HELSINKI, FINLAND – Team Russia may be walking away the 4-3 overtime victors and advancing to the medal rounds, but Team Denmark proved that they belong playing with the big boys, and in the process, has provided the blueprint for beating the Russians.
Denmark 44 Seconds From History
Many tabbed the Danes to be playing in the relegation game, rather than making a quarterfinals appearance. However, they continued to be the surprise of the tournament as they were 44 seconds away from defeating the heavily favored Russians and advancing to the World Juniors medal round for the first time in its nation’s history.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 2, 2016
Denmark Brings Physical, Aggressive Game
Even though they couldn’t hold on for the win, the Danes play certainly stood out. They went toe-to-toe with Russia, playing with an aggressive physical edge. A big open ice hit in the first period by William Boysen set the tone early on.
The Danes continued to come right at Russia, playing the body and aggressively forechecking. At times, Team Denmark was able to get under the Russians skin and even draw a few penalties. The Danish style did lead to a few miscues and turnovers, but goaltender Thomas Lillie was the Danish player of the game and bailed them out several times.
A much more talented team than Denmark such as Sweden, Finland, Canada or USA can play this style without having the mistakes that come with it. At the very least, these countries can mask any errors with their skating and puck possessing abilities, i.e. an odd-man rush can quickly be broken up.
Throughout the first 40 minutes the Russians were on their heels. However, that all changed in the third when the Danes sat on a 2-1 lead. They stopped playing aggressive and instead, played a passive defensive style of hockey sinking down their five skaters in side their own blue line.
The Russians tied the game, forcing the Danes back to their initial game plan, and lo and behold, they scored less than two minutes later to regain the lead. But then, the Danes went back into their defensive shell and Vladislav Kamanev eventually scored the game-tying and game-winning goals.
Regardless of the outcome, Team Denmark has set the example of how to beat Team Russia in the medal rounds. I’m sure representatives from the remaining nations are taking note.