EDMONTON – Team USA began its medal three-peat campaign with a lopsided 11-3 victory over Denmark. The newly-promoted Scandinavians broke down in the final 40 minutes after a pesky performance in the first period.
“We didn’t know what to expect with Denmark,” U.S. forward Nick Bjugstad said. “We didn’t have any video on them and they came out hard in the first, but then the floodgates opened. Charlie Coyle had a great game.”
Coyle scored a hat trick while Kyle Rau netted two goals. The first line with Coyle, captain Jason Zucker and Brandon Saad accounted for five goals.
Denmark scored all its goals on the man advantage including two from the towering 18-year-old forward Mathias Bau-Hansen.
“I’m fortunate enough to play with those guys,” Coyle said. “Saad is a big body and can create a lot of traffic in front of the net. Zucker does everything out there. He blocks shots. He can score. He can pass. He's a great leader. Playing with those guys makes it easier.”
The United States' first line put itself on the scoreboard after only 24 seconds when Zucker passed along the blueline to defenceman Jon Merrill, who saw his shot from the blueline deflected by Coyle.
However, Denmark didn’t give up that quickly. Dressed in red, the Danes were welcomed by the Canadian crowd of 13,604 spectators almost like the home team. And the fans cheered on any good movement from the underdogs. Like their first scoring chance by Patrick Bjorkstrand after one minute of play, or when Mads Eller delivered a great hit against Jarred Tinordi, or when Sebastien Feuk made a huge glove save when Coyle sent of a wrist shot just in front of the net.
The noise level was on a high when Denmark scored goals. They did so at 3:12 when capitalizing on the first power play. Nicklas Jensen shot from the blueline while Mathias Bau-Hansen screened U.S. goalkeeper Jack Campbell to deflect the puck into the American net.
Zucker regained the lead for the U.S. one minute later. After receiving the puck at the red line, he overran Danish defenceman Mark Larsen to score the 2-1 goal. At 8:26 Tinordi extended the lead with a shot that went in via Patrick Maden’s skates. But Bau-Hansen kept Denmark’s hope alive with his second power-play marker just one minute later.
“It’s nice having two goals and we felt we were in the game and could make a good result after the first period,” Bau-Hansen said about the Danish performance. “We have to play for the full 60 minutes and be better in finishing tackles and hits.”
“We didn’t want to take them lightly,” said Coyle. “We knew it wasn’t going to be that easy right off the bat. We kind of had a slow start. We knew we had to pick it up after the first period, and we did. We needed to work on things. We can't get sloppy. We need to continue to play solid in all three zones.”
U.S. head coach Dean Blais could hardly be happy with the first period of his first World Juniors game since winning gold in Saskatoon in 2010, but he seemed to have found the right words in his address during the first intermission.
Bjugstad, Coyle, Rau and Bill Arnold netted four goals within less than eight minutes. Denmark coach Todd Bjorkstrand replaced goalie Feuk with Dennis Jensen, but the latter was defeated for the first time only half a minute later when J.T. Miller scored on a power play. Rau made it 9-2 with his second goal with four minutes left in the middle stanza.
“We didn’t expect anything; we were just a little nervous in the beginning,” Rau said. “We were excited and had to calm down. It’s one of my first international experiences and it was a great game. It was a pretty cool memory [to score two goals] that I will remember for a long time.”
Thomas Spelling cut the lead with another Danish power-play goal, but Coyle completed his hat trick with the 10-3 goal at 11:04 of the third period. Stephen Johns hit the back of the net for the final score of 11-3.
“It was a good first period, but the second wasn’t very good for us,” Denmark coach Todd Bjorkstrand said. “We have to continue to work on keeping our structure and defending better and playing harder.”
With the lopsided victory the United States took the lead in the Edmonton group ahead of archrival Canada.
Denmark continues tomorrow against the Czech Republic while the Americans take on Finland on Wednesday.