10 amazing first-time upsets
by Lucas AYKROYD|19 MAY 2024
Benjamin Baumgartner (#98) scored a last-second goal to help Austria defeat Finland for the first time ever at an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
Hollywood loves an underdog hockey story, from The Mighty Ducks to Miracle. At the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Austria became the latest nation to craft an against-all-odds storyline by beating a heavily favoured opponent for the first time in tournament history.

Against Finland, the defending Olympic champs and Worlds gold medalists in 2019 and 2022, Benjamin Baumgartner’s goal at 19:59 of the third period gave coach Roger Bader’s squad a wild 3-2 comeback win. Since first facing the Finns in 1957, the Austrians had never done better than tying them once (3-3 in 2000).

Some nations get their first wins over traditional powerhouses at the Olympics, of course, which is massive. Goalie Martin Gerber’s 49-save shutout in Switzerland’s unprecedented 2-0 shocker over Canada at the 2006 Winter Games is a classic example. Slovenian fans still relish their historic 3-1 upset against Slovakia at the 2014 Olympics, featuring goals from Rok Ticar, Tomaz Razingar, and Anze Kopitar.

Yet since we’re in the thick of the Worlds, let’s take a look back at 10 amazing first-time upsets that took place on the Worlds stage.

1) France 3, USA 1 (1998)

It was bizarrely fitting that Herb Brooks coached France to its first World Championship win ever over the Americans. Brooks, of course, was the architect of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” where U.S. college players stunned the Soviet Union 4-3 at the Lake Placid Olympics. He had also just coached France at the inaugural “NHL Olympics” in Nagano, Japan.

In Zurich, Switzerland, Jonathan Zwikel got the go-ahead goal for the no-NHLers French team in the second period, beating U.S. goalie Garth Snow.

2) Norway 4, Canada 3 (2000)

Canada’s Todd Bertuzzi described it as a “wake-up call” after Norway made history in this penalty-laden upset. Norwegian goalie Vidar Wold stood tall with 25 saves and Tore Vikingstad scored the third-period power-play winner on Canada’s Fred Brathwaite. Vikingstad, now 48, is the father of current Norwegian national team forward Markus Vikingstad.

For Norway, which has never placed higher at Worlds than fourth in 1951 (in a seven-team tournament), it was an unforgettable achievement.

3) Latvia 3, Sweden 2 (2009)

There were plenty of Latvian heroes in this thrilling victory in Bern, Switzerland. Veteran forward Aleksandrs Nizivijs scored the shootout winner against Swedish goalie Stefan Liv, luring him to the ice before roofing the puck.
Latvia's Aleksandrs Nizivijs is interviewed after lifting his team to an historic 3-2 shootout win over favoured Sweden.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matthew Manor
On the game-winning stop, Latvia’s Edgars Masalskis – who totalled 38 saves – coolly denied Magnus Johansson. Latvia had good reason to celebrate as it hadn’t taken a point from Sweden since a 1-1 tie in 1997.

4) Denmark 2, Czechia 1 (2014)

This penalty-shootout upset was years in the making. The Danes got relegated at the 1949 World Championship in Stockholm and wouldn’t return to the top division until 2003. They never faced a Czech team at this tournament until a 5-2 loss in Quebec City in 2008.

In 2014, Denmark didn’t do it the easy way against the Czechs. They rallied from a 3-1 deficit, with Patrick Bjorkstrand scoring his first career Worlds goal to equalize in the final minute. Mikkel Boedker then got the shootout winner, while goalie Simon Nielsen foiled all three Czech shooters: Jakub Klepis, Jiri Hudler, and Jaromir Jagr.

“Unbelievable feeling – you couldn’t write that any better,” said Nielsen.

5) France 5, Finland 1 (2017)

Most first-time wins over big nations feature tight scores. Not this one. Antoine Roussel scored twice and goalie Florian Hardy starred with 42 saves on home ice in Paris. The Finnish roster featured budding stars like Sebastian Aho and Mikko Rantanen and experience in future Triple Gold Club member Valtteri Filppula.
French captain Laurent Meunier (#10) shakes hands with his opponents after France shocked Finland 5-1 in Paris in 2017.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin
“The atmosphere in the arena was something special today,” France’s Kevin Hecquefeuille said. “It’s so fun to play at home in front of our families and friends and our fans. We don’t feel the pressure. We want to enjoy this championship in France.”

7) Denmark 4, Sweden 3 (2021)

Now 31, forward Nicklas Jensen has many accomplishments under his belt with the Danish national team. He led the team with seven points in its last quarter-final run (2016) and took part in Denmark’s first Olympic men’s hockey tournament (2022). However, scoring a hat trick as his underdog nation upset Sweden for the first time ever has to rank especially high on his list.
Nicklas Jensen (left) whoops it up after scoring a second-period goal en route to Denmark's first-ever Worlds victory over Sweden.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Chris Tanouye
Jensen, then a Jokerit star, revealed how tense he felt as Tre Kronor pushed for the equalizer in Riga: “I was on the bench for the last 30 seconds and I could barely watch the game. I was just watching the clock ticking down and giving us the win. It’s an unbelievable feeling right now.”

8) Austria 2, Czechia 1 (2022)

Austria’s 2024 trend of wreaking havoc with bigger nations didn’t come out of the blue. Peter Schneider scored the lone shootout goal on a nice backhand move for this historic upset in Tampere. Previously, the Austrians had lost 17 consecutive World Championship games to the Czechs (including the Czechoslovakia era).

“This is something very special for us," said Austrian coach Roger Bader. “Austria beat a team that normally plays for medals at the World Championship.”

9) Denmark 3, Canada 2 (2022)

This magical achievement for the Danes came courtesy of a Mathias Bau Hansen power play goal with under eight minutes to play, although Canada’s Ryan Graves scored at 16:09 to keep things exciting.

“This is why I love to play for Denmark,” Winnipeg Jets star Nikolaj Ehlers told IIHF.com. “This is why I always say ‘Yes’ to coming. This group is so special. We worked so hard, we played against the top team, and we always give ourselves a chance. That’s amazing.”

10) Kazakhstan 4, Slovakia 3 (2023)

Although Slovakia has never been able to repeat its historic gold medal run of 2002, it entered last year’s tournament as the defending Olympic bronze medalist. Kazakhstan, conversely, has never finished higher at the Worlds than 10th place (2021). So the former Soviet republic wasn’t favoured to win this Riga matchup.

Still, veteran captain Roman Starchenko had other ideas, staking Kazakhstan to a 3-1 lead with a goal and two assists in the second period. Even though a late Slovak rally tied it up, the Kazakhs stayed strong through extra time. Yevgeni Rymarev tallied the shootout winner. It was Kazakhstan’s first victory over Slovakia in six World Championship tries dating back to 2005.