International Ice Hockey Federation

Denmark strikes back

Denmark strikes back

Relegation series tied, Game Three on Sunday

Published 14.09.2016 00:06 GMT+11 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Denmark strikes back
GRAND FORKS, NORTH DAKOTA - APRIL 22: Denmark's Jonas Rondbjerg #15 celebrates a second period goal against Latvia's Mareks Mitens #30 while Latvia's Emils Ezitis #15 looks on during relegation round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
With a 4-1 win over Latvia, Denmark tied the best-of-three relegation series at one game apiece. The deciding game goes Sunday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Magnus Molge, Casper Mortensen, Jakob Jessen, and Andreas Grundtvig scored for Denmark. Jonas Rondbjerg picked up two assists.

Roberts Blugers replied for Latvia.

Danish goalie Kasper Krog won his duel with Latvia's Mareks Mitens. Latvia outshot Denmark 28-20.

"We played solid," said Krog. "We needed one goal at the start, and we got that one goal in the first period. We played solid defence throughout the rest of the game."

The Latvian inability to capitalize on the power play was a major theme, as coach Eriks Miluns's squad missed on four opportunities.

"In the four group games, we had 86 blocked shots," said Danish coach Martin Struzinski. "We just continued to block shots today. They really wanted it."

"In the locker room, in sport you need to be able to put everything away and just focus on the game," said Latvian captain Tomass Zeile. "And we didn’t have that in this game. Everyone was too relaxed. There wasn’t that angriness in the team."

The Danes came out with determination, but the Latvians carried the play overall in the first period, hemming their opponents in during their first power play.

Nonetheless, the Danes opened the scoring at 17:00. Outracing the Latvian defence to pick up the puck in the neutral zone, Molge sped in off right wing and knifed a backhander past Mitens’ blocker.

"[Joachim] Blichfeldt chipped the puck out of the zone and I was skating fast," Molge said. "I got the puck and I saw a little hole in the goal and I hit it."

The Latvian goalie had to make a brilliant glove save with five seconds left in the first to avoid trailing by two goals after 20 minutes. It was a good start for Denmark, which was outshot 11-5 in the opening stanza.

Denmark opened up a 2-0 lead at 1:24 of the second period. Rasmus Mohr’s shot from the right point was brilliantly tipped home by Mortensen.

Emboldened, the Danes played Latvia on much more even terms in the middle frame. Latvia failed to capitalize on their second and third power plays of the night, despite generating good pressure.

Of Denmark's shot-blocking, Zeile said: "It was almost like they had six goalies on the ice all the time."

In the third period, still looking to solve Krog, the Latvians called their time-out with 3:42 left. It paid off. Just 37 seconds later, Renars Krastensbergs collected the puck behind the net and sent a neat back pass to Blugers, who beat Krog over the glove to make it 2-1.

But that was as close as Latvia would get, as Jessen got an empty-netter at 17:19. Grundtvig added another one at 18:04 to round out the scoring.

Latvia beat Denmark 5-1 in the first game of the series on Thursday.

Looking ahead to Sunday, Struzinski said: "It is Game Seven in the tournament for us. It’s about who doesn’t make mistakes and who wants it the most. These two nations are so even. Let’s see what happens."

The 2017 IIHF World U18 Championship will take place in the Slovak cities of Poprad and Spisska Nova Ves. Next year, Belarus will be promoted to the elite division.


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