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World Juniors 2016: Denmark vs Switzerland recap: Danes make history

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Denmark was triumphant in a 2-1 victory, earning their first regulation win in tournament history.

Dennis Pajot

Today's matchup was a must win for both Team Denmark and Team Switzerland. In a division that features Canada, the USA and Sweden, a victory for either team could go a long way toward avoiding relegation. Denmark won their first World Juniors game last year against Switzerland, and were hoping for a repeat. Switzerland hoped to prevail despite being down three players due to suspensions.

The first period was a fairly even affair, with chances on both sides. Denmark drew the first powerplay of the game as Denis Malgin was called for high sticking, but nothing came of it. Sixteen-year-old Jonas Røndbjerg made some great plays, and resulted in some strong pressure in the Swiss end, but it would be Noah Rod who scored first, making it 1-0 for Switzerland.

Although they maintained some excellent possession, and strong chances, from the likes of Jeppe Korsgaard and William Boysen, Denmark was unable to tie it up. At the end of the period, shots were 9-8 Denmark.

The second period opened with chances on both sides, but Thomas Lillie had to make the biggest saves of the two goalies. Thomas Olsen and Alexander True especially stood out, and Denmark got some good chances at the mouth of the Swiss net, but Swiss goalie Joren van Pottelberghe held down the fort.

A little more than seven minutes into the period, Denmark got their second powerplay of the game, and Søren Nielsen scored, but the goal was immediately called back due to a crease violation by Jonas Røndbjerg. After that, Switzerland gained momentum, spending several shifts in Denmark's end. The period came to a close, shots 17-15 in favour of the Danes.

Less than two minutes into the third, Nielsen got his goal back, finishing a beautiful play by Røndbjerg to tie the game. Although Switzerland applied pressure, they were unable to get a shot through the Danish defence, and Mathias From made it 2-1 for Denmark, with True and Nikolaj Krag picking up assists.

For the next fourteen minutes, Denmark hung on for dear life, surviving nearly two minutes of 6-5 as van Pottelberghe was pulled in favour of an extra attacker. Things got a little chippy after Emil Christensen appeared to be injured. The pushing and shoving continued after the whistles, and the intensity amped up a few notches as a desperate Switzerland attempted to tie up the game.

With just over a minute left, Denmark called their timeout, and with forty seconds left, Nielsen nearly made it 3-1, but Swiss forward Pius Suter made a huge save to keep his team within one. With less than two seconds left, Lillie made a spectacular save, and Mathias Lassen was given five and a game for a check to the head on Swiss captain Meyer as the time ran out.

This win is Denmark's second ever at the World Juniors, and first in regulation. Barring a huge upset by Switzerland against Canada or the USA, it could see them safe from regulation for the second year in a row.

Meyer and Nielsen were named players of the game for their respective teams.

Thoughts

  • True, From, Nielsen and sixteen-year-old Jonas Røndbjerg stood out especially for Denmark, as did Lillie. Denmark is taking on Canada tomorrow, and they'll be looking for these players and others like Krag-Christensen to continue making big contributions. Switzerland's next game will also be against Canada, though not until Tuesday.
  • While the Danes defend quite well as a team, they need to support each other better in the offensive zone. There were a lot of solo attempts as one player attempted to create a scoring chance through all five Swiss players.
  • Although Thomas Lillie came up huge on several occasions, he has not yet been called upon for the same kind of heroics we saw from George Sørensen last year, good news for the Danes, not so much for the Swiss who, though they got 23 shots on net, went long stretches without challenging the Danish net-minder.