Last year, Denmark took everyone by surprise, forcing a much stronger Russian team to the shootout in their first game of the tournament. This year, they came within 44.1 seconds from perhaps the biggest upset in World Junior Hockey Championship history, losing their quarter final 4-3 in overtime.
Mathias From, who missed the last preliminary game, made his return to the lineup.
Russia took the lead three minutes in, as Lasse Knudsen broke his stick in the corner, and was unable to defend against a wrap-around by Yegor Korshkov, which squeaked under the pad of Thomas Lillie. Mathias From had a very good chance, as he split the Russian defence, getting around Flyers prospect Ivan Provorov. However, he was unable to beat Alexander Georgiev, and went sliding into the net.
William Boyesen laid a huge hit on Radel Fazleyev, as Denmark did their best to counterpunch. Although the Danes' top line of From, True and Krag was hemmed in their own end for a long shift, the Danes were able to come away unscathed.
Kirill Kaprizov had a good chance on a strong Russian forecheck, but Thomas Lillie had the play under control. Luck came to the Danes' aid part way through the first, as two players lost their sticks in the defensive zone, but the puck skipped past the pressing Russians. At the end of the first, the Danes had a very strong shift in the Russians' end, but a huge point shot by Nicolai Weichel missed the net.
Despite the skill mismatch, shots were only 10-6 for Russia, and the score 1-0 at the end of the first. That has been the hallmark of the Danish team, no matter how outmatched they are, they have managed to stick with much stronger teams.
Two and a half minutes into the second period, Markus Jensen drew the puck across the crease, backhanding it past Georgiev to tie the game 1-1. The Russians got a bit sloppy as the game progressed, and Røndberg nearly split the defence, but a huge play from forward Alexander Polunin took them both into the net.
Artur Lauta took a penalty for slashing, and the Danes went to the power play against the top penalty kill in the tournament. Markus Jensen had another couple of big chances, but ultimately were unable to capitalize. Andrei Svetlakov almost had a shorthanded goal, but was robbed by Lillie, and the Danes ended the powerplay up 5-1 in shots on the period.
Midway through the period, the Danes came in on the forecheck, Kristian Jensen threw the puck on the net, and Georgiev played the puck straight to the stick of Thomas Olsen. Olsen made no mistake, and the Danes took their third lead of the tournament, 2-1. The Danes almost scored mere seconds later as a scramble around the net saw Georgiev swimming outside his net.
With 6:34 left in the period, Igor Korshkov took 12 minutes worth of penalties for a hit to the head of Markus Jensen, and the Danes looked to capitalize again. but the power play expired with only one shot on net.
Then, finally, Russia woke up and began applying pressure on the Danes, and it started looking like it was only a matter of time before they tied it up. Røndbjerg and the Danish defence, however, managed to survive a prolonged siege of their net, and despite the Russians carrying the play to end the period, the Danes took their 2-1 lead into the second intermission. The shots were 11-9 for Russia in the second.
Søren Nielsen took a penalty 55 seconds into the third, which allowed the dangerous Russian power play to get to work. However, the Danish defenders led by Lassen and Lillie, were outstanding, and the penalty was killed despite 10 shots on net, and an absolutely exhausted group of defenders. Røndbjerg especially stood out, blocking shots and blocking shots and blocking shots.
The ice was entirely slanted towards the Danish zone for the first eight or so minutes of the third period. The Russians had 16 shots in a row, but the Danes - with the arena crowd now behind them - hung on.
Things were finally looking up for the Danes, as they got a few more chances, and evened out play a little bit, but the relentless attack of the Russians, and the continuous stream of faceoff wins, zone and shot domination led to the tying goal scored by Kings' draft pick, Artur Lauta.
However, the Danes refused to stop working, and Lillie stood on his head to keep the game tied. Then the Danes finally won a defensive zone faceoff, broke into the offensive zone, stormed the Russian net, and Emil Christensen scored, deflecting Anders Krogsgaard's point shot into the net. It was only the Danes' second shot of the period.
With less than two minutes left, Russia called timeout and pulled their goalie. Vladislav Kamenev scored with 44.1 seconds left in the period, and the game went to overtime for the second year in a row. This time, however, the stakes were higher.
Mathias Lassen nearly had the game winner as he came flying towards the net, but to no avail. Lillie played his heart out, and the Danes pushed the Russians five minutes into overtime before Kamenev scored the game winning goal. In the end, shots were 46-21 for the Russians.
Thomas Lillie would be named player of the game for Denmark, while Kamenev received the honour for the Russians.
Denmark's three players of the tournament were Thomas Lillie, Mathias Lassen, and Alexander True.
Russia will play the USA or the Czech Republic in the Semi Final.
For a team that was outshot 150-57 in their last three games, the fact that this contest was so even in shots for so long as well as goals was a testament to the heart of the Danes, and the play of goaltender Thomas Lillie.
Denmark's inability to capitalize on a number of key plays and Russian mistakes ultimately cost them. However, the Russians also found that the Danes will not go away unless you flat out make them, and if you go to sleep, they will make you pay.
Markus Jensen had a big game, scoring the 2-1 goal, and having a number of great chances, as well as drawing the 12 minute penalty.
For Denmark, of their best players, Mathias From and Jonas Røndbjerg are only draft eligible this year, and next year respectively. The future of Danish hockey continues to grow ever brighter.
Mathias Seldrup and Thomas Lillie had the tournaments of their lives, and gave their team every chance to stay in the games. All up and down the roster, players like Alexander True, Søren Nielsen, Christian Mieritz, Jonas Røndbjerg, Mathias From stood out.
The Danes were tireless in their work, Olaf Eller continuously urging his players to heroic lengths, and though they were eliminated, they can leave with their heads held high.
They'll be back.