In a few hours, Germany will make their final preparations for a gold-medal meeting against the Olympic Athletes from Russia. And no, if you’re just tuning in the Olympics now, your eyes not deceive you. It is in fact Germany that has earned the right to play OAR for a spot atop the podium in Pyeongchang by pulling off two of the greatest upsets in recent International hockey history.
After narrowly squeaking by Switzerland thanks to some overtime heroics to simply qualify for the playoff round, Germany went on the quarterfinal where they appeared to be significantly overpowered by a Swedish side that was favored to at least land a spot in the medals. However, another unthinkable overtime moment sent Germany past Sweden and into the semifinal against Canada, where Germany scored three quick goals and put the defending gold medalists in a hole they were unable to escape. And with their eventual 4-3 victory over Canada, Germany booked their ticket to the Olympic final.
Now, Germany is looking for one more incredible, unfathomable, jaw-dropping upset to complete the trifecta and take home gold. And if the German side needs any inspiration, they need not look any further than these stunning — and unexpected — Olympic victories from the past 20 years:
SLOVENIA (3) – SLOVAKIA (1) — 2014 SOCHI OLYMPICS, PRELIMINARY ROUND
Slovakia’s days as a true medal contender were over entering the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, but the nation, with a roster that included Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and Tomas Tatar, was still comfortably a top-10 hockey power. Slovenia, on the other hand, wasn’t quite there. Anze Kopitar was the lone NHLer on the squad, which led most to believe Slovenia would be a fun story but a team that would ultimately be run over against top competition. That wasn’t quite the case against Slovakia, however, as the Slovenians fired home three goals in a six-minute span in the third before coming within 18 seconds of shutting out the Slovaks.
LATVIA (3) – SWITZERLAND (1) — 2014 SOCHI OLYMPICS, QUARTERFINAL
Was it a meeting between two of the game’s superpowers? Absolutely not. That didn’t make Latvia’s victory any less shocking, however. During the group stage, Latvia failed to win a single game and finished with the third-worst goal differential of the preliminary round. And up against Switzerland, who came into the tournament two spots ahead of Latvia in the world ranking, the expectation was that the Swiss would be moving on. Instead, the Latvians stunned Switzerland with two goals in the first 11 minutes of play and played a disciplined game that allowed an empty-net goal to seal a 3-1 victory. Latvia nearly doubled down on the upsets, too, as they came within a goal of forcing overtime against Canada in the semifinal.
SLOVAKIA (2) – RUSSIA (1) [SO] — 2010 VANCOUVER OLYMPICS, PRELIMINARY ROUND
Historically, Russia has had some the strongest and most star-studded teams in international hockey history. The 2010 Games were no different. But Slovakia game-planned for a tough test against the Russians and executed to perfection. Early in the second, Russia broke through when Alexei Morozov beat Jaroslav Halak to open the scoring, but midway through the third, Marian Hossa levelled the game at one. Overtime solved nothing a shootout was required to find a winner. In the skills competition, Jozef Stumpel and Pavol Demitra came through, while Halak stopped Alex Ovechkin twice on three shots and turned aside attempts from Morozov, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin to seal the victory for Slovakia.
SLOVAKIA (4) – SWEDEN (3) — 2010 VANCOUVER OLYMPICS, QUARTERFINAL
Slovakia wasn’t done surprising teams when they beat Russia. After working their way past Norway in a tight game to play into the quarterfinals, the Slovaks had a date with the Swedes, who were one of the tournament favorites. Jaroslav Halak was brilliant in the game, though, and Slovakia drew first blood and doubled their lead shortly thereafter on goals by Marian Gaborik and Andrej Sekera. Sweden evened the score late in the second, but before the frame was through, Pavol Demitra gave Slovakia a 3-2 lead. Tomas Kopecky scored at the midpoint of the third to restore a two-goal advantage for Slovakia, but after Daniel Alfredsson brought Sweden within one, Halak slammed the door as the Slovaks held on.
SWITZERLAND (3) – CZECH REPUBLIC (2) — 2006 TURIN OLYMPICS, PRELIMINARY ROUND
The Czechs have slid down the world ranking in recent years, but heading into the 2006 Games, only Canada and Sweden were ranked higher by the IIHF. Switzerland, meanwhile, was the eighth-ranked team and it was expected that they would finish near the bottom of Group A, battling with Germany and Italy for seeding. But on the second day of play, Switzerland delivered a shocker thanks to the play of goaltender David Aebischer. The Czech Republic absolutely dominated play, forcing Switzerland to take penalties and peppering the net throughout the entire game. Aebischer did everything possible to withstand the barrage, turning inside all but two shots. That allowed goals by Thomas Ziegler, Thierry Paterlini and a third period strike from Mark Streit to give Switzerland the 3-2 victory.
SWITZERLAND (2) – CANADA (0) — 2006 TURIN OLYMPICS, PRELIMINARY ROUND
Why stop at one upset when you can have two? For an encore to their defeat of the Czech Republic, the Swiss took it one step further in a contest against Canada, who entered the tournament as the defending gold medalists. In a game that Canada thoroughly dominated, Switzerland was outshot 49-18 and took more than 40 minutes in penalties. Despite the slanted nature of the tilt, Paul DiPietro score two crucial goals to stun the Canadians. DiPietro’s first goal came with less than two minutes left in the first and he got Switzerland some insurance midway through the second. All the while, Martin Gerber played out of his mind, turning aside every single shot he faced to secure a 2-0 Swiss win.
SWEDEN (3) – USA (2) [SO] — 2006 TURIN OLYMPICS, SEMIFINAL
No matter the women’s tournament — be it the Olympics, Worlds or 4 Nations Cup — one can typically bank on Canada and USA squaring off to decide who finishes atop the podium. No other nation has ever won a major international competition on the women’s side. But in 2006, Sweden came as close as anyone ever has. In the semis at the Turin Games, USA got out to an early 2-0 lead, but over a span of three minutes in the second period, Sweden’s Maria Rooth became a household name in her home country. Six minutes in, she scored to bring Sweden within one, and before the midpoint of the frame, Rooth notched a shorthanded goal to bring the score level. Swedish goaltender Kim Martin kept USA in check for the final 40 minutes, an entire overtime and refused to be beat in the shootout. That allowed Pernilla Winberg and — who else? — Rooth to score in the shootout to punch Sweden’s ticket to the gold-medal game.
BELARUS (4) – SWEDEN (3) — 2002 SALT LAKE CITY OLYMPICS
In order to even compete at the 2002 Olympics, Belarus had to make its way through the qualification round. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Belarus was absolutely run over in the group stage. In three games, they finished with a minus-16 goal differential and were booked into a meeting with Sweden in the quarters. The game itself was lopsided, with Sweden out shooting Belarus 47-19, but two quick goals by Oleg Romanov and Dmitri Dudik put Sweden on their heels. And after Sweden tied the game, Belarus’ Andrei Kovalev put his team ahead in the third. Again, Sweden drew level thanks to a Mats Sundin tally, but in the final minutes of the game, Belarus shocked the hockey world when Vladimir Kopat scored with little more than two minutes remaining. Goaltender Andrei Mezin held from there, allowing Belarus to deliver one of the most stunning upsets in Olympic history.