Denmark earns first playoff berth at worlds; Canada, Finland also advance

COLOGNE, Germany – Denmark reached the quarter-finals of the IIHF World Hockey Championship for the first time Monday, joining Canada and Finland in the final eight.

Denmark advanced despite a 2-1 loss to Belarus, while Finland earned its spot with a 5-2 win over Slovakia. Canada moved on even though it didn’t play, as other results mean the Olympic gold medalists are guaranteed to finish ahead of Norway and Latvia in Group F.

Russia, Sweden and Switzerland had already advanced to the playoffs, with the last two spots to be decided Tuesday.

Denmark, which beat the United States in overtime in the first group stage for the biggest upset of the tournament, knew it had advanced after Slovakia’s loss in the first match of the day.

The Danes then went ahead after just 38 seconds when Lars Eller sent a wrist shot past Belarus goalie Vitali Koval, but struggled to create chances after that. Belarus had already been eliminated but showed no sign of caving in, as Andrei Stas responded late in the second period and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mikhail Stefanovich scored the winner with a one-timer on a power play with 2:11 to go in the third.

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Earlier, Finland scored three goals in a four-minute span midway through the second period to open up a 3-0 lead.

Jussi Jokinen scored twice and Pekka Rinne made 27 saves for Finland, which improved to nine points after three wins and a loss in Group E.

“It was another must-win game for us, we’ve had four of those now,” Jokinen said. “This is good for our self-confidence.”

Norway beat Switzerland 3-2 and the Czech Republic defeated Latvia 3-1.

Slovakia can still reach the quarter-finals with a win over host Germany on Tuesday, while the Czechs need at least a point against Canada to secure a playoff berth at the expense of Norway.