ZURICH-KLOTEN – Mikkel Bodker scored twice and Julian Jakobsen had a goal and an assist for Denmark as it staged a sensational rally from 2-0 down to beat Austria 5-2 in the decisive relegation game.
The result means that the Danes have qualified for Germany next year in the top pool while Austria is being sent down to Division I, Group A (location to be announced at the Annual Congress).
"We had a bad start, for sure," admitted Danish forward Kim Staal, "but we knew if we could just relax we could battle back."
With the two-year-old mandatory shootout in effect, both teams knew before the opening faceoff exactly what was at stake. One team was going to leave the building a top-division team; one team was leaving a Division I team. It was that simple, that nerve-wrecking.
It didn’t take long for the action to heat up, though. Denmark had a decent shot soon after the opening faceoff, and just a few seconds later Austria’s Matthias Trattnig scooped a loose puck in centre ice and drove down the right wing. The left-hand shot cut in on goal and Patrick Galbraith sprawled to make the save, but Roland Kaspitz pushed home the rebound just 48 seconds into the game to give Austria the early lead.
They weren’t done yet! Less than two minutes later Thomas Koch sprung Oliver Setzinger free with a blueline-to-blueline pass and Setzinger calmly beat Galbraith with a deke. The shocked Danes found themselves down 2-0 after only 2:30 of play.
The Danes got on the board late in the period off a pair of miscues around the Austrian goal. First, defenceman Darcy Werenka lost the puck to the side of his goal, and then goaltender Bernd Brückler, trying to corral the puck, lost his stick and dove way out of position. Julian Jakobsen got to the puck and wrapped it in around the far side to cut the Austrian lead in half.
Denmark ran into penalty trouble in the second period, taking four straight minors, but it was the Danes who got the next goal. On one man advantage Thomas Vanek fanned on a one-timer with a wide open net, and moments later Matthias Trattnig lost the puck along the boards to Mikkel Bødker. He dashed the length of the ice and roofed the puck after a nice head fake, and the game was tied at 2-2 thanks to a great short-handed goal from the young star of the Phoenix Coyotes.
"That was the turning point, for sure," Staal said. "Our penalty killing was great and to get that goal short-handed was huge."
Denmark went ahead for the first time in the third period soon after Vanek came out of the penalty box after taking a needless penalty at the Danish blueline. Jakobsen made a great pass from the boards at the Austrian blueline to Mads Christensen at the top of the circle, and he ripped a quick wrist shot from well out past Brückler.
Midway through the period, Kasper Degn converted a two-on-one with Morten Green to give the Danes a commanding two-goal lead. The incredible start by the Austrians was a distant memory now.
Bødker added an empty netter at 19:23 to finish the scoring.
"We didn't back down and didn't give up," Staal said, proudly. When we started the third period we just wanted to keep at them with pressure and wear them down."
And so, a critical hockey game has ended in tears of joy and discontent, Denmark planning to play in Germany, Austria playing in Division I.