The Russian Olympic Committee advanced to the semifinal round in men's hockey with a 3-1 win over Denmark, but it was not without a scare.
The ROC entered the game as heavy favorites, with a roster full of players from the KHL. Denmark, meanwhile, was making its Olympic debut in hockey at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
But Denmark gave the ROC a fight despite being outshot 40-18, thanks to the heroics of goaltender Sebastian Dahm, who made 37 saves. Down 2-1 in the third period, the Danes had several chances to even the score but could not convert.
“We knew that if we could take this game to overtime anything could happen and it would be really tough mentally for the Russians to face elimination," Dahm said. "We were really close but in the end it was tough to accept the loss."
The best chance came off the stick of former NHL veteran Frans Nielson, who scored Denmark's only goal. Nielson had a point-blank opportunity on a 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway with under six minutes to play, but was stopped by the right pad of ROC goaltender Ivan Fedotov.
On the same ROC power play, Slava Voynov, another former NHL player, extended the ROC lead to 3-1 on a wrist shot from the high slot.
The ROC will face Slovakia, which upset the United States, in the semis on Friday.
"It might seem that we are the clear favorites and we should outscore everyone 5-0 or 10-0, but here all the teams know how to play defensively and especially in a playoff, everyone understands what strong and weak sides their opponents have," Fedotov said.
Fedotov added that he didn't see many shots in the first two periods, making it hard to adjust to game speed. But he made some key stops in the third, and also received some help from Vyacheslav Voinov on another key save when a Denmark shot eluded him.
"It was more interesting and nice to be in that state than in the first two periods," Fedotov said. "The feeling from the game is much nicer when you are playing and living in the moment, as opposed to watching it like a spectator."
Nieslon tied the game for Denmark at 1-1 early in the second period with a power-play goal. Nielsen beat Fedotov off a scramble in front of the net after a shot from the point. It was Denmark’s first goal against the ROC in four periods.
Dahm was immediately peppered with both shots and offensive zone time by the ROC, which outshot Denmark 18-1 in the first period.
Dahm, who had been excellent throughout the tournament, was spectacular in fending off a majority of the ROC onslaught and kept the Danes in the game.
"It was a tough game for us," Nesterov said. "There were too many errors in the last 10 minutes. We need to play better."
Vadim Shipachyov, the ROC captain, scored 13 minutes into the first period, corralling a strange carom off a slap shot by Nikita Gusev on the other side of the net, and firing it in from a tough angle off the pads of Dahm.
The ROC was 2-1 in preliminary round action, but allowed six goals in its only loss in overtime to the Czech Republic. One of the wins came against Denmark, a 2-0 result.
Denmark beat Latvia 3-2 in the elimination round, while the ROC had a bye as it clinched the top seed in its group.
Denmark's Oliver Bjorkstrand said he was proud of the progress in Danish hockey in recent years.
“I think we are heading in the right direction and showing the hockey world and showing our own country that we belong here, and that we should be respected just as much as some of these other countries,” Bjorkstrand said.