Gauthier cuts through Danish resistance
by Andy Potts|20 MAY 2023
Team USA's Cutter Gauthier lines up a shot on Denmark's George Sorensen during the team's World Championship game in Tampere, Finland.
Cutter Gauthier was the difference-maker as Team USA posted a fifth successive victory in this tournament. The 19-year-old forward finally solved George Sorensen in the Danish net, snapping a 0-0 tie with 10 minutes to play. That set the Americans on the way to winning their first five games at a World Championship for only the fourth time.

Alex Tuch and Rocco Grimaldi added further goals in the closing stages to seal a 3-0 verdict, while Casey DeSmith made 22 saves to claim the USA’s first shut-out here in Tampere. At the other end, Sorensen came into the game at the first intermission and performed bravely in his first World Championship action since 2017. However, the Americans had the edge in the final stages and did enough to maintain their flawless record in the 2023 tournament.

"They didn't give us much, we had to work for our chances," said America's Drew O'Connor. "We just stuck with it, we didn't panic and we didn't try to force too much."

For Denmark this was a second loss after opening the tournament with three victories. Nick Olesen felt that the Danish performance deserved a little more.

"I think we played pretty good but they got a goal on the power play and we weren't able to come back," he said. "It's a tough loss.

"It's a small margin, but we'll come back next game."

In the opening frame, Team USA again suffered from its habit of starting slowly. In the first four games, just two of the Americans’ 18 goals came in the first period and they were unable to add to that here.

Michael Eyssimont came closest, dinging Frederik Dichow’s post after jumping on a loose puck in centre ice. Denmark offered less on offence, but Frederik Storm almost opened up the game when he weaved a path through a couple of defenders to test DeSmith in the American net.

Dichow collided with Patrick Brown late in the first period and did not return after the intermision. That put Sorensen, 28, into the game for his first World Championship action in six years.

Sorensen was in for a busy reintroduction to IIHF play. At times the middle frame turned into a personal duel between him and Gauthier. The young American forward was always a busy presence in the Danish zone. He fashioned a good early chance for T.J. Tynan, who fired wide of an open net. Then Gauthier came closest to opening the scoring with a testing wrister that Sorensen just managed to deflect onto the post and away.

"He came in and did an awesome job for us," said Olesen of his goalie. "He was good in net for us and gave us a chance to win the game."

At the other end, Denmark struggled to take that chance. However, the U.S. defence was again prone to the odd lapse and Oscar Moelgaard, the youngest player on his team, raced clear. DeSmith did enough to prevent the HV71 prospect from getting a shot away.

Earlier in the tournament, Denmark leaned heavily on its power play. For 40 minutes, the USA stayed out of the box. However, early in the third Connor Mackey followed Eyssimont into the box to give the Danes a five-on-three advantage. That brought the first extended spell of Danish pressure in the game, but DeSmith shut the door on the best opportunity as Mathias Bau found space on the crease.

"We know they have some skilled guys and they have a good power play," said O'Connor. "We were able to stay out of the box for most of the game. Then we had a couple of big kills at the end before we got a big goal on our PP."

The U.S. special teams continued to get a work-out at both ends of the ice. Another successful penalty kill was followed by a holding call on Morten Poulsen. The Danes were frustrated by that decision, and their anger was not eased when Gauthier finally got the goal his efforts deserved to break the deadlock midway through the final session. The Boston College star grabbed his third of this tournament when he turned away from Patrick Russell in the right-hand circle and flashed his wrister through traffic generated by Tynan.

"It felt great," said Gauthier. "I think you could see a little of that in the celebration. It was nice to get that one after having so many shots. I don't know how many saves he made, but it was nice to get one and help the guys get the win." 

"He's got a crazy shot," added O'Connor. "He had about 10 shots today and the way he shoots the puck, one of them was bound to go in."

Insurance arrived for the USA with four minutes to play when Tuch added a second goal. Moving at pace through centre ice, the American offence was too slick for a tiring opponent. Rocco Grimaldi dropped off the puck and Tuch finished it emphatically to seal the win. Tuch then returned the favor, setting up Grimaldi's empty-netter to add some gloss to the final scoreline.