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World Juniors 2015 Russia vs Denmark recap: Russians get outplayed early, come back for shootout win

Denmark came to play in the first period, taking advantage of powerplay opportunities for a two-goal lead. Russia stormed back in the final forty, getting the game tied before the end of regulation.

Mads Eller crashes the net against Russia.
Mads Eller crashes the net against Russia.
Dennis Pajot

Denmark and Russia kicked off the 2015 World Junior Championship with a fast-paced, competitive battle. Denmark entered the tournament without any prior wins in the top under-twenty competition of the International Ice Hockey Federation and needed a complete effort if they were to get their first ever victory.

Things didn't start off well for Denmark, with Nikolaj Ehlers taking a tripping penalty less than one minute into the game to put Russia on a an early powerplay.

On that penalty kill, Denmark's team commitment to the defensive game was put on display. The penalty-killing unit held the Russians to just two shots on net while blocking several other attempts, while Mads Eller aggressively attacked the blueliners to go on an unsuccessful shorthanded rush of his own.

That aggressive play by the Danes continued once the teams were back at even strength, hitting the Russian puck-carriers in the neutral zone and working hard on the forecheck against Russian defenders unwilling to partake in the physical aspect.

While the forwards were doing the work down low, the Danish defenders remained at—sometimes even outside—the offensive blueline. That lack of defensive help on the forecheck didn't allow for much sustained pressure from Denmark, but did a great job of allowing the generation of a few offensive chances while also being in position to defend against ones going the opposite way.

Russia did manage to get some even-strength offensive pressure of their own in the first period, mostly when Pavel Buchnevich, Nikolai Goldobin, and Sergei Tolchinski were on the ice, and what was good initial defensive position by the Danes tended to break down as players chased the puck on some occasions and huddled within the crease on others.

The defensive coverage was tested as Denmark went on the penalty kill for the second time in the period, but shot-blocking defenders and a steady George Sørensen kept the game scoreless through the odd-man opportunity.

Denmark would get a powerplay chance of its own soon after, and Oliver Bjorkstrand took advantage of a perfect screen from Eller to slap the puck past Ilya Sorokin to give his team a one-to-nothing lead.

An offensive dump-and-chase from Ehlers that caused a Russian defender to interfere with him gave the Danes their second man advantage. Another perfect screen from Mads Eller helped Denmark to a two-goal lead, this time off the stick of the Nikolaj Ehlers, who drew the penalty to create the powerplay situation.

Russia came out harder in the second period and forced Denmark away from the forechecking style they had found sucess with in the first twenty minutes. The Russians had several chances to score early in the frame, but the diminutive Danish goalie prevented any rebound chances and maintained the lead.

Denmark had a few chances of their own in the period, but two shots off posts by Bjorkstrand and Alexander True kept them from taking a commanding three-goal lead.

Sørensen's great effort continued on a late-second-period penalty kill, getting across the crease to rob a Russian attempt, but the Russians would convert on their next rush as Nikolay Goldobin banked a shot off the goalkeeper and into the net to reduce the lead to one heading into the third.

The final twenty minutes belonged to the Russians as they turned up the intensity and Denmark tried to survive it. The Danes were unable to hold the lead as a poor giveaway in the neutral zone as the defence was changing led to a rush the other way that eventually found the back of the net after deflecting off the skate of Maxim Mamin.

The game went to overtime, where each team had several opportunites to score, including Mads Eller on a partial breakaway inside the Russian zone that was thwarted by Ilya Sorokin.

Neither Ehlers or Bjorkstrand were able to get the puck past Sorokin in the shootout, while their Russian counterparts each scored on Sørensen, with Goldobin netting the game-winner, to give the Russians the two-point victory. Denmark, while probably disappointed they weren't able to hang onto their lead, did secure an important point with the shootout loss and will look to build off of that in their remaining round robin games.

Russia will play their next game on Sunday versus Switzerland, while Denmark will need to recover from their high-energy game to take on Sweden tomorrow.