International Ice Hockey Federation

Keller treble downs Danes

US youngster opens account in style

Published 07.05.2017 19:00 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Keller treble downs Danes
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 7: USA's Clayton Keller #19 with a scoring chance against Denmark's Sebastian Dahm #32 while Julian Jakobsen #33 defends during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
A hat-trick from 18-year-old Clayton Keller led team USA to its first victory in this year's World Championship, helping to defeat Denmark 7-2 in Cologne.

Clayton Keller, the youngest player on the team USA roster, grabbed a hat-trick to open his World Championship account in style and lead the Americans to a comfortable victory over Denmark.

Sunday's feat continued a remarkable season for the 18-year-old, who helped his country to World U20 gold in Canada earlier this season. Keller also enjoyed a fine year for Boston University in the NCAA’s Hockey East section and won a call-up to the Arizona Coyotes at the end of the campaign. Today he made his mark on the senior international stage as the Americans bounced back from an opening day loss to Germany.

"First and foremost, it was a good game for our team," Keller said. "As for me, it's always cool to score goals. That's what everybody wants to do. My line-mates made some great plays and I was fortunate to be able to put them in."

Keller’s first marker came with a wrister from the bottom of the circle to make it 2-0 in the 14th minute after Anders Lee had opened the scoring on the game’s first power play. And the youngster was back on the scoresheet with a big rush down the right channel that saw him get in front of Matias Lassen and round Sebastian Dahm to make it 4-2.

His third of the game came on 53 minutes, and involved a slice of luck as he played the puck across the face of Dahm's net towards Andrew Copp. He never found that target; a Danish skate intervened and deflected the disc into the net.

Keller wasn’t the only USA player to shine. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck pulled off a couple of key stops, such as the first-period glove save that denied Morten Madsen a tying goal or the blocker save that pushed Morten Green’s shot onto the crossbar with the scores at 3-2.

Lee also produced two goals. He delivered a close-range backhand to open the scoring and tucked away the rebound off Noah Hanifin’s shot as the USA tightened the screws in the back end of the second period. Within 30 seconds of that effort, Brock Nelson made it 6-2 and put the game out of reach of the Danes after Nick Schmaltz robbed Jesper Jensen and found a delicious feed that skipped between the goalie and D-man to tee up the team captain.

Denmark, sent spinning to a second defeat in Cologne, posed an intermittent threat. Madsen’s power play goal late in the first period, picking up on the rebound from a Nikolaj Ehlers shot, hauled the Danes back to 1-2. Then, after Johnny Gaudreau scored late in the first, Denmark replied early in the second through Nichlas Hardt when the USA was slow to clear its lines following a blast from Julian Jakobsen.

It wasn’t enough. A couple of big saves from Hellebuyck denied the Danes the chance to tie the scores before three goals in three minutes in the second period opened up a commanding lead.

Green, frustrated, said afterwards: "It felt like we were coming back when we were down 1-2 and then 2-3. But then they scored those quick goals out of nothing and all of a sudden it was game over.

"We played some good hockey at times, but it was too easy for them to score on us at important moments in the game."

With the result already clear, Denmark struggled to generate much in the final session. One power play aside, Jan Karlsson's team rarely found its way into US territory. The Danes now have a day to regroup before taking on Slovakia on Tuesday, with Patrick Russell insisting that things can improve. "This isn't the way we wanted to start," he said. "But we win as a team and I believe in this team, so I'm looking forward to the next game." 

The USA returns to the ice tomorrow with a showdown against Sweden - with Keller preparing to face his Arizona colleague Oliver Ekman-Larsson in his next battle.

"It's going to be a great test," he said. "Sweden's a good team with a lot of skill, and Oliver's an unbelievable defenceman. It's always cool to play against team-mates, or future team-mates, but I don't know if I can stop him ... he's a pretty good player!"