February 7th to 10th in 2013.

Things get much tougher for those teams advancing, as they are slotted into Groups D, E and F, where teams ranked 10-18 await.

The Netherlands (24) will be looking to return to the Olympic Hockey Tournament for the first time since 1980, but face long odds as the lowest ranked team remaining when they participate in Group D, which is being hosted by Germany (10) and will also consist of Austria (15) and Italy (16).

Group E sees Latvia (11) hosting France (14) and Kazakhstan (17) plus Great Britain (21) (who have not skated in the Olympics since 1948) while Group F will take place in Denmark (12) with Belarus (13) and Slovenia (18) all awaiting Ukraine (20), whose only Olympic participation was in 2002 in Salt Lake City and the top ranked team to advance from the just completed round of Pre-Qualifcation.

Only when the Final Olympic Qualification is concluded will the winners of those three groups gain an entry into the actual 2014 Winter Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi a year later where hosts Russia (1), Slovakia (6) and the United States (7) in Group A, Finland (2), Canada (5) and Norway (8) in Group B and the Czech Republic (3), Sweden (4) and Switzerland (9) in Group C welcome the final three survivors of the three step qualification process which began in September 2012 in Croatia.

While little publicized and virtually unknown in North America, the Olympic qualification tournament can provide some some of the most dramatic moments, as we have seen today, particularly in Groups D, E and F with an actual berth in the Olympics on the line, as making it to the games in as good as a gold medal for the participants of the lower ranked nations and is a source of tremendous pride for all involved to compete at the highest level on sport's biggest stage against the world's best.

Our first featured jersey today is a 2002 Ukraine National Team Vadim Shakhraychuk jersey as worn during the 2002 World Championships in Sweden. It features the Coat of Arms of Ukraine as the main crest, a trident commonly called the Tryzub, a symbol which dates back over 1,000 years and most historians agree depicts a stylized falcon which in turn represents the Holy Spirit.

Nike Ukraine jerseys are quite difficult to obtain, and even more so from this time period. Once the challenge of even acquiring one been met, having it customized properly is even more difficult, as jersey material fabric in it's singular shade of blue is simply unavailable. Fortunately for us, the experts at Exclusive Pro Sports were able to custom dye fabric to match in order create an accurate nameplate, something we are confident no other customizers are capable of.

Ukraine 2002 jersey, Ukraine 2002 jersey
Ukraine 2002 jersey, Ukraine 2002 jersey
Ukraine 2002 jersey, Ukraine 2002 jerseyaaUkraine 2002 jersey, Ukraine 2002 jersey

Our second featured jersey is a 2008 Great Britain National Team Jason Hewitt jersey as worn during Olympic Pre-Qualifying Group D held in Poland in November of 2008. This is a truly striking jersey with it's large, dynamic lion crest logo with Union Jack mane. The curved, vertical striping only add to the excitement of this vibrantly colored jerseys. Easily one of our favorites in the Third String Goalie collection.

Great Britain 2008 jersey, Great Britain 2008 jersey
Great Britain 2008 jersey, Great Britain 2008 jersey

Today's final featured jersey is a 2008 Netherlands National Team Ivy van den Huevel jersey as worn in the 2008 IIHF Division I Group A World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria as well as the IIHF Group C Pre-Olympic Qualification Tournament in Narva, Estonia in November 2008.

The main crest, striping, name, numbers and even the IIHF logo on the back are all dye-sublimated, with the name on a nameplate which was then sewn on, while the sponsorship patch on the back is printed on a patch which was then sewn onto the jersey. The pair of sponsorship patches on the arms are embroidered patches which were then sewn on.

This very attractive jersey in the traditional Dutch color of orange features a striking main logo and some basic, yet effective striping and contrasting blue accent colors for an overall excellent look.

Netherlands 2008 F
Netherlands 2008 B
Netherlands 2008 P2 Netherlands 2008 P3

The Great Britain and Netherlands jerseys are from our friends at WorldHockeyJerseys.com, the number one source of game-worn jerseys from national teams of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Nick and Mike have supplied us at Third String Goalie with a number of our jerseys, including those from Estoina, Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, the Netherlands and Spain. To view their home page on ebay and check for any upcoming auctions, please click here.

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