The Danish junior team, featuring players that will compete at the upcoming top division World Junior tournament, began the World Junior A Challenge off strong, defeating Canada West by a score of 3-2.
It’s not every day that a Danish hockey team is favoured over a Canadian team, but in a tournament where Denmark features players from a higher level of hockey, it’s not crazy. Denmark’s team is made up of players that will battle against the best hockey players under the age of 20 later this month, while Canada, and most of the teams in the tournament, feature players competing in various Junior A leagues, the level below the OHL, WHL and QMJHL.
Denmark got all three of their goals from players currently in the Canadian Hockey League. Mikkel Aagaard of the OHL’s Niagara Icedogs scored first for the Danes with 96 seconds left in the opening period, giving Denmark the 1-0 lead.
The Danish power play converted early in the second period by a name most Canadians have likely heard of. Halifax Mooseheads star Nikolaj Ehlers, a ninth overall selection by the Winnipeg Jets in 2014, beat former Team Canada inline goaltender Tommy Nixon five-hole to make it 2-0 Denmark 3:20 into the second.
Canada West would finally get one on the board two minutes later. Following a play started by potential high 2016 NHL Draft pick Dante Fabbro, Gabe Bast shot a blast past Thomas Lillie to cut the lead in half.
The game failed to see another goal until seven minutes into the third period, Canada’s tying goal, and it was a pretty one at that. Tyson Jost, who is another Penticton Vees prospect (like Fabbro) that will make a splash at the 2016 draft, took the puck from the left corner and skated in all alone, beating Lillie with a nice shot from the slot to tie it up.
Canada had control of the shot clock for most of the game, but that truly meant nothing due to the fact that scoring was proving to be a tough task. Canada’s chance at being the first Canadian team to win at the tournament this year went up in smoke with three minutes to go when Ehlers blew past multiple Canadian defenseman before sending the puck past Nixon, giving Denmark the 3-2 victory in the process.
The loss marked the end to a disappointing day at the World Junior A Challenge for Canada. Earlier in the day, Canada lost 4-3 to Switzerland in the shootout, only to lose near the end to a team that doesn’t usually contend at top level junior hockey tournaments.
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