COLOGNE – The Danes aren’t pinching themselves. They feel they are for real and the rest of the hockey world had better start figuring that out.
Denmark sits atop the standings in Group D at the IIHF World Championship with five points picked up from a 4-1 victory over Finland along with a 2-1 overtime triumph over the United States.
They play Germany in the final preliminary round game for each team on Wednesday, and a third straight win would go a long way in helping Denmark take aim at a berth in the quarterfinals.
A betting man would have probably made himself a few Euros had he placed a wager on the Danes doing what they have done to date.
The Danish players aren’t exactly household names. The country has 22 covered arenas and a total of 4,059 players.
The Danes know they are doing the unexpected.
“I don’t think anyone expected this before the tournament but the guys really came together and it is just amazing how everybody competes and just pushes each other,” said Jesper Damgaard. “No one is selfish out there. It is all about the team and that is what is so amazing right now.”
Kim Lykkeskov agreed.
“You could say that (this is a surprise) but at the same time we have to keep our feet on the ground if we want to keep doing it,” he said. “It is just a group of guys who have great harmony. We are one big family.”
Denmark’s success can be traced to teamwork and players rising to the occasion.
Their No. 1 goalie, Patrick Galbraith, had a poor outing in a 10-3 pre-tournament loss to Sweden, and he was on the bench in favour of Frederick Anderson when the world tournament started last weekend. Andersen was brilliant in leading his team to a 4-1 win over Finland.
Galbraith was back in net against the United States on Monday and turned in a solid effort in the 2-1-overtime victory that did more than just boost the confidence of the Danes. It got them thinking of testing their game against more top countries.
Denmark also has a pair of top forwards that have made their presence known on and off the ice.
Forward Peter Regin is one of the top forwards in the 16-team tournament. He plays for the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League and is Denmark’s go-to guy on offence. He is creative with the puck and leads by example.
Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders is a constant scoring threat, and has two goals and three points in two games.
“We want to lead the way out there,” said Nielsen. “But I don’t feel pressure because we play as a team. It does not matter who it is because it is about competing for the team.”
Denmark won promotion to the elite group in 2002 and played their first World Championship since 1949 a year later. Their best finish is 10th in 2007 and they are now flirting with moving up another of couple of notches in the standings.
“Now we have a good chance to get to the next level. It is a big thing,” said Damgaard. “It is huge for Danish hockey and for all the players to maybe reach the quarterfinals of the World Championship. That would be a huge thing.”
Given what the Danes have accomplished top date, you could see complacency setting in but don’t bet on it. The Danes maybe satisfied with their performance but they aren’t done yet.
“I am not worried. Now we have a mental advantage,” said Damgaard. “It is all blue skies and we can only keep on working. When you win you get more energy.”
“That (complacency) is a dangerous thing but I think everybody senses the importance of the next game,” said Nielsen. “If we can bring five or six points to the next round, we are almost there for the quarterfinals and this is huge for us.”
“If we win this one (i.e. Germany), it looks very good for us.”