ASIAGO, Italy – Danish U18 national team goalie George Sørensen was full of joy on Monday afternoon. He scored a rare type of goal from his own end into the empty French net for a 5-1 win.
Then his team’s goal celebration started that he usually follows from far away. He jumped for joy and was joined in by his teammates before skating towards the side boards for high fives with the other teammates at the player bench.
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This is what happened on Monday at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group A in Asiago, Italy. Denmark is among the six teams that battle for promotion to the top division of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Lappeenranta and Imatra, Finland.
France got a power play, took a time-out and with its goalkeeper replaced by a sixth skater in the dying minutes of the game it hoped to cut the deficit to two goals.
After the penalty call the puck was dropped for a face-off in front of the Danish net. Sørensen got the puck behind his own net and shot it to the other side into the net nine seconds after the face-off and with 25 seconds left to play.
“It was unreal, really, but extremely cool,” said Sørensen. The Danish goalkeeper was still all smile two hours after being registered as the last goal scorer in the 5-1 victory against France.
“France got a power play and took a time-out. I just started thinking that if they pulled the goalkeeper and we won the face-off I might have a shot at it,” Sørensen said.
And that’s exactly what happened. Denmark’s Christian Kristiansen and French centre Malo Ville battled for the puck at the face-off dot but none of them got it. The disc eventually went to Danish defenceman Mathias Lassen who passed it behind the net where Sørensen got the puck and shot it into the opponent’s cage.
“It was my first ever goal as a goalkeeper,” Sørensen said and remembered how he once saw Danish national goalie Frederik Andersen, who today plays for Anaheim’s AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals, score a goal in the Danish league.
“Most goalkeepers get the ‘tingling’ in the fingers whenever the opposing team pulls the goalie,” confessed the 17-year-old, who had 30 saves and was selected as best player of his team.
Only few netminders managed to score in their careers.
In the IIHF’s top-level events only one goalkeeper ever achieved the feat. Anton Khudobin, a Kazakh-born goalkeeper who represented Russia internationally, scored such a goal in the 2004 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship on 12 April in a 5-2 win against Finland in the Preliminary Round.
Russia eventually won gold and Khudobin made the All-Star Team. Today the 26-year-old plays in the NHL for the Boston Bruins.
In the NHL only ten goalkeepers managed to score a goal. The specialist in this discipline is Canadian New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur, who scored three NHL career goals, most recently on 21 March in a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Will Sørensen make it that far? He remains modest after one of his career highlight so far.
“My dream is to take my game as far as I can and to hopefully be able to do it full time,” said Sørensen, who’s a native of Herning, same as Andersen.
“I have no specific plans for next season yet but do not worry about it right now. My focus is entirely on this championship.”
Should his dream to become a professional hockey player not become true, Sørensen has some alternative plans ready.
Being a second-year student at a Business College in Herning, he would love to become a marketing executive for a large organization or choose an entirely other route by enlisting in the Danish army.
If he continues like at the tournament in Asiago, he doesn’t need to worry too much about alternative career plans. He’s currently boosting a 95.08% save percentage with a 1.44 goals-against average after two games with two wins.
He was also Denmark’s number-one goalie one year ago when the team played in the top division at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in the Czech Republic and had a 90.7% save percentage from five games. And last December he was part of the U20 national team and played one game in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A posting a 93.8% save percentage.
“The team is on track to fulfil its goal of being promoted to the top division. We didn’t lose any exhibition game in regular time during the season and we are very well prepared for this tournament,” Sørensen said. “I believe that France and Belarus were two of the major contenders here and look forward to the remaining games against Italy, Slovenia and Norway.”
Denmark already defeated Belarus 3-2 when the tournament opened on Sunday. Also Norway, the second-seeded team at the event, is still undefeated after two games. The two Scandinavian squads will meet on the last game day on Saturday for a game that might decide about promotion.
All games in Asiago can be followed with the live ticker on the tournament page and through a live stream.
CLAUS FONNESBECH CHRISTENSEN (Asiago)
MARTIN MERK (Zurich)