Danes, Latvians sit in first
by Chris JUREWICZ|22 JAN 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
Final day of men’s 3-on-3 tournament preliminary round will see Denmark and Latvia play in a game that will likely decide first place in the standings

Gangneung Hockey Centre, GANGWON, South Korea – Denmark and Latvia have been the class of the men’s ice hockey 3-on-3 tournament at the Youth Olympic Games through three days of games. The two teams sit atop the standings with identical 5-0 records, setting the stage for what should be a fantastic final day of preliminary-round games of the competition.

Day 4 of the ice hockey event, the final day of the preliminary round, will be highlighted by Denmark taking on Latvia, which could decide which team finishes in first place prior to the semifinal round. Close behind the two leaders is Austria, which is 4-1 and three points behind the Danes and Latvians.

During Day 3 action, Latvia beat Austria 9-3 in a battle between two previously unbeaten teams. Latvia held a 2-0 lead after the first but ran away with it in the second, highlighted by Olivers Murnieks’ between-the-legs goal over the arm of Austrian goaltender Gabriel Lemberger.

Latvia had one other game on Day 3 of the men’s event, beating Chinese Taipei 28-2. The Latvians have scored 100 goals in five games, while giving up just 22.

Denmark ran its record to 5-0 with an 11-7 win over Poland and an 8-6 victory over Kazakhstan.

“It’s an exciting experience but a lot harder (than the regular game),” says Mikkel Poulsen of Denmark. “The game is more physical. You have to hold the puck because you have to work so hard to get it in three versus three. It’s important not to give it away. We think we can do well. There will be lots of intensity (throughout the tournament).”

On the women’s side, Hungary is the lone unbeaten team at 5-0 after scoring 55 goals in just two games during Day 3 action. Hungary beat the Netherlands 33-0 and defeated Australia 22-1.

Hungary’s goal differential through five games is an incredible +99, with 103 goals for and only four goals against. Hungary will conclude the preliminary round with games against Korea (4-1) and Italy (3-2).

China and Korea are tied for second place in the women’s tournament with 4-1 records, though the Chinese hold the tiebreaker as they defeated Korea 6-3 earlier in the tournament.

Netherlands wants to get on the hockey map

Among the unique aspects of the Youth Olympic Games is not only this 3-on-3 tournament but also some relative newcomers to the sport of ice hockey. The Netherlands isn’t well-known for producing top hockey talent but an appearance at this tournament could go a long way to helping develop more girls and boys on the ice.

The Dutch are 0-5 in the women’s event but the positivity is evident with skater Beer van Oosterhout, who is excited to be representing her country.

“It’s great. I’ve only played ice hockey for three years now and I never imagined doing this,” says van Oosterhout. “I didn’t even know about the Youth Olympics. But I’m really happy we got selected and with the team as well, we have a lot of great girls.”

Van Oosterhout got hooked on the game soon after playing some shinny outside.

“Well, there were frozen ponds right outside our house and I skated on them and my uncle had a stick so I played with it and I liked it. And then I signed up for hockey school,” she says.

The Netherlands have one final day to try and get a victory and will face off against Italy and Korea in Day 4 action of the women’s 3-on-3 tournament.