For the second straight year, Denmark and Russia meet in the quarterfinals of the World Junior Hockey Championship, but unlike last year, where their biggest strength was their bulldog tenacity, they have the ability to play much closer to the level of the hockey super powers. This year they have more than one line and two defencemen.
Denmark came out well, playing several strong shifts, and drew the first power play at 5:29. Denmark’s power play looked better than it has in some previous games, setting up well in the offensive zone, and getting off a number of first-rate chances, but were ultimately unable to capitalize.
Unfortunately, it would be Russia who scored first on a long shot that Lasse Petersen uncharacteristically missed.
After the goal, Russia pressured, but Denmark didn’t back down, and at 6:58, Alexander True drew the second power play for the Danes as the Air Canada Centre made their indignation on his behalf very clear. The second power play was far less effective than their first, though Rasmus Andersson narrowly missed the net with a huge shot.
With about a minute to play, Christian Mathiasen-Wejse took a roughing penalty, and the perfect Danish penalty kill squared off against the potent Russian power play. Kirill Kaprizov’s absolute laser of a shot put Russia up 2-0 with 11 seconds left in the period, and breaking Denmark’s flawless penalty-kill record.
Kasper Krog began the second period in net for the Danes, and was put to the test almost immediately as Jeppe Korsgaard got four minutes for high-sticking at 2:46. The Danish penalty kill survived the four-minute Russian onslaught, but just as the penalty expired, Christian Mieritz took a holding penalty. The penalty kill escaped unscathed after six straight minutes, and drew a power play of their own at the halfway mark of the second.
With 3:46 left to play, Kirill Urakov took a tripping penalty, but the power play was ineffectual. In the dying minutes, Krog came up huge for Denmark, making some big saves to keep the game 2-0.
The third period went a little better for the Danes for the first five minutes as they looked a little more comfortable than they had through the second period, but Russia was definitely more than a match for them.
Alas, at 7:12, Pavel Karnaukhov scored the 3-0 goal, and it looked like any chance of a comeback was squashed out. Shortly thereafter, Denmark and Russia took matching minors as Urakov and and William Boysen went off for holding and roughing respectively.
The Danes fought hard on the power play at the halfway mark, with Alexander True nearly getting his stick on a puck labeled for the back of the net, and the Danes had another crack at the power play, including sixteen seconds of 5-on-3 as Russia took a delay of game penalty at 12:05. They could not convert, and Kaprizov made it 4-0.
Ilya Samsonov collected his second shutout, stopping all 14 shots Denmark managed, as Russia won the shot battle 32-14.
Nikolaj Krag won player of the game, while Anders Kuch, Oliver Gatz and Alexander True were named the three players of the tournament for Denmark in a year where any number of players could have drawn those honours.
Russia advances to the semifinals as expected, and will face off against the winner of the USA-Switzerland matchup on Wednesday.
- Though Denmark was again eliminated by Russia in the quarterfinals, there is a lot to be said about the progress that Denmark has made in the last year. They were faster and far more skilled as a whole than they have been in previous years. Where before they were largely a defensive team, this year they were capable of pressing teams like Russia and Finland in their own ends. Their practically perfect penalty kill showed how much the defensive team game benefited from the upgraded skill.
- Though the end result of the tournament was the same as last year, they got there by beating two teams traditionally viewed as the superior powers in Finland and the Czech Republic, and remain in the top group for the third straight year without the threat of relegation.
- The rise of hockey countries doesn’t happen over night, but it seems that Denmark is heading in that direction.