Denmark to hockey final eight for only second time

The world hockey championships will have a distinct Nordic flair after two-time winners Finland beat Canada 4-0 in their final Group B match in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday to end the reigning champions' 16-match winning streak at the world championship.

Denmark to hockey final eight for only second time
Denmark's players celebrate a goal during the group A preliminary round game Denmark vs Kazakhstan at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Moscow on May 16, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV
Finland will now meet Denmark at Saint Petersburg's Yubileiny Arena in Thursday's early quarter-final,  marking only the second time that the Danes have made it this far at the world hockey championships. 
Denmark goalie Sebastian Dahm told TV2 Sport that the team's performance at this years' IIHF world championships is a sign that the Danes “have taken a step up in the global hierarchy”. 
“This is so huge for all of us and it is fantastic for Danish ice hockey. To get four wins in the world championships and make it to the quarter finals is unbelievable. I can hardly put words to it,” he said.
Denmark qualified for the quarter-finals after the Czech Republic battled back from a goal down to edge Switzerland 5-4 and seal top spot in Group A. That win, combined with Danish victories over Latvia and Kazakhstan, allowed Denmark to finish fourth in the group.
Now the Danes will try to stop Finland from claiming their first medal since 2014. 
The Finns expect a tough match on Thursday against the Danes, who managed to upset Group A winners the Czech Republic 2-1 on their way to the play-offs.
“Denmark are strong team,” Finland forward Aleksandr Barkov said.
“They have three NHL forwards in their roster. No doubts they will battle tough but we're also intending to win. I expect an interesting game.”
When these teams last met at the 2014 world championship, Finland won 3-2. That year, Finland finished as runners-up.

The Czechs will face the United States, who finished fourth in Group B despite a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Slovakia in overtime.
The other quarter final games will see Sweden take on Canada, while hosts Russia will face off against Germany. 

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Field hockey in Denmark: an international discipline

Seen as a rather obscure sport in Denmark, field hockey has provided a chance for international friendship - and glory - at one Copenhagen club.

Field hockey in Denmark: an international discipline
Player profile photos from Copenhagen hockey club KH Hockey. Composite: supplied

The sun dips low over the horizon as the sounds of hockey sticks thumping hard plastic balls fill the early evening air in Valby. A training session is in progress at KH Hockey, Denmark’s oldest hockey club, as it prepares for another season in the top-flight. 

On one of the flanks of the club’s pitch enclosure, a group of amateur footballers on the way to a match of their own, beers in hand, roar with laughter at the sight of KH’s players training. To them, this is a crude and alien sport. With only a handful of field hockey clubs in the country’s two competitive divisions, this can be no surprise. 

Dreams of glory

For KH, the reality of playing a sport that most dinner table conversations associate with rullehockey (amateur hockey played on roller blades, often on pavements and backyards) or the more popular variant of the sport, ice hockey, can be tough.

The team is a resilient bunch, however, and have secured their status in Denmark’s top flight year after year, finishing second last season. And the dream of another title to compliment the back-to back triumphs of the 2008 and 2009 seasons remains alive, as yet another new season dawns.

This year will be different though, if for nothing else than the fact that the club will be hosting the biggest tournament in it’s 114-year history, the Mens Euro Hockey Club Challenge III, which will run for four days this May and features teams from Ukraine, Malta, Sweden, Turkey and Norway.

Qualification for the annual event, hosted by a different nation each year, is secured by finishing among the top 2 in the highest division of each league.

The lure of a prestigious international tournament

For many KH players, playing in the league is one thing, but the draw of an international tournament of this calibre is incomparable. In fact, it is one of the factors that single handedly draws numerous former KH players back to the club, if only for the duration of the tournament, where strength in numbers is pivotal to any team that wants to do well.

Participating in the competition also boosts the club’s profile, and the generally limited pool of international players in Denmark tends to take notice.

In addition to a base of local players, KH, like several other Copenhagen clubs, relies on a stream of internationals to secure its squad numbers.

A mix of expats from as far as Australia and European exchange students are among those to have have made KH the team it is today. For many, playing hockey is a good opportunity to make local friends and become more acquainted with Danish culture, while there are others who are in it simply for the love of the game.

KH players were keen to express the importance of the upcoming tournament for the club.

“Being in the EC Hockey Challenge with KH means that Denmark and Copenhagen in particular can present itself as an active and alive hockey community, where fun and sportsmanship come together,” Dutch player Fabian van Oevelen says.

“We have the heart and the talent to be Danish champions again and this tournament is a boost to this dream,” teammate James Luke Barnes of the United Kingdom adds.

KH Hockey players Fabian van Oevelen (L) and James Luke Barnes. Photos: supplied

Firm expectations for the new season

With the sun long gone, a plastic Grays ball rolls across KH’s floodlit Astroturf pitch for a final time in this particular training session.

Captain Rasmus Mundeling brings things to a close with a shout as the lads gather around the dugout for a swig of water. English, Danglish and Danish jokes break out en masse. KH’s season is in full force and spirits are high. Will this be the year they lift the Danish trophy for the first time since 2009 and how well will the team do in the Mens Euro Hockey Challenge?

The Euro Hockey Challenge can be watched live and free of charge at KH Hockey from May 18th-21st. A full match schedule can be found here.

Join KH Hockey Club

KH Hockey is on the lookout for new talent. Teams consist of numerous nationalities from all over the world and have both male and female youth and adult squads. All skill levels are welcome.

Information about how to join is available on the club's website and Facebook pages.

Allan Mutuku-Kortbæk is a player and club member with KH Hockey.

READ MORE: Sports stories from Denmark