How the Olympic men's hockey tournament works and what Canada needs to do

Canadians can still clinch bye to quarter-finals

By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

With the final day of the men's Olympic hockey preliminary round upon us, the door is still ajar for Canada to earn a bye into the quarter-finals.

The Canadians, who suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic on Saturday after beating Switzerland 5-1 in their opener, close out the preliminary round against the host South Koreans on Sunday at 7:10 a.m. ET.

In Olympic hockey, three points are awarded for a win in regulation time, two for an overtime or shootout victory and one for an overtime or shootout loss. Canada sits in second spot in Group A with a 1-0-1 record and four points, one point behind the undefeated Czechs.

No teams are eliminated at the end of group play. All 12 teams advance to the knockout stage. The top team in each of the three groups, and the team with the next-best record overall, each receive a bye straight to the quarter-finals.

The bottom eight finishers face off in the four-game playoff qualification round, with the four winners advancing to the quarter-finals.

The playoff qualification round takes place Tuesday in Korea (that's Monday night and Tuesday morning back in Canada) and the quarter-finals go Wednesday in Korea (Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in Canada).

The Canadians can advance straight to the quarter-finals in two ways. First, if they defeat South Korea in regulation time and Switzerland upsets the Czech Republic in any fashion, Canada would finish first in Group A with seven points.

The second scenario is that, even if the Czechs defeat Switzerland, Canada could finish with the best record by a non-group winner if they get a regulation win against South Korea.

However, there is one wrench that could be tossed into Canada's second scenario. If the Sweden-Finland game is decided in overtime or a shootout, that would leave the loser of that match also with seven points.

The first tie-breaker is the head-to-head game. But Canada is in a different group, so the second tie-breaker would be required and that is goal differential. With one game remaining Canada has a plus-three mark, compared to Finland's plus-seven and Sweden's plus-five.

As for Canada's outlook for its final group-stage game, South Korea has lost both of its contests so far in regulation—2-1 to the Czechs and 8-0 to Switzerland.

Canada clashed with South Korea at the Channel One Cup in Moscow back in mid-December. Even though the Canadians outshout South Korea 57-10, they only managed a 4-2 win.

Matt Dalton was terrific in goal for South Korea. Dalton hails from Clinton, Ont., and is one of six born-and-raised Canadians on coach Jim Paek's team. Paek was born in Seoul, South Korea but moved to Canada with his family when he was one.

He played junior for the Oshawa Generals and helped them win the 1986-87 Ontario Hockey League championship. He also spent a season with the Canadian national team before joining Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins in time for their back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1990-91 and 1991-92.

Besides Dalton, the other Canadians on South Korea include forwards Michael Swift (Peterborough, Ont.), Alex Plante (Brandon, Man.) and Brock Radunske (New Hamburg, Ont.) as well as defencemen Bryan Young (Ennismore, Ont.) and Eric Regan (Whitby, Ont.). Young and Swift are cousins.