Norway, Germany, Slovenia lock up final 2018 Olympic hockey spots

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Germany, Norway and Slovenia all won their respective final Olympic qualifying groups on Sunday to advance to the 2018 PyeongChang Games in Korea.

The Germans won all three of their games in Group E and clinched their spot in the 2018 Olympics with a 3-2 victory over Latvia. The loss ends Latvia’s streak of three straight appearances in the Olympic tournament.

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Coached by former NHLer Marco Sturm and led by a handful of current and ex-NHLers like Leon Draisaitl and Marcel Goc, Germany moved on thanks to a late power play goal by Tom Kuhnhackl of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Norway also benefited from a late goal to down France 2-1 and take Group F. Mattias Norstebo was the hero beating former NHLer Cristobal Huet with 2:29 to go to snap a 1-1 tie.

“This is one of the best wins in my career, for sure. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I grew up down here and this was probably my last game at this rink so it’s a little emotional,” said New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, who netted Norway’s opening goal of the game.

In the final qualifier of the day, Rok Ticar and Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar broke the hearts of the crowd in Minsk in a shootout to help Slovenia reach a second straight Olympic tournament with a 3-2 win over Belarus. Andrei Kostitsyn had a chance to force another round but missed his attempt.

Now that the final three teams are in, here is what the Olympic groups look like:

Group A: Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Korea
Group B: Russia, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia
Group C: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany

With the Games still a year and a half away, we still do not have any clarity on whether the NHL and the Players’ Association will come to an agreement to send players to Korea. When asked by Jonas Siegel of the Canadian Press recently about where discussions currently stand, Commissioner Gary Bettman said it’s “not anything we’re focused on.”

Once both sides finish counting the buckets of money they’re about to make from next month’s World Cup of Hockey, then we can probably expect a decision.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!