2015 World Juniors Report: Day 5

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One day is left in the round robin as the playoff spots are coming down to the wire but in Day 5 it was one team that had their hopes on the line. The Danish Junior team had only ever been in the top tier of the tournament twice before and had yet to earn a win. After a great performance in Division I in 2014 the Danes had earned their way to the top tier for a third time. They ran through Division I with five straight wins and looked like the best team in the division. That helped them gain some confidence heading into the 2015 tournament among the best teams in the world. They would need it to avoid relegation as they had yet to win a game and came into a tournament where the division between the have and have-nots is bigger than anywhere else. To avoid relegation would be an accomplishment for the Danes and if they could not achieve that they would settle for at least one win to show that they are getting better. The confidence they brought form Division I proved to be worth it in the top tier as they started off the tournament with a big surprise. As with any team that is expected to face relegation the start of the tournament is never an easy one. Denmark was to face Russia to start their time in the top tier of the tournament in a game that many expected the Russians to win and win big in an easy start to their tournament. The Danes had a different thought though as they went into the game trying to show that they belonged among the best teams in the world. They pushed the Russians in the first game taking advantage of a slow start as they led them heading into the third period. The Russians came back and tied the game as they finished it off in a shootout to take two points. The Danes still took a point and showed that they were there to compete and could not be walked over by any team. The rest of their tournament went by much as expected with Denmark unable to get a win as they lost to Sweden 5-1 in a game that showed they still had a ways to go to catch up to the best. Then they came back and showed that they could compete again when they pushed the Czech Republic into overtime. They still took a loss in that game and remained without a win in the top tier of the tournament but their two overtime games had given them an opportunity that teams at their level are rarely afforded. They sat in last place with two points that tied them with the Czech Republic but with the Czechs having a win over the Danes they sat in the playoff spot. On Day 5 the Danish team would take on the Swiss team and a win could put them into the playoffs. If the Danish team could beat the Swiss team it would mark their first win in the top tier and would push them above the Czechs in the standings. That would leave the Czechs with a very important final game against Russia where a win put them in and a loss put them to relegation while the Danes would stay in the tournament with a spot in the quarter-finals. Denmark took on a tough Swiss team that had competed with some of the top teams and for the Danes it became a watershed moment for their junior program. After getting behind early the Danes fought back and the game went to overtime. The OT solved nothing and two goals from Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand gave the Danes their first ever win in the top tier of the tournament. Although their fate is now completely out of their hands the Danes still have a good chance of making the playoffs. The Czechs have not been as good as they could be and they are facing the top team in Group B. If Sweden wins the game Denmark is in the playoffs and the Czech Republic will go into relegation. Day 5 may not have been the most active but it made the last day of the round robin even more important than it was before. The first round of the tournament is winding down but that just means that the most exciting part of the tournament is about to begin as the pursuit of the gold is about to get that much more serious.

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Day 5:
Denmark 4 – 3 Switzerland (SO)
– Danish hockey took a huge step in Day 5 as they won their first game in the World Juniors’ top tier but it was not easy as they had to fight back and forth with the Swiss until a shootout where they took that first win and the fourth place spot for the time being

Slovakia 5 – 2 Germany
– Germany had an opportunity in this game as they had to win to stay out of relegation but they couldn’t do it as they still couldn’t find the back of the net being shutout for the third time and losing a chance of staying out of relegation

Day 6:
Switzerland vs. Sweden (Wednesday December 31st; 1:00 pm ET)
– The Swiss have looked like a good team this year and they are a surprising many but they now take on one of the best teams in the tournament looking for a win to go undefeated this year and remain a gold medal favourite

Canada vs. USA (Wednesday December 31st; 4:00 pm ET)
– This is the final game for both teams in the round robin and it is becoming a tradition for these two rivals to face off on New Year’s Eve and this year it will be for the Group A title which both teams want if only for North American pride

Russia vs. Czech Republic (Wednesday December 31st; 5:00 pm ET)
– The Czechs have their back to the wall in this game as a loss will put them into the relegation series but a win will put them into the quarter-finals and that win will not be easy as the Russians remain one of the best teams in the tournament

Germany vs. Finland (Wednesday December 31st; 8:00 pm ET)
– Germany lost an opportunity in Day 5 when the lost to the Slovaks but that doesn’t mean they can’t stay out of relegation as a win against the Finns will put them into fourth place and the quarter-finals while a loss puts them back into relegation for the second year in a row

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