A few years ago nobody was really interested in the Danish national team,
not even the players in the Danish league, but then Swedish coach Jim
Brithén came, and times have changed. In the start the Danish team still
performed bad, but step by step things started to get better, and in 1998
Denmark was placed ahead of Norway in the B-pool. Anyhow Norway got
promoted to the A-group the next year, because they were the hosts of the
Then in 1999 the climax came, Denmark won the B-pool on home
ice. Denmark was unbeaten althrough the tournament, and was therefore the
right champion. Denmark was now ready to play in the A-group
Denmark beat Italy in the first round, Denmark failed to qualify to the
A-pool. A bitter pill to swallow (as we say in Denmark) for the national
team. But that's life! And the Danish rose again! In the first
round of the olympic qualification Denmark was set to play against
C-nationHungary, C-nation Netherlands and "a-nation" Japan. In the first match
against Netherlands, Denmark won 2-1, in a boring hockeymatch. Denmark won
again against Hungary in a messy match. Now came the battle of the first
place, and qualification-spot. It was a real thriller but Denmark won
and was now ready for the next round.
Then came the B-pool this year, and Denmark got down on the earth again. A
lot of injured Danish key-players, resulted in a failure. But the "Lions"
didn't play that bad, they tied against Poland with Mariusz Czerkawski on the
team, and did only lose with one against Germany and Great Britain.
Anybody who watches the Swedish hockey league (SHL) will know that there is a
lot of good Danish players. Jens Nielsen in Leksand, Jesper Duus and
goalie-prospect Peter Hirsch in MoDo, and of course the superstar of the
Danish team, Montreal
Candiens' draft pick Kim Staal. Kim is now playing for Malmö in the
Swedish league, but he will probably start to play for Montreals farmteam
Fredricton Canadians soon. In that case he would be the first Danish player in
The swedes used to call us "Holiday on ice", but in the future I think that
Denmark will be better than nations as Germany and Norway, and become an
Christoffer H. Perdersen etc.
For the second time in history, the Danish hockey finals 2000 went to the full 5 games.
(The Danish Finals have gone to game 5 once before. It was in 1998 when Herning beat Rungsted in arguably as exciting finals as the 2000 finals. - Jesper Schultz)
The participating teams were the two Jutland clubs (Frederikshavn and Herning). The coach of Frederikshavn was the Czech, Jiri Justra. Herning coach was a Finn Petri Skriko, a veteran of over 500 NHL games during his playing days.
As a recap for those of you who are not that familiar with Danish hockey, the regular season features 10 clubs that play 4 times against each other;
a total of 36 games. The best 8 clubs advantages to the playoffs. The 8
playoff teams are divided into 2 pools. This year, Frederikshavn, Odense,
Rungsted and Vojens were in Pool A. Pool B contained Herning, Esbjerg,
Rødovre and Aalborg. Last year, Frederikshavn and Odense of Pool A and
Esbjerg and Herning of Pool B advanced to the semifinals. The semifinals
were Frederikshavn against Esbjerg and Herning against Odense. From the
start of the 1999-2000 season, Frederikshavn was the favorite to win the
championship. Suddenly one of their key players, Swedish goalkeeper Johan
Westermark, got injured. Westermark was the victim of an unnecessary attack
by Pavel Kostichkin of Rungsted. Westermark suffered a broken hand in the
incident. Frederikshavn was no longer the only favorite. Esbjerg and
Herning both had a shot at going all the way.
Herning did not have any problems beating Odense, sweeping their best of 5 semifinals. It was the first time ever that Odense reached the semifinals.
A major factor in the series was American Todd Björkstrand. Björkstrand has
played in Herning since 1987-88 and has been the key reason for the club's
succuss in the nineties. The other series, pitting Frederikshavn against
Esbjerg was much tougher. The series went the full 5 games before
Frederikshavn has been dominating Danish hockey for the past 2 seasons. Frederikshavn only lost 10 games out of 48 in 1998-99, but was upset by
Rødovre in the previous year's final; losing in a surprising sweep. In
1999-2000 Frederikshavn only lost 9 out of 52 games. That wasn't enough for
the Fredrikshavn fans. They wanted nothing less than the gold. The players
could not take the pressure and lost game 1 of the semifinals against
Esbjerg 1-4. The big problem for Frederikshavn seemed to be the
goaltending. Westermark was out for the rest of the season and his young
replacement, Mads Johnsen, hadn't played many minutes in the Elite League
level. Nevertheless, Frederikshavn came back to win games 2 and 3. Esbjerg
took game 4 before Frederikshavn closed in out in 5. And then came the
Game 1 in Frederikshavn against Herning 5-1 (1-0)
Frederikshavn grabbed a 1-0 series lead after downing Herning 5-1 in the first game.
In game one of the finals it was easy to see that Frederikshavn was skating
in a higher gear than Herning. Herning hadn't played for the last week
because of the quick elimination of Odense. Herning was drawn in to many
penalties as they desperately tried to keep Frederikshavn away from the
goal. Only 12 minutes into the first period Frederikshavn led by stunning
3-0. The game seemed over. But, as seen before, Todd Björkstrand scored on
a fantastic slapshot, putting Herning on the board. Björkstrand scored from
the middle of the ice after the puck hit the back boards, rebounded, and
hit the Frederikshavn goaltender Johnsen just before time expired in the
first period. Frederikshavn easily scored 4-1 and 5-1 goals. 3 goals of Frederikshavn were scored on powerplay. The Czech Karel Smid of Frederikshavn was again a key player in powerplay.
