Recap: Day 1 – 2023 Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Qualification Round 2, Group L
by Andrew PODNIEKS|15 DEC 2023
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
Spanish, Dutch earn wins
The Spanish easily disposed of Thailand, but Georgia, a replacement for Mexico in Group L men’s Olympic qualification, provided a stiffer test for the host Netherlands.

Spain 15-Thailand 2

Spain erupted for six unanswered goals in the opening period, including a hat trick from Nacho Granell, and coasted to a 15-2 victory over Thailand in the opening game of Group L action at the IJssportcentrum on the outskirts of Tilburg, Netherlands this afternoon.
The result was not unexpected given that the Spanish, with a World Ranking of 32, will play in Division I-B of this year’s Men’s World Championship while the Thais, ranked 44, play three levels down in III-A. In all, eight players scored for Spain while both Thai goals came off the stick of Nick Lampson in a two-minute span in the second. Lampson spent his formative years in the United States before joining the five-team Siam Hockey League in Bangkok a couple of seasons ago.
In all, six of Spain’s goal came on the power play, and three of those came early in the second after Patrick Forstner incurred an ill-timed boarding major and game misconduct.
Coach Luciano Basile, now in his fifth season with Spain, split the goaltending duties between Raul Barbo, who started and did not face a single shot in 28:26 of game action, and Sergi Reina, who played the back half of the game.
For Thailand, first-year coach Pattaranut Yannakornthanapun allowed Benjamin Kleineschay to go the distance. The Minnesotan has played the last four years in the SiamHL and faced 41 shots. Thailand, held without a single shot in the opening 20 minutes, managed just nine overall on Reina.
The Spanish took control of the game with an early goal by Oriol Rubio and capped the opening period with three goals in 59 seconds late to put the game out of reach. Four more goals on the power play early in the second made it 10-0 before Lampson beat Reina to make it 10-1. Teams exchanged goals soon after, and Spain added three in the third to close out the one-sided contest.

  Netherlands 8-Georgia 2

On paper, this game looked to be another mismatch as the Dutch, scheduled to play in Division I-B of the Men’s Worlds in the spring of 2024, faced off against a Georgia team playing two levels down (II-B) and some 24 spots south in the World Ranking (29 vs. 53). Yet Georgia gave the Netherlands all they could handle for two periods, fighting back every time it looked like the Dutch would pull away.
In the end, the 8-2 score was propelled by captain Danny Stempher and linemate Reno de Hondt, both of whom had a goal and two assists.
The Dutch got on the board early on a power play when de Hondt snapped a shot over the shoulder of Mikhail Fofanov at 6:17, but despite early dominance Fofanov was sensational, keeping the score close. Jordy Verkiel made it 2-0 off the rush, but just 67 seconds later a quick wrist shot from in front by Alexander Kireev fooled goalie Martijn Oosterwijk, at 33 the oldest player on the team.
The pattern repeated in the second when de Hondt fed Stempher on a two-on-one for a 3-1 lead, but a giveaway by defender Noah Muller in front of his goal allowed Vitali Dziov to make it a one-goal game again. Bartek Bison made it 4-2 late in the middle frame, however, and the Dutch increased their lead early in the third with two more quick scores to ease ahead.
The Georgians, coached by Revaz Tsomaia, who had just retired as a player and national-team captain a year and a half ago, deserve all the credit in the world for playing above their ranking. They are the oldest team in the group, with an average age over 30 and no one younger than 27 (Ivan Starostin).


All four teams are back in action on Saturday for this round-robin group play. The early game features Thailand taking on the hosts followed by a nighttime showdown between Spain and Georgia.