Switzerland rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to beat Denmark 5-4 in a shootout. This means Finland must play relegation and will not repeat as champions.
Finland has achieved an unfortunate first. It is the first time in World Junior history that a nation has won World Junior gold one year and played in the relegation round the next year.
Swiss forward Marco Miranda scored the only goal in the shootout. Switzerland outshot Denmark 53-22 and showed a never-say-die attitude. Danish goalie Kasper Krog was heroic in defeat.
“It was a pretty wild one,” said Krog, who got an ovation from the Montreal crowd at the end of overtime. “We didn’t really stick to the game plan and we allowed them to get some offense that they maybe shouldn’t have had, because they have a good team. They know how to score.”
In regulation, Fabian Zehnder scored twice for Switzerland, and Nico Hischier and Nando Eggenberger added singles for Switzerland. Jonas Siegenthaler had two helpers.
“The first period was [garbage],” said Siegenthaler. “The second period, we started good and scored some goals and came back into the game. We just needed to shoot the puck and go for rebounds. At the end it was 4-4, and we had some good chances in the overtime. Their goalie was good and they played good defence and everything. At the end we won in the shootout.”
Regardless, the Danes have made the final eight for the third straight year. They’ve proved that taking them lightly is a mistake. Just ask Finland and the Czech Republic: here in Montreal, Denmark has defeated both of them for the first time in World Junior history.
“We’ve played up against a lot of good teams in the round-robin,” said Danish captain Alexander True. “I for sure think we can be proud of ourselves. Every night we came out and competed with the other team.”
But there’s still some maturing for Denmark to do. The ability to clamp down on a big lead is an important key to success, and they blew leads of 3-0 and 4-1 versus Switzerland.
True and Mathias From tallied a goal and an assist apiece. Joachim Blichfeld and Niklas Andersen added singles. Oliver Gatz had two assists.
Switzerland has one more round-robin game against Finland on New Year’s Eve and will aim to edge out Denmark for second place in Group A.
“We don’t have to score beautiful goals or whatever,” said Siegenthaler. “We want to win and be second in the group. We’ll see next game.”
The Danes drew first blood just 20 seconds in. Gatz’s point shot hit a leg in front and the puck bounced to True, who beat Swiss starter Joren van Pottelberghe high to the glove side.
At 3:45, Denmark went up 2-0. Again, Gatz shot from the point and Blichfeld, standing in front, deflected in his third goal of the tournament.
Denmark’s Morten Jensen was assessed a two-minute minor and 10-minute misconduct for a hit to the head of Siegenthaler. However, the Swiss didn’t test Krog, apart from a stiff Damien Riat one-timer from the left faceoff circle.
On Denmark’s first power play, Andersen gave Denmark a 3-0 lead at 13:40 with his one-timer set up by Mathias From.
Hischier gave the Swiss life with 2:04 left in the first, getting loose in front to bang in the rebound from Riat’s point shot past Danish goalie Kasper Krog. It was his second goal of these World Juniors.
Denmark stalled Switzerland’s momentum with yet another early-period goal. At 0:28 of the second, From made it 4-1, executing a fabulous curl-and-drag move and firing high on the rush. It was the second goal in as many games for the 19-year-old Chicago Blackhawks prospect. He got the 3-2 overtime winner versus the Czechs after missing the first two games due to injury.
The Swiss refused to cave. At 6:29, Zehnder cut the Danish lead to 4-2, scoring with a backhand deke on a breakaway. Defenceman Nico Gross, one of just two 2000-born players in this tournament along with Sweden’s Rasmus Dahlin, earned his first World Junior point with an assist.
Less than six minutes later, Eggenberger cut the Danish lead to one, popping a rebound over Krog to cap off a rush.
“I think we get a little high sometimes, and then when they got a couple of goals on us, we got a little low,” said True. “So we gotta keep our emotions in check.”
In the third period, Switzerland made it 4-4, as an onrushing, unchecked Zehnder slammed home his own rebound from the slot at 3:35.
At 7:35, the Swiss thought Damien Riat might have given them their first lead of the game during a goalmouth scrum. However, the play was video-reviewed and it was inconclusive whether the puck had crossed the line. Swiss coach Christian Wohlwend gave his team an animated lecture during the lengthy review.
“He just said it doesn’t matter what’s going to happen – just play the same way,” said Siegenthaler.
Overtime solved nothing, although the Swiss dominated the play and defenceman Serge Weber nearly won it in the final minute.
“I think it’s good that we won this game,” said Hischier. “If we’d lost this game in the shootout, it would have been hard after such a loss to play against Finland.”
Swiss captain Calvin Thurkauf did not play against Denmark. He was serving a one-game suspension for a slew-foot on Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin. In Thurkauf’s absence, Riat wore the “C” for Switzerland. Thurkauf is eligible to return for the quarter-finals.