International Ice Hockey Federation

Russia needs a shootout

Denmark almost wins thriller

Published 26.12.2014 20:13 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Russia needs a shootout
TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 26: Russia's Pavel Buchnevich #19 and Denmark's Nikolaj Ehlers #24 battle for the loose puck during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Russia, the only team to claim medals at each of the last four World Junior Championships, rallied for a 3-2 shootout win over the talented Danes.

Sergei Tolchinski and Nikolai Goldobin scored for the winners while Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand, the two goalscorers in regulation, missed for Denmark.

It was the first ever meeting between the two nations at the U20 level and kicked off the 2015 World Junior Championship in dramatic fashion. A David-versus-Goliath matchup was decided by the slimmest of margins.

"We started out feeling good, and as the game went on we felt better and better," said Bjorkstrand. "We got close and felt we played really well. Our speed matches up well with theirs, I think, even though they might be a bit bigger."

"Yeah, I think we were a little bit suprised by how well they played," Tolchinski admitted. "They have a really good team. They were proud and skilled; we didn't expect that kind of hockey."

The first period was entirely a matter of special teams. The Danes took two early penalties but killed them off to perfection. But when they got their first power play, thanks to an interference penalty to Rinat Valiev, they struck eight seconds after the faceoff to start the man advantage.

Bjorkstrand had the puck at the top of the circle and fired a shot off the post and in, over Ilya Sorokin’s glove, to give the Danes an improbable 1-0 lead at 13:15. The impressive crowd of 12,412 cheered in unison for the underdogs.

The Danes proved the goal was no fluke. They matched the Russians in physical play and kept their faster adversaries to the outside. And, when they got a second power play a couple of minutes later, they added to their lead in impressive fashion.

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After they moved the puck around with some crisp passes, Ehlers drilled a low shot under the glove of Sorokin for a truly improbable 2-0 lead. The Danes continued to dump the puck in and pressure the Russians in the middle of the ice. They skated off the ice after 20 minutes to a warm cheer, but the game was still only one-third done.

The middle period was an entertaining one full of chances at both ends of the ice. By the end, the Russians had scored the only goal, but it was the Danes who had the better of play and rued several quality scoring chances they failed to bury. Bjorkstrand alone could have hat a hat trick but misfired several times.

Defensively, Georg Sorensen was outstanding in goal for Denmark, but it was a late penalty to Mads Larsen that allowed the Russians to get back in the game. After making a sensational save off Goldobin, Sorensen was a bit slow to pick up a puck off the end boards after Pavel Buchnevich shot wide. Goldobin got to the puck and fired from behind the red line, off the skate of Sorensen and in with only 47.1 seconds left in the period.

A game that easily could have been 3-0 or 4-0 for the Danes was now only 2-1 and set the table for a dramatic third period.

"We had a lot of chances to score in the second period, and obviously we would have loved to be up 3-0. If we had that, we probably would have ended up winning. Unfortunately, they ended up scoring and came back."

"We came out with a different game in the second," Tolchinski said. "We wanted to shoot the puck more, play at a faster pace."

In the third, the Danes became too defensive-minded and paid the price. They allowed Vladimir Bryukvin to make an end-to-end rush, and his shot to the far side of the post along the ice went off teammate Maxim Mamin's skate and in to tie the game 2-2 at 7:07.

Both teams had game-winning chances in the overtime. Alexander Sharov made a great rush and came out the back side of the goal with an empty net, but Sorensen got his skate on the puck to keep it out. Then, Alexander True had a partial breakaway only to be stoned by Sorokin. 

Tolchinki scored on the first Russian shootout shot on a patient play. "As I skated in, I saw the goalie back up, and the net opened, so I just shot, and the puck went in." 

Up next for Russia is Switzerland in two days’ time. The Danes face Sweden tomorrow afternoon.