International Ice Hockey Federation

Easy does it? Not necessarily

Easy does it? Not necessarily

Canada, Denmark have different challenges

Published 02.01.2015 11:52 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Easy does it? Not necessarily
Canada's Mark Stone battles with Denmark's Thomas Sondergaard during the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship. Photo: Andy Devlin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Underdog Denmark faces a monumental challenge on Friday night when it faces off against Canada in the last of the quarter-finals games.

First, the amazing fans at the Air Canada Centre that have supported them all week will be cheering en masse for their own, now that Canada has arrived at the ACC. Second, the Danes are in unchartered waters, never having been in a U20 playoff game. Third, this is the very essence of a David versus Goliath battle, one that has the Danes as massive underdogs.

But talking to the Canadians, they are loathe to consider the game won before the opening faceoff.

“They’re going into the game knowing they’re the underdogs. They’ll say all the pressure is on us, and they have nothing to lose by going all out,” said Canada’s coach Benoit Groulx after practice today.

Groulx announced that Zach Fucale will be back in goal for Canada, keeping his consistent approach to alternating goalies after Eric Comrie played against the Americans last night in Montreal, a 5-3 win in another classic New Year’s Eve battle.

“I’m happy about it, obviously, but I just want to help the team,” Fucale said. “It just shows the coach has confidence in both of us, and that’s a good sign for the team.”

Fucale was in the opposite position a year ago, the number-one goaltender who played in five of the team’s seven games en route to a disappointing fourth-place finish, including a 2-1 loss to Russia for the bronze medal.

This year, he and Comrie have been 1A and 1B, for better or worse. “You learn a lot when you win, but you learn twice as much when you lose,” Fucale philosophized. “Last year is a little extra motivation for us, so we want to make sure we prepare well for the first game of the elimination round.”

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“It makes no difference to us,” said forward Sam Reinhart of the change in goalies. “We’re comfortable playing in front of either one. They’ve both been exceptional.”

“They get along really well, and they’re both great goalies. It unfortunate there’s only one net, but we don’t care which one plays. We know they’re going to get the job done,” said Curtis Lazar.

Denmark hopes that Canada is feeling either over-confident because of the game last night in Montreal or complacent because Denmark is the overwhelming underdog, but it’s a slim hope.

“That one’s behind us,” Sam Reinhart said of yesterday’s emotionally-charged victory to solidify first place in Group A. “We enjoyed it last night, and were happy with our performance, but today is a new day, and our mindset is only on Denmark now.”

That means Canada will be fully prepared by game time and will leave nothing left to chance during its day and a half of preparation.
“They have a good top line,” Reinhart continued. “They’ve been dominant in the tournament, so shutting down those guys will be important. But if we play the way we know how, keep the pace up, we’ll continue to get better.”

“Every team is a different challenge, but Denmark is a good team, and they’ve earned their spot in the quarter-finals. They’re a pesky bunch and tenacious on the puck. We have to be ready for that,” said Lazar. “It’s one game at a time as we work towards our goal of a gold medal.”

Denmark isn’t quite the alien roster one might have assumed a decade ago. Indeed, six of its players are skating in North America this year, including Mads Eller, who plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL. He and Lazar were teammates there in 2013-14. “I’m looking forward to playing my bud Mads Eller. I haven’t seen him in a while.”

Lazar says his team continues to try to keep things simple so that distractions don’t get in the way of the ultimate goal. “We have our eye on the prize, but we focus on one game at a time, one period, one shift. You have to break it down into segments like that because if you look too far ahead, that’s when you make mental mistakes.”

Canada isn’t likely to make such mental mistakes, and that’s bad news for the history-making Danes. They will likely get a rousing cheer from the ACC fans, but not until after the game.


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