International Ice Hockey Federation

Green retires with a win

Green retires with a win

Denmark leaves it late, relegates Italy

Published 15.05.2017 18:49 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Green retires with a win
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 15: Denmark's Morten Green #13 looks on during preliminary round action against Italy at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Italy stumbled in its must-win game, struggling to generate offence and losing to a pair of late Danish goals as the two nations finish their 2017 campaigns.

Denmark left it late, but a 58th-minute goal from Nichlas Hardt gave the team its first regulation time victory of this year’s championship and condemned Italy to relegation. The result also means that Belarus and Slovakia have definitely secured their spots in 2018.

Hardt struck on the power play, receiving the puck at the side of the net after Frederik Sturm and Julian Jakobsen found the passes to slice through Italy’s defence and producing the kind of decisive finish this meeting had lacked for the previous 57 minutes of play.

Italy, seeing its slim hopes of survival disappear, gambled on withdrawing its goalie to try to save itself. By that backfired in the most agonising way imaginable: Alexander Egger stumbled in front of his own empty net while collecting a pass from Thomas Larkin, and watched in horror as the puck slithered between the piping. The goal was credited to Denmark’s Peter Regin.

It had been a high-stakes game – Italy’s last chance of survival was on the line. A regulation-time victory for the Italians would have given Stephan Mair’s team a real shot at staying in the Elite Pool if Slovakia were to lose to Sweden on the final day of group phase action.

Denmark, exempt from relegation worries as it hosts next year, also had plenty of motivation going into the game. First, the Danes faced the prospect of finishing bottom of Group A if it failed to garner at least one point from the game. There was also the small matter of helping national team stalwart Morten Green finish his international career on a winning note. Those late goals gave the Danish captain a victorious farewell; his player of the game award was a small tribute to a great career on the world stage that began with the under-18s back in 1997.

After the game and the presentations, Denmark's traveling fans held up posters of Green, chanting 'Morten! Morten!' as their hero took his final lap of honour.

Morten Poulsen explained how much Green's presence meant to team Denmark over the years.

"He’s probably the first great player we’ve had on the international stage playing for Denmark. I’ve never played a team game without Morten," Poulsen said. "It is going to be crazy coming to these tournaments without him. He’s such a huge part of this team. Not only on the ice but off as well. He’s like a father figure and he’s going to be missed."

The game itself was never a classic encounter. Italy, aware that lapses in concentration had been its downfall earlier in the competition, set up to give nothing away. A cautious defensive approach, paying special attention to the pace of Nikolaj Ehlers, ensured that the squaddra azzurra remaining in contention for that vital victory. However, it limited opportunities at the other end, and too often the team fluffed its lines at the crucial moment.

Simon Kostner was the first to miss his chance inside the first five minutes. A breakdown in the Danish defence saw the puck come to Kostner as he stood all alone on Sebastian Dahm’s doorstep; the Italian failed to control it and the chance evaporated. Hesitancy also denied Raphael Andergassen midway through the second period after Giulio Scandella’s rush took him behind Dahm’s net. Andergassen collected his pass in a dangerous position, but took an extra touch and allowed Dahm to position himself for the block. Just as in its previous World Championship campaign in Minsk, Italy finished with a meagre six goals in seven games, clear evidence of where it needs to improve at this level.

However, in three games the Italians would have taken more points had they not conceded goals in final two or three minutes. Those late lapses cost a win over Slovakia in game one, and denied the team a shot at overtime against Latvia and again today. Scandella cut a frustrated figure at the end.

"We tried to work hard and get a goal when we needed it but that didn’t happen and the power play goal was the difference in the third," he said. "We played them close and tough so to lose a late one goal is not bad, but we always want better."

Denmark also had chances, with Ehlers’ speed frequently causing alarm in the Italian zone. Morten Madsen went close in the first period with a shot that looped off Andreas Bernard’s helmet and clipped the top of the goal frame before bouncing to safety. Madsen’s feed also presented Peter Regin with a big chance in the second period, but the Jokerit Helsinki forward poked wide of the target from close range.

"We wanted to make sure that we go into next year’s World Championship earning our place and we did that today," Poulsen concluded.

The third period saw Denmark generate more offence: Bernard finished with 37 saves to Dahm’s 14. And ultimately that pressure paid off as the Danes finished with a win and an emotional send-off for captain Green.


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