Norway blanks Danes for first win
by Lucas AYKROYD|14 MAY 2024
Norway outpaced Denmark for an important 2-0 win in Group A action at the 2024 Worlds in Prague.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
On the strength of Michael Brandsegg-Nygard's second-period goal, Norway beat Denmark 2-0 for its first win of the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on Tuesday. The Norwegians had previously lost three straight games.

Erik Salsten also scored, and goalie Henrik Haukeland got the shutout. Final shots favoured Norway 29-24.

"It's a really important game for us to win against Denmark and it was really fun too," said Brandsegg-Nygard. "I think we did great."

There was an element of revenge for Norway. The Danes have enjoyed bragging rights in this rivalry in recent years. In 2022 Olympic qualification play, Denmark blanked Norway 2-0 in the deciding game in Oslo in 2021. Denmark also won both the last two World Championship meetings 3-0 (2016, 2018).

"It's a big derby for us," said Haukeland. "We obviously want to beat them every time. We have them in the group this year. We have them in the Olympic qualification in August again. So it was nice to break the chain here."

"They played better than us in the second period," said Danish assistant captain Patrick Russell. "I thought we played better in the third. But you've got to try and put 60 minutes together. It wasn't good enough."

Battle levels were high and checking was tight in the scoreless first period. This was a critical matchup for both teams in the quest to stay in the top division and maybe, just maybe, secure a quarter-final berth.

Mats Zuccarello, the all-time Norwegian points leader in NHL history, returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to illness. He suited up on a stacked top line featuring captain Patrick Thoresen and Brandsegg-Nygard, projected as a first-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

Denmark got the game’s first power play late in the first period. Thoresen got sent off for manhandling Christian Wejse in front of Haukeland. However, the Danes couldn’t find the range.

Norway ramped up the intensity in the second period. Nearing the five-minute mark, Norway's best chance on its first man advantage saw Thoresen forcing Dichow to make a nice glove stop. A Danish clearing attempt yielded a shorthanded breakaway, but Nick Olesen's backhand hit the side of the net.

At 7:15, just as the Danish fans had begun to chant their support, the top Norwegian line opened the scoring on the rush. Zuccarello found Brandsegg-Nygard in the middle for a one-timer that soared past Dichow's glove. It was the second goal of these Worlds for the 18-year-old forward, who plays for Sweden's Mora IK.

Thoresen hailed Brandsegg-Nygard: "It’s a world-class shot he has. It’s all about me and Zucc trying to find him in a good shooting area. Obviously, Mats is Mats, and his play before the goal there was amazing, when he tricked that Danish guy to almost stumble into the board."

This was also the first Danish goal against Norway at the Worlds since 9 May, 2015, when Ken Andre Olimb scored at 3:18 of the first period in a 4-1 loss in Ostrava.

With just over seven minutes left in the middle frame, Norwegian assistant captain Thomas Berg-Paulsen narrowly failed to finish off another rush when he stuck his stick out to deflect a pass one-handed.

The physicality picked up in the final stanza. Norway's Christian Kaasastul deposited Wejse over the boards with a well-timed, heavy bodycheck. A high-sticking call on Thoresen spawned another wasted power-play chance for the Danes.

At the other end, Zuccarello hit Dichow with a rising shot that bounced up and over the Danish netminder with under four minutes left. His right leg kicked back in a desperate bid to keep the puck out. The play was video-reviewed extensively and it was ruled that the puck did not cross the goal line.

"Now that we have a line with [Mats], Michael, and Patrick, I think we have a whole new dimension," Haukeland said. "Offensively, it's looking really good for us."

After Denmark pulled Dichow for a sixth attacker, Salsten salted away the win with an empty-netter with 11 seconds left.

Denmark has never been relegated since returning to the top 16 nations in 2003 after a 54-year absence. Norway hasn’t gone down since 2006. Last year, the Danes finished 10th in Tampere, while the Norwegians came 13th for the third straight year.  

The result improves Norway's all-time World Championship record versus Denmark to six wins and three losses, dating back to 2006.

According to Russell, Denmark will take a straightforward mindset into Wednesday's game against the host Czechs: "We've got to regroup. Just come out harder. It's going to be a good crowd in there, and hopefully we can ruin the party."

The Danes have an added incentive to pick up their pace. They will co-host the 2025 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship with Sweden (9 to 25 May). Herning, which joined Copenhagen as the secondary venue when Denmark first hosted the tournament in 2018, will next year share the honours with the Swedish capital of Stockholm. So a good showing this year could help build excitement among Danish hockey fans.
Denmark vs Norway - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship