MALMÖ – With a 3-1 win over Norway in the third and deciding Relegation Round game, Germany kept its top division spot. Norway is demoted to Division I for 2015.
"It’s awesome," said German star Leon Draisaitl. "It’s our goal to be a top-10 nation, and that’s what we did today. It’s going to be probably the greatest experience you’ll ever have next year, playing in Toronto and Montreal. Those are huge cities. They’re crazy about hockey. We’re just really happy about what we did today."
It was a big victory for German coach Ernst Höfner at the Malmö Isstadion. He has led the U20 team at 15 consecutive IIHF championships. Germany succeeded in its bid to stay in the top division for the third straight year, which it had not accomplished since the run of 1992 to 1998.
It's a disappointment for the Norwegians, who were newly promoted, and appeared poised to survive as recently as the second period of Game Two, when they led 3-2.
"We had a great first game against Germany," said Norwegian captain Erlend Lesund. "It’s difficult. I don’t know why we didn’t just take them out in two games. We gave them too much and they took advantage of it."
Norway won the opening game of the series 3-0 as goalie Joachim Svendsen posted a 29-save shutout. Draisaitl scored a pair, including the winner, to lift his team to a 4-3 comeback win in Game Two.
Here, Frederik Tiffels had a goal and an assist for Germany, while Dominik Kahun and Patrik Klöpper had singles, and Draisaitl added a pair of helpers. Magnus Fischer replied for Norway.
"We kind of slumbered the first relegation game away, and then we knew it’s our last chance and we’d have to battle for it," said Kahun. "I think all in all we were the better team with better skating and more skill.
Germany played without forward Lukas Laub, who was serving a one-game suspension for a hit from behind on Lesund in Game Two.
German goalie Marvin Cüpper made 34 saves for the victory, while Svendsen had 23 stops.
"Marvin was outstanding once again," said Draisaitl. "He’s a great goalie and he shut the door for us a lot. They had quite a few chances, but he was there for us."
With just 14 seconds left in an evenly played first period, Tiffels got Germany on the board first, racing down the left side, taking a pass from Draisaitl, and putting a high shot past Svendsen.
In the second period, the teams traded ineffective man advantages. The Germans had a long 5-on-3 power play that went nowhere.
Another late-period goal from Kahun gave Germany a 2-0 lead at 19:20 of the second.
Norway's frustration began to boil over. Forward Magnus Fischer slammed his stick in disgust as he sat down on the bench, and a scrum at the buzzer saw Germany's Janik Moser and Norway's Didrik Svendsen sent off with double minors for roughing.
Klöpper went five-hole on Svendsen at 3:43 of the third period to make it 3-0. Jens Tønjum missed on a Norwegian breakaway moments later.
"Every player on this team is a warrior," said Norwegian assistant captain Mattias Nørstebø. "We go out there and give 100 percent every time. I think that’s a strong part of this team. But we don’t have the skills and abilities that the other teams have. It’s tough for us."
Magnus Fischer cut the deficit to 3-1 for Norway with 5:35 remaining, but that was as close as the boys with the polar bear jerseys would get. Cüpper made a great save on Christoffer Rasch to preserve the two-goal lead with just over two minutes left.
"It’s a great feeling," said Tiffels. "We have 13 players here who are eligible for next year and everybody wanted to stay in the top division."