ASIAGO, Italy – Just like in the U20 Division I World Championship, the final obstacle between Denmark and a promotion to the top division was Norway. This time, the Danes took the win, 6-3.
Nikolaj Ehlers collected four points and Georg Sørensen made 29 saves for Denmark.
The Danes started the game strong, and took a lead just two minutes into the game, on s power play. It was the Danish power play that eventually tipped the scale, but Norway tied the game first, just less than a minute later. All in all, the Danes had the edge in the first period, having a 2-1 lead with Mads Eller’s goal, but something happened in the second. Norway outshot Denmark 17-11, and won the period 2-0, and had a hold on the game.
“I knew that we hadn’t used out best players too much earlier in the tournament, so I was confident that we had the strength to come back,” said Denmark’s team manager Ulrik Larsen.
Denmark tied the game in the first minute of the third period, again on power play, when Mathias Asperup scored his first of the game off Christian Kristiansen’s nice drop in the slot. Ten minutes later it was Asperup who set the goal up, and Thomas Olsen slammed in Denmark’s fourth goal, that turned out to be the game winning goal.
Two minutes later Asperup scored his third point of the period – and fourth of the game – when he beat Sander Berg in Norway’s goal with a slapshot from the point. Kristiansen scored the sixth goal with four and a half minutes remaining in the game, assisted by Eller and Nikolaj Ehlers, who also scored four points. Ehlers, who plays for EHC Biel in Switzerland and is the son of former national team player Heinz Ehlers, led the team in scoring in the tournament with 11 points in five games.
Denmark’s best players came through when they needed them most.
“Mads Eller held us in the game in the first period, and Ehlers picked up four assists, which tells you how involved he was in the game,” said Larsen.
“The momentum can shift just like that, but our coaching staff has spent a lot of time emphasising the importance of focus, and playing against teams with different styles. Tonight, we knew Norway had a good defence and we wanted to focus on our defence and then make sure we’d convert on our chances.”
Denmark won the group and took the step up to the top division of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship that will be held in Lappeenranta and Imatra. Norway finished second, Italy, who won their first two games, was third with seven points, same as Belarus. France reached fifth place and winless Slovenia is relegated to next year’s Division I Group B.
“This was important for us, of course. It’s been uphill for Danish hockey this season, with the under-20 team losing to Norway in their World Championship and the men’s team missing out in the Olympic qualifications, so finally we got something right,” Larsen said.
“Our goal was to move up to the top division, and now our goal is to stay there.”
Norway’s Markus Søberg, who scored two goals in the game against Denmark, finished the tournament with eight goals and 13 points in five games, and lead the tournament in scoring.
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