Game 2 in Herning against Frederikshavn 5-4 SD (1-1)
Herning knotted the series at one game apiece after winning a 5-4 overtime thriller on their home ice. Björkstrand did it again? He scored the game
winner at 4:01 of sudden death. Game Two was one of the best games seen in
Denmark in many seasons. Ronny Larsen, the league MVP, put Herning ahead
1-0 only 20 seconds into the first period. Frederikshavn was quick to
respond. The first period ended as even as could be: the score was 1-1 and
the shots on goals were 18-18. That did not include 3 shots that the hit
the post. Herning went ahead 2-1 but 2 subsequent powerplay goals sent
Frederikshavn ahead 3-2. Russian Ilya Dubkov scored to make it 4-2 in the
third period. Herning quickly trimmed the deficit back to one after a tally
by Scott Stevens. The game was once again up for grabs. As time was
becoming their enemy, Herning scored the equalizer, setting up the
Game 3 in Frederikshavn against Herning 2-1 (2-1)
Frederikshavn edged Herning by 2-1 count in Game 3 to take a 2 games to 1 lead in the sereis. The game saw two very nervous teams take the ice. Both
clubs were feeling the pressure of trying to move within a game of the
championship. As many anticipated, Herning changed their goalkeeper for
Game 3. Canadian goalie Greg Taylor had allowed 9 goals in the last 2
playoff games, several of the stoppable variety. Taylor's letdown gave
backup Peter Therkildsen a chance to shine. Both teams seemed nervous in
the first period, which ended scoreless. Ronny Larsen of Herning scored the
first goal less than 1 minute into the second period. A native Dane, Larsen
formerly played Division One hockey in Sweden for Oskershamn and Rögle.
Klaus Nielsen equalized the game with a powerplay goal midway through the
period. Late in the same period, Anders Thomsen scored the game winner for
Frederikshavn, placing a hard slap shot up where it belongs... the top
Game 4 in Herning against Frederikshavn 4-2 (2-2)
Frederikshavn was now just one win away from the championship trophy. At this point, Frederikshavn was 5-0-0 (including regular season, trophy cup
and playoffs) on home ice against Herning for the season and 2 wins and 1
loss in Herning (including regular season and playoffs). Things did not
look good for Herning. Instead of folding, however, Herning forced a fifth
and deciding game, much to the delight of the record crowd of 3761. Much of
the crowd had not been seated yet before Ronny Larsen gave Herning a quick
1-0 lead just 12 seconds into play. As usual, Frederikshavn was quick to
respond and equalized the score. This was the third game in a row that
Larsen sent Herning ahead and Frederikshavn was quick to tie. Herning
proved to be the better team in the first period and skated off with a 3-2
lead after the first period. They easily have been ahead by greater
numbers. Still very much in the game, Frederikshavn was much better in the
second period and could have scored the tying goal but could not manage to
find the net. Taylor was back in the goal for Herning but he continued to
look shaky. If the attackers of Frederikshavn had been more quick and
effective with their shots they could have scored a couple of more goals
and closed out the series. In the third period, Herning was very strong and
did a very professional job, taking a deserved 4-2 home victory. Some drama
happened when Lars Mølgaard of Frederikshavn viciously slashed Frederik
Åkesson in the 55th minute of play.
Referee Jens Christian Fossaberg did not see the episode but
was notified by the Herning players. Fossaberg called a 2 minutes slashing, but Åkesson went to the referee and showed him his finger. As a result Fossaberg changed the 2 minutes penalty to a 5 minutes major. A little bit strange way of judging when Mr. Fossaberg did not see the episode. Earlier in the game Scott Stevens of Herning almost slaughter Mike Grey of Frederikshavn, but Jens Christian Fossaberg also did not see this episode.
Game 5 in Frederikshavn against Herning 7-6 SD (3-2) and wins the championship
Game 5 in Frederikshavn was a classic. Fredrikshavn won a wild 7-6 match in overtime to d win the Danish championship. What a game! I think this was
the most fantastic match I've ever witnessed in my 16 years of watching
hockey! After just 2:36 of the first period, Frederikshavn already enjoyed
a 3-0 lead. Herning goalkeeper Taylor did not make much of a case for
himself to get a contract extension. He was awful. After the third goal, he
was pulled and replaced by Therkildsen. The beer was flowing in
Frederikshavn. Half way through the first period, an arena record crowd of
approximately 4000 had drunk their way through the entire beer supply at
the arena. A Carlsberg truck was immediately called for emergency
assistance! After Frederikshavn took a 5-1 lead in the first period, the
deciding game seemed to be turning into a laugher. Instead, Herning chipped
away at the deficit and, through sheer will and hard work, eventually
managed to tie the game. Herning's talented youngster, Christoffer
Kjærgaard, scored the 5-5 equalizer early into the third period. The fans
of Frederikshavn suddenly got quiet as unpleasant memories were conjured
from last year's loss to Rødovre. The last time Frederikshavn won the
championship was in 1989 while Herning last won in 1998. Torben
Benjaminsen sent the Frederikshavn fans into a frenzy by scoring the gold
medal winning goal.
Torben Benjaminsen did send Frederikshavn in Gold position, but only 18 seconds later the game was tied up again. This time by Todd Björkstrand. The Russian star Ilya Dubkov of Frederikshavn scored the game winning goal 4.47 into the Sudden Death period. Only 13 seconds before the end of Sudden Death which would have sent the teams into a penalty shoot-out. If that had been
necessary Frederikshavn would have used injured Johan Westermark who was dressed up for the game.
Westermark, the same goalkeeper who broke his hand 3 weeks earlier.
The championship celebration took place all night in Frederikshavn and the players showed up with shaved heads at Aktivitel later on Thursday night in
Frederikshavn. Most surprising was Czech player Karel Smid, who sacrificed
his long Jaromir Jagr look-a-like hair style.
What a season this was and what a final between Herning and Frederikshavn! Thanks to both teams for brilliant hockey.
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