EDMONTON – Canada got four goals in the first period and coasted to a 10-2 win over Denmark at the Rexall Centre tonight. Defenceman Scott Harrington led the way with a goal and three assists while another defenceman, Brandon Gormley and Mark Stone, each had two goals and an assist.
"I think the most points I got in my OHL career was three in a game, so that tops it," Harrington said after.
Canada is now in command of Group B with nine points, a situation which bodes well for the playoffs. The top team in each group advances directly to the semi-finals while the second and third place teams must win a quarter-finals game to get as far. Denmark is still winless and pointless in three games and will be headed to the Relegation Round after the New Year.
This marked only the second meeting between the teams in U20 play. Canada won the first game, 4-1, at the 2008 U20.
If Denmark had any hope of pulling off a stunning upset, it knew a strong start was essential. Unfortunately Canada got the superior start and never let up. Quinton Howden got things going at 2:24, taking a breakaway pass from Harrington and busting through the defenceman before beating Sebastian Feuk with a shot to the stick side.
Brett Connolly made it 2-0 four minutes later while Canada was short-handed. A loose puck rolled down the ice and Feuk was indecisive about coming out to play it. Connolly got their first and drilled a shot over the goalie’s shoulder.
Some great pressure from Jonathan Huberdeau led to the third goal. He hassled defenceman Anders Thode who gave up the puck directly in front of Feuk. Stone was right there and drilled a shot past a surprised Feuk.
"We just try to stick what we do best," Stone said. "Cycle on the puck, getting the puck down to the net, that’s the way we score goals and we scored a lot that way tonight."
And then, to finish off the period in style, the top-scoring line in the tournament went to work again. This time Ryan Strome got to a loose puck in the crease and beat the beleaguered Feuk with assists from Stone and Huberdeau, the three now the top scorers in the tourney so far. All of them have seven points in three games.
The Danes had only one decent chance, and that came on a two-on-one. But Canadian defenceman Ryan Murray broke the play up and goalie Mark Visentin didn’t even have to make a save. Shots were 15-3 for Canada in the opening 20 minutes.
Canada added three more goals in the middle period, and they all had one thing in common – a point shot from Harrington. He scored just 25 seconds into the period and then took two more point shots deftly deflected in front of Feuk by Stone and then Freddie Hamilton. That made it 7-0. Harrington had only two shots on goal in the first two games.
Canada also took the only three penalties of the period, but the Danish power play, which was so effective against the United States on the first day of the tournament, was shut down.
The third period was a wild affair as teams combined for five goals (Canada getting three). The Danes got on the board at 3:55 off a scramble in front of Visentin. Nicolai Meyer got his stick on a loose puck and ripped a quick shot past the goalie’s blocker. Meyer and teammates celebrated with particular enthusiasm despite it being a 7-1 game.
"It was an incredible experience to score especially because there were so many people," Meyer enthused. "It was sort of a dream. I didn’t think it would come true, but it did."
Emil Kristensen added a second Danish goal on the power play a few minutes later, making a nice tip of a Nicklas Jensen point shot.
Canada's Brandon Gormley came right back and scored on another point shot with the extra man. It was Canada's first power play of the game. He got the next goal off a long shot while teams were playing four-on-four. Brendan Gallagher finished the scoring on a short-handed breakaway.
Canada took eight penalties and Denmark only two, a fact that didn't sit well with Canada's coach, Don Hay. "We can't take eight penalties in our next game, that's for sure," he said emphatically.
Canada closes out its Preliminary Round with a showdown most fans would consider the highlight of the first week of games – a New Year’s Eve date with the United States. Denmark plays Finland tomorrow night.
"We did a great job tonight," said Harrington. "That’s the way of game we wanted leading up to the big game (against the U.S.)."
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)