Denmark has become the favourite team in the tournament. Besides the home country Canada, of course. The plucky underdogs has always been considered not up to the level of the bigger hockey countries like Canada, United States, Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, and Finland. They have always been a team that has to fight not to be relegated down to the lower level in world hockey. 2017 seems to be different.
The Danes were placed in a very tough Group. Group A is comprised of last year’s gold medallists Finland, perennial powerhouses Sweden, Czech Republic, and Switzerland. Things looked bleak for the small nation. Yet under the guidance of head coach, Olaf Eller (father of NHLer Lars Eller), they have a 1-1-1 record and find themselves in 2nd place in the Group with only one game left to play. They will not battle to stay in the tournament.
This game did not start off well for the Danes as they were dominated by their opponents spending long stretches in their own end and allowing six early shots to the Czechs. It was only the strong play of their goaltender Lasse Peterson and some timely defensive play that kept the game scoreless over the first five minutes of the game. The Danish side has become known for its bend but don’t break defensive style. But even the best defensive side, if put under constant pressure, will succumb eventually.
The first goal of the game came as a result of a goalmouth scramble and some bad luck on the part of the Danes. Play continued after the chaos in front of Peterson and only at the next stoppage in play were the officials able to look at the video replay. It took a while, but they finally got it right. The puck had fully crossed the line as Denmark was trying to cover it with Martin Necas, the last Czech player to touch it, being awarded the goal.
Troubles on the power play continued to plague Denmark. They had two consecutive man advantages, but were not able to generate any clear scoring chances. Plus were lucky not to concede a shorthanded goal when it was ruled that Lukas Jasek had kicked the puck into the net. Allowing the Danes to go into the break after the 1st only down a goal.
In the 2nd period the two sides exchanged power play opportunities with Denmark finally breaking through. Oliver Larsen and William Boysen set up Joachim Blichfeld to tie up the game. The happiness on the Danish side did not last long as the Czechs quickly pulled ahead again. It was their captain that gave them the lead. It was only the Czechs second shot of the period, but Filip Hronek made it count. His precise wrist shot beat Peterson cleanly.
It would be left to a 3rd period goal by Denmark to send this game to overtime. After putting pressure on the Czechs early on and then killing off a penalty (they are a perfect 11 for 11 on the penalty kill so far in the tournament) with only six minutes left in the game the Czechs left St. Louis Blues’ property Nikolaj Krag alone at the side of the net. Linemate Blichfeld found him with a pass and Kray quickly put it into the empty side.
Petersen had to make a couple more important saves over the last few minutes, but was up to the task. We were going to overtime. The hero in this one was a young man playing his first game in the tournament due to an injury picked up during training camp. Mathias From collected a pass along the right wing boards and using his speed and skill got beyond the Czech defender going to his backhand in front of the massive Czech goaltender, Daniel Vlader, flicking the puck into the top of the net. A beautiful individual play and after only 47 seconds the Danes had their first second victory in their history in this tournament.
Denmark’s final preliminary game will be on Friday against the Swiss. An important game for both teams. The Czechs have a day off before facing the undefeated Swedes on New Year’s Eve.
-Goals: 1st Period:
7:56: Czech Republic – Martin Necas assisted by Adam Musil
8:41: Denmark – Joachim Blichfeld assisted by William Boysen and Oliver Larsen
10:29: Czech Republic – Filip Hronek assisted by Filip Suchy
Denmark – Nikolaj Krag assisted by Joachim Blichfeld
0:47: Denmark – Mathias From assisted by Nikolaj Krag
-Shots on Goal: Czech Republic – 34
Denmark – 22
-Players of the Game: Czech Republic –
Denmark – Jonas Rondbjerg
-Final Score: Czech Republic – 2
Denmark – 3 (OT)