One year before the puck drops on the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, the first team has officially clinched a spot in Toronto and Montreal.
After a two-year hiatus, Denmark will return to the top division of the World Juniors thanks to its gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship, Division I, Group A tournament last week in Sanok, Poland.
It will be the third appearance in the top division for the Danes, who were relegated after the 2008 tournament in Pardubice and Liberec, Czech Republic, and 2012 event in Calgary and Edmonton, Alta., both times without winning a game.
Winning wasn’t a problem in Sanok; Denmark won all five of its games, the first time in its three Division I gold medal runs that it had gone undefeated.
After opening with victories over Austria (3-1) and host Poland (4-2), the Danes edged Belarus 5-4 in a game they led 5-1 with 13 minutes left, putting them solidly among the tournament favourites.
Thanks to its 3-0 record, Denmark could clinch the gold medal in the round-robin tournament with a victory over fellow unbeaten Latvia in its second-to-last game. A win would leave the Danes at 4-0, and since they would have beaten Belarus and Latvia, the only other teams who could get to four wins, they could not be passed in the standings.
Denmark opened the scoring just past the 12-minute mark of the first period off the stick of Mads Eller, brother of Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller, and son of Danish head coach Olaf Eller.
Nikolaj Ehlers doubled the lead late in the second period, and, although Roberts Lipsbergs got Latvia on the board early in the third, goals from Sonny Hertzberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand in the dying minutes clinched the 4-1 win, the gold medal and a trip to Canada next December for Denmark.
“Most of the players in our team are used to play in front of 1,000 to 2,000 people, now we will play in Toronto and Montreal in front of full houses with up to 20,000 people,” Mads Eller told IIHF.com after the tournament. “It is going to be a big experience, and we will work very hard to be prepared for it so we can stay in the top division.”
The Danes capped their perfect run through the tournament with a 4-2 win over Slovenia on the final day of competition.
Mikael Aaagaard finished as Denmark’s top scorer with eight points (three goals, five assists), good for fourth in tournament scoring, while Bjorkstrand was named Top Forward by the IIHF Directorate.
The other nine teams competing at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, and the final groups, will be decided following the 2014 World Juniors, which begin Boxing Day in Malmö, Sweden.
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