Canada has booked the final spot in the semi-finals with a dominant 8-0 win over Denmark before a raucous crowd of 18,448 at the Air Canada Centre tonight.
The game was punctuated by a highlight-reel goal in the second period from Connor McDavid, who also added two superb assists. Linemate Curtis Lazar had two goals and one assist.
“It’s a dream come true to skate out there,” McDavid said of the incredible crowd in Toronto. “The atmosphere was pretty special, but that’s kind of what I was expecting. The fans were great.”
Zach Fucale stopped only 14 shots for the shutout as Canada fired 50 at the two Danish netminders.
It was a good run for the Danes, but their tournament is over. Canada, meanwhile, faces Slovakia on Sunday night for a place in the gold-medal game. It was only a week ago that Canada trounced the Slovaks, 8-0, but whether more of the same will occur on Sunday night is up for debate.
“Don’t let the last game fool anyone because it’s not fooling us,” said forward Sam Reinhart, who had a goal and is now tied for the tournament scoring lead with nine points. “They’ve gotten better, and if they had a few breaks at the start, that would have been a different game. We’re not taking them lightly in the slightest.”
Reinhart, like all of Canada’s players, were awed by the reception the ACC crowd accorded them. “It was awesome. This doesn’t happen very much in your life, so you have to take it all in. This is one of the best crowds I’ve ever played in front of.”
The Canadians started like bears released from a cage, pouring across the blue line, wave after wave, controlling the puck in the Danish end, creating one scoring opportunity after another.
But the energetic start had a price. Robby Fabbri finished his check deep in the Denmark end, but he seemed to twist his knee in the process. He had to be helped off the ice and didn’t return.
It wasn’t until midway through the period, though, that Canada was able to beat the diminutive Georg Sørensen in the Danish net. Sørensen was a beacon of strength in the blue ice all tournament for the Danes. Wearing number 39 in honour of his idol, the Little Dominator was rock solid as his players tried to cope with Canada’s size and speed.
McDavid drove down the left wing and behind the net, and as he was falling he managed to put the puck on the stick of captain and linemate Lazar in the slot. Lazar made no mistake from close range.
“I kind of just threw it out there,” McDavid said. “I didn’t know Curt was there, but it’s good that he was.”
“Once we got the first one, we were able to relax and play our game,” said Reinhart. “And the crowd really helped. We’re getting more confident with each win.”
Four and a half minutes later, the Canadians made it 2-0 when Reinhart snapped a loose puck past Sørensen from the slot.
The vast majority of the middle period passed in the Denmark end. After what seemed like half a dozen glorious chances, Lawson Crouse finally made it 3-0 for Canada after a nice toe drag around Mathias Aserup and then snapping the puck past a beleaguered Sørensen at 7:50.
The goal of the night came at 10:21. McDavid stripped a Dane of the puck at centre ice and then simply out-skated the Danish defence in a footrace. When he got to the goal, he faked one way, stopped, and slid the puck in the open side, lifting the fans out of their seats.
“I just tried to carry the puck to the middle,” the soft-spoken McDavid said matter-of-factly about a goal that was anything but. “I think their defence was making a quick change, but I wasn’t expecting the quick turnover at centre. I was able to get a step on them, and the move is just something I like to do.”
“That was pretty special,” Reinhart enthused. “The speed he had on that goal was pretty impressive.”
Lazar made it 5-0 with his second of the night and tournament-tying fifth of 2015, taking a pass as he came off the bench from Joe Hicketts and beating Sørensen through the legs.
Nick Paul added a sixth goal early in the third on a nice backhand high over Sørensen’s glove. Two minutes later, Brayden Point scored on a great play started by McDavid, who tagged up before getting to a loose puck, dekeing one defenceman and making a no-look back pass which resulted in Point’s close-in shot.
Nick Ritchie closed out the scoring with 54.8 seconds left as Canada was relentless from start to finish.
“The coaches are always stressing that we have good habits,” said Crouse. “In a tournament like this, you always have to play with good habits. Even though you’re winning, you still have to do the right things at the right time.”
IHLC: With the win, Canada retains their 17th and current International Hockey Lineal Championship, which they won from Team USA in the group finale on New Year’s Eve. This marks the first IHLC meeting between Canada and Denmark in history, and is just Denmark’s second-ever IHLC game, following a 8-0 loss to Sweden in 2011. Canada will now take the title to the Semifinals, where they will face an upstart Slovakian squad for the IHLC.
10:37 – GOAL – Lazar (McDavid)
15:17 – GOAL – Reinhart (Duclair)
17:23 – PEN – Duclair, interference
27:50 – GOAL – Crouse (Gauthier)
28:07 – PEN – Nurse, high sticking
30:21 – GOAL – McDavid
33:21 – GOAL – Lazar (Hicketts)
35:19 – PEN – Jensen, interference
35:19 – PEN – Hertzberg, holding
39:26 – PEN – Point, hooking
43:08 – GOAL – Paul (Virtanen, Petan)
45:09 – GOAL – Point (McDavid, Lazar)
54:27 – PEN – Eller, tripping
57:13 – PEN – Hansen, holding
59:06 – PP GOAL – Ritchie (Crouse, Hicketts)
W: Fucale (14-14)
L: Sørensen (32-39), Lillie (10-11)
SHOTS ON GOAL
14+19+17 = 50
6+3+5 = 14
Goaltenders: Eric Comrie, Zachary Fucale. Defence: Madison Bowey, Dillon Heatherington, Joe Hicketts, Samuel Morin, Josh Morrissey, Darnell Nurse, Shea Theodore. Forwards: Lawson Crouse, Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Robby Fabbri, Frédérik Gauthier, Curtis Lazar (C), Connor McDavid (A), Nick Paul, Nic Petan, Brayden Point, Sam Reinhart (A), Nick Ritchie, Jake Virtanen.
Goaltenders: Thomas Lillie, Georg Sørensen. Defence: Victor Eskerod, Daniel Hansen, Sonny Hertzberg, Anders Krogsgaard, Mads Larsen, Mathias Lassen, Daniel Nielsen. Forwards: Mikkel Aagaard (C), Mathias Asperup, Oliver Bjorkstrand (A), Nikolaj Ehlers, Jeppe Holmberg, Kristian Jensen, Mads Eller (A), Marcus Nielsen, Søren Nielsen, Nick Olesen, André Pison, Emil Rasmussen, Alexander True.