MINSK, Belarus – France clinched a spot in the quarterfinals of the ice hockey world championship with a 6-2 victory over Denmark on Monday, while Finland kept alive its hopes of advancing by beating Kazakhstan 4-3.
In the late matches, host Belarus reached the quarterfinals for the third time by edging Latvia 3-1 and Gustav Nyquist led defending champion Sweden with two goals in a 5-1 win over Italy.
Stephane Da Costa scored twice as France netted four unanswered third-period goals in a span of less than six minutes. The game had been tied 2-2 after the second period.
France, which stunned Canada in its first game of the tournament, reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1995.
“This is huge for French hockey,” France coach Dave Henderson said. “It’s been a long time since it last happen. I’m totally happy with the team.”
Julien Desrosiers, Antoine Roussel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Antonin Manavian also scored for France. Jesper Jensen and Kim Staal scored for Denmark.
The result means the Czech Republic also advanced to the quarterfinals from Group A together with defending champion Sweden and Canada. The first four teams advance from both groups.
France has also beaten Slovakia and Norway in Belarus. It will meet the Czech Republic on Tuesday in a match to decide who finishes third in the group. The loser will face Group B’s winner—high-scoring Russia—in the quarterfinals.
Sweden leads Group A but Canada can reclaim the top spot with a victory over Norway in its last group game on Tuesday.
Geoff Platt and Mikhail Grabovski scored 33 seconds apart in the first period for Belarus and Sergei Kostitsyn put the puck into the empty net with one second left in front of a roaring crowd.
Captain Olli Jokinen scored to put Finland 3-2 ahead when his shot hit defenceman Alexei Litvinenko in the face before deflecting into the net, and also set up the winning goal for Jarkko Immonen as Finland stayed in contention.
Belarus has 12 points in Group B, with Finland one point behind. Latvia has nine but can still advance if it beats Switzerland on Tuesday. The United States already qualified for the playoffs from the group along with Russia.
“We’ll probably be watching the games later and hoping that we can continue in the tournament,’ Juuso Hietanen said. “We have to do all the preparation as if we are going to play on Wednesday in the next stage.”