VOJENS – It wasn’t pretty but Denmark got the win they needed. In a tense game, the 12th-ranked host Danes shut out Ukraine (ranked 20th) 2-0 in their opener of the Olympic qualification.
No doubt that Denmark needs an upgraded performance against on Friday, playing against a Slovenian team which surprisingly defeated favoured Belarus 4-2 on Thursday.
Goaltender Frederik Andersen made 22 saves to earn the shutout.
"We have to give them credit, they played pretty good, we were the favourites and came out on top and that was the most important thing," said the Danish captain Morten Green, who got the 2-0 insurance goal early in the second period.
Denmark's Swedish coach Per Bäckman had the same approach as his captain:
"It wasn't one of our better games, even our veterans seemed nervous, but the game was all about getting the three points and we got them," said Bäckman, who admitted that the team must perform at a higher level against Slovenia on Friday.
Maybe it was because of the presence of the Danish crown prince Frederik that the national team appeared shaky and seemingly bereft of any ideas how to penetrate the Ukrainian defence for the better part of the first period.
Most observers, including the capacity crowd at the SE Arena, expected more dominance from the home team, which leads Ukraine by eight positions in the IIHF World Ranking.
It took the Danes almost 15 minutes to generate some sustained pressure and a few chances. But with 4:45 left Frederik Storm jumped on a rebound after Morten Madsen’s failed wrap-around attempt and got a piece of the puck – but with the result unclear.
Storm’s raised arms made the 4,121 capacity crowd cheer, but the officials didn’t whistle down the play and waited for the next break to make the video review. After almost seven minutes the video goal judge determined the puck had indeed crossed the line. Not by any lengths, but enough.
"I couldn't see if the puck was in or not because it kind of disappeared for a moment, but my feeling was that it was definitely a goal," said Frederik Storm.
"It was a long wait during the video review, but it was worth waiting for."
A power-play goal can do wonders for any team, and Denmark got it on their first full man-advantage five minutes into the second frame. Again, Frederik Storm played a major role, but it was up to captain Morten Green to poke the puck over the line. Storm collected an assist.
Goaltender Frederik Andersen – the only one of Denmark’s seven NHLers who was released to this Olympic qualifier (by Anaheim) – made the saves when called upon, especially during a hectic phase at the end of the second period when Ukraine enjoyed two consecutive power plays.
The Ukrainians probably played as well as they can (outshooting Denmark 15-7 in the second period) but they simply didn't generate the necessary scoring chances to beat a goalie of Andersen's calibre. Denmark did a good job of protecting the lead in the third period, keeping the opposition to a lone shot on goal.
"I am satisfied how we controlled the game in the period, but we need to play better tomorrow," said Per Bäckman. "The third line with Storm, Patrick Bjorkstrand and Jesper Jensen was our best unit."
Ukraine and Belarus, both losers on Day 1, play the first game on Friday. Denmark entertains Slovenia in the late game.
SZYMON SZEMBERGClick here for scores, stats and photos