Final Olympics berths set this weekend


Team USA and Team Canada will find out who fills out their respective Olympic preliminary groups for Sochi, Russia, after qualification tournaments wrap up across the pond Sunday.

Olympic qualifying tournaments in Germany, Latvia and Denmark that started Thursday and conclude Sunday will determine the final three countries that get to play in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament next February.

Team USA is in Group A at the Sochi Olympics along with Slovakia, host Russia plus one of the three winning qualifiers from this week’s tournaments.

Team Canada is in Group B in Sochi along with Finland, Norway plus a qualifier.

Group C in Sochi will feature Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and a qualifier.

Host Germany (ranked 10th) is hosting one qualifying tournament versus Austria (15), Italy (16) and Netherlands (24).

Latvia (11) is hosting another against France (14), Kazakhstan (17) and Great Britain (21).

Denmark (12) is hosting the other versus Belarus (13), Denmark (12), Slovenia (18) and Ukraine (20).

The highest seed of the three winning qualifiers will get sent to Group C in Sochi, the second-highest seed will go to Team Canada’s Group B, while the third-highest seed will be in Team USA’s Group A.

So, for example, should the three top-ranked teams win their respective qualifying tournaments this week, Germany (10) would go in Group C for Sochi, Latvia (11) would go into Group B and Denmark (12) would go to Group A.

The format in Sochi next February will be the same as it was in Vancouver in 2010. The three group winners in the preliminary round plus the best second-place record get byes to the quarterfinals, while the remaining eight teams play a qualifying game.

Team Canada, as you might remember, had to play Germany in a qualifying-round game in Vancouver three years ago to qualify for the quarterfinals before going on to beat Russia in the quarters, Slovakia in the semifinals and Team USA for the gold medal.

You can find out more on this week’s qualifying tournaments at IIHF.com.