Goalkeeper Georg Sorensen salutes the crowd after being named one of the best three players for Denmark and receiving the award from Henrik Bach Nielsen, IIHF Council member and President of the Danish Ice Hockey Association. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Canada thumps Danes, fans give rousing sendoff
It was during one of the IIHF’s time-honoured ceremonies that perhaps the finest gesture of the 2015 World Juniors played out.
Canada had just dominated Denmark to the tune of 8-0 in the last quarter-finals of the day, but before heading home the best three players of the Danish team were given their Tissot watches at centre ice.
The first name called was that of number 39, Georg Sorensen, the goalie who had played his heart out in a losing cause this night. Up came a thunderous ovation for the goalie who opened the tournament by standing on his head against the Russians, forcing them to a shootout before losing 3-2. Dismayed by the one-sided loss against Canada, Sorensen was still much moved by the crowd’s final show of support.
Up next was Nikolaj Ehlers, number 24, who was second on the team in scoring with four points in five games. The 18-year-old was drafted ninth overall by Winnipeg at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
He, too, was given a huge ovation for the role he played in the Toronto side of the tournament, most notably against Switzerland in the game that qualified the Danes for the playoff round and sent the Swiss to the relegation round. In that game, Ehlers scored a goal in regulation and added the shootout winner against the country where he spent most of his junior career.
Lastly, the name of number 27, Oliver Bjorkstrand, was called by the public address announcer, and a third ovation ensued. Bjorkstrand led the team with four goals and five points. He and Ehlers played on a line with Mads Eller, and the three proved to be world-class players.
The Air Canada Crowd appreciated the Danes' refusal to back down or give up all tournament. After losing their first three games, two in heart-breaking fashion, their 4-3 win over the Swiss was the first ever at the top level for the nation after 15 losses, and qualifying for the playoffs was the icing on the cake.
Although the loss to Canada was nothing in itself to be happy with, the team couldn’t help but be happy with its tournament performance.
“We wanted to go out and play hard and try to win, but we weren’t on our game and Canada is good, obviously,” Ehlers said. “But I have to say I’m proud of the guys in the dressing room. We’re coming back next year. All I have to say now is good luck to Canada. I have a few buddies on their team. I’m very happy with where we are right now, but obviously a little bit upset about the score as well.”
Ehlers echoed the sentiments expressed by the whole team of the crowd cheers during the post-game ceremonies. “It felt great,” he said. “It means that the fans still are kind of our cheerleaders even though we were playing against Canada. It felt great being out there. It felt great playing against Canada, one of the best teams in the world. We’re satisfied with what we achieved here.”
It was only one win in four games, but two losses could have gone either way and for the first time in U20 history the Danes are coming back. They’ll be there in Helsinki next year, and hopefully they can give the Finnish fans as much to cheer about as they did the Canadian fans in Toronto.