by Lisa McRitchie on 01/04/12 at 08:00 PM ET
Although neither team had won a game through 8 days of the IIHF World Juniors Tournament, this win was especially important to each team. With this win, Latvia has ensured that they will remain in this tournament into next year. For Denmark, it’s back to the drawing board.
There is always a sense of family among teammates, but for some on Team Denmark, that feeling is a little more literal. Oliver and Patrick Bjorkstrand are sons of Denmark’s head coach Todd Bjorkstrand and together they had sought out to keep Denmark in the tournament after a three year absence.
Oliver and Patrick play together in Denmark, for Herning where centreman Patrick and right winger Oliver combine to bring offence at nearly a point per game each. Through this tournament, the brothers worked well with one another to keep their team in each game despite the eventual losses.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the game’s opening goal, but without another goal, Denmark’s hopes were dashed.
For Edmonton Oilers’ prospect and current Edmonton Oil King Kristians Pelss his second period trying goal could not have come at a better time. Pelss had been feeling the pressure to produce offensively, earning only two assists in four games played.
Although Pelss did not score as many goals as his linemate Zemgu Girgensons, (sounds like gerkins) Pickles who scored two, Pelss will leave this tournament having learned much about playing on the international stage and being a team captain.
For Pickles, Girgensons, this tournament has been an opportunity for more scouts to watch his game before the upcoming draft. Girgensons wonders if this tournament may drop his rankings, although he shone on a team that had its struggles.
Both teams remained in a deadlock through the third period giving the fans that made the trek to the Saddledome for the “early” 11am game some extra excitement.
Nikita Jevpalvos gave Latvia their winning goal, but this is a goal that will never sit well with Denmark. Goaltender Sebastian Feuk was clearly upset about the goal after the buzzer rang and spoke with the referees but to no avail. The goal stood and Latvia won 2-1 earning a spot in next year’s competition.
“I think we were best,” said Feuk following the loss. “I know the last goal, it sucked. My mask was loose, I had shot at it [the puck] and I told the ref to call it off and he didn’t do it. I would have been shot in the head.”
Denmark’s head coach Todd Bjorkstrand was not aware of the issue with the mask, but at that point it wouldn’t have mattered much. Still, coach Bjorkstrand saw this as a great experience for his team. “It was a good hockey game obviously, but we lost.”
Denmark will have to regroup and start working towards their next opportunity to play in this tournament. “Obviously it’s a great learning experience for all of the kids and everyone. But the physical part, we have to have more players on our team that are physically stronger. It’s lacking. There are not enough players on our team that are physically strong enough.
For Latvia’s head Coach Eriks Miluns this “was a tough game; it was nerve wracking for both teams. Both teams played well and both teams deserved to win and both goalies played well, but someone had to win. We were fortunate to come out with the win and obviously we’re excited about it.”
The Latvian team is quite young meaning that there will be several members of this team returning next year. Miluns already sees the core group returning in next year’s competition but “Obviously we have a lot of work ahead of ourselves to keep developing. We are obviously not where we want to be to compete with Swedes, and Russians and Fins and Canada and the US and all of the top teams. But we will keep striving forward and working hard.”
Neither country is necessarily known as a hockey hot bed, or known for producing a large number of players who go on to have memorable careers, but both Denmark and Latvia feature players who have are closer to the NHL that most.
For winger Nicklas Jensen, he hopes that this tournament and the competition that it brought will only help him develop further, and perhaps bring him closer to a chance at playing for his team the Vancouver Canucks.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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