Do you believe in miracles?
Well, maybe this wasn’t quite at that level. But Denmark’s stunning 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic on Wednesday in the nation’s first-ever men’s Olympic hockey game was pretty miraculous.
“This is a huge moment for Danish hockey,” Denmark coach Heinz Ehlers told NBC after the group-play victory. “We are normally not at the Olympics. In May, we played a really good world championship. But being able to win a game like this makes all of us very excited, and we are so happy and proud right now.”
As they should be after what has been a highly-successful debut in the Winter Games, with the Denmark women’s team also having earned its first Olympic victory earlier in the week by beating Czech Republic 3-2.
The Danish men’s team jumped out to an early lead when Markus Lauridsen scored the first Denmark goal after his shot was redirected into the net 11:21 into the first period.
Minutes later, Frans Nielsen buried a penalty shot that was awarded to Denmark during a shorthanded rush, increasing the lead to 2-0 with 2:37 left in the first.
Denmark’s lead was cut in half early in the second when Roman Cervenka scored to pull Czech Republic within 2-1. It would remain that way thanks in large part to Denmark goalie Sebastian Dahm, as the Czech Republic outshot the Danish 40-17.
Luck was also on Denmark’s side as a shot by Czech’s Tomas Kundratek with 15 seconds remaining hit the crossbar. That sealed a thrilling upset win as Denmark debuted with a victory over a Czech team that finished fourth during the 2018 games.
Denmark’s next game is against the ROC on Thursday at 11:10 p.m. ET.
“We’re excited, but we also know that there’s some really good opponents ahead of us,” Ehlers said. “We’re just trying to enjoy the moment right now and then looking forward to the next game…It’s not like we win here today and think we are Olympic champions. We are realistic and we know that we have to work really hard and also have a little bit of luck to win hockey games.”