International Ice Hockey Federation

A new Great Dane

A new Great Dane

Hopes rest on goaltender Thomas Lillie

Published 24.12.2015 00:46 GMT+2 | Author Ty Dilello
A new Great Dane
Danish goaltender Thomas Lillie gets ready for a scoring chance of Sweden's Axel Holmstrom during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Denmark is looking to repeat quarter-final appearances at the World Juniors for the first time in their history.

One of the better stories of last year's IIHF World Junior Championship was Denmark's progression to the quarter-finals. After losing to the Russians on Boxing Day in a shootout, and to the Czech Republic in overtime, Denmark knocked off Switzerland in a shootout to advance to the quarter-finals.

Unfortunately for the Danes their run ended there against Canada, but the tournament showed that these Danish juniors can play with the big dogs.

Denmark's roster last year was bolstered with top NHL prospects at the time in Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand. They also had very strong goaltending which is key in the World Juniors to be successful. George Sorensen put on a goaltending clinic most games throughout the tournament and was probably the biggest reason why Denmark advanced to the quarter-finals.

At this year's World Juniors, Denmark will be missing its two big scorers from last year in Bjorkstrand and Ehlers. Plus, there's no George Sorenson in goal, so it seems to an outsider that this Danish squad might struggle considerably this time around.

One thing that the Danes have going for them, however, is that once again they will have a strong goaltender between the pipes. Thomas Lillie will most likely be the starting netminder, and is very capable to take on the barrage of shots from opposing teams and shine in goal.

The 6'0 netminder hails from Vojens, a small town of 8,000 just south of Kolding in central Denmark. Lillie grew up playing for his hometown team in the Danish second division. In 2013/14, Thomas joined SonderjyskE Vojens in the top Danish League and performed very well that season. That season he was also Denmark's goalie at the U18 World Championship, where he performed valiantly despite the team being relegated. He also played as Sorensen's backup at the U20 World Division Championship Division I Group A, which was the tournament where Denmark earned its promotion to the top level World Juniors.

Lillie's strong play that season earned him a contract in Sweden with the Vaxjo Lakers junior team, where he has played the last two seasons. Last year, he played a few games at the World Juniors while taking in as much as possible from playing on the global stage. This season, he is putting up strong numbers once again with Vaxjo and is poised to take on the world's best junior squads in Helsinki, Finland, in the upcoming days. asked Lillie some questions.

How did you get into hockey and at what age?

When I was a kid, I was always more into football because my brother played it and so did my friends too. I think I was about 9 when my friends asked me if I wanted to try hockey, and I was like "why not", and I just fell in love with the game.

Why did you decide to become a goaltender?

I actually started out as a winger, but I wasn't really worth a penny I guess. My coach came to me and asked if I ever wondered about becoming a goalie, because my friends told him that I was good when we played street hockey at home.

How was it coming up through the Vojens hockey system as you've played there up until this year?

It was tough because the hockey in Denmark is not as big if you compare to Sweden, Canada, USA and so on. But I had a big role on the team and I think that it has helped me becoming the goalie I am today. I've always been surrounded by good and helpful people, who only want you the best you can be, and I'm very thankful for that.

Describe your playing style?

Since I never really had a goalie coach when I played in Denmark, I searched a lot on the internet and learned by looking at videos. This is now my second year here in Sweden, and I have some really skilled goalie coaches there who helps me a lot. And since they are from Sweden I would say I play a lot like the Swedish goalies, with the skate against the post and all these small details.

Are you excited by the chance of representing Denmark at the World Juniors?

I'm really excited, I can't wait. I'm counting the days.

What are some of the goals you and your team hope to achieve at the tournament?

Our goal is representing Denmark as best as possible, but if we're talking about rankings, our goal is to go to the quarter-finals, and all after that is just bonus for us. My goal is to play the best I've done in my entire career, and be one of the goalies everyone is talking about.

How do you see the national team moving forward? Are their many good young players in the country that are going to make a difference going forward?

I'd say the national team looks good. We had a really strong team last year, but I'm sure that we can step up and perform just as good as last year.

How are you enjoying your time with the Vaxjo Lakers?

I really like staying and playing in Vaxjo because it's such a great organization with good people all around ready to help you. We have some really good facilities that most clubs don't have.

Last year George Sorensen made a name for himself at the World Juniors. Do you feel now this is your time to shine?

George was outstanding last year, so it's not going to be easy to play at the same level as he did during the tournament, but I really have a good feeling going in to the tournament. It's my time to shine.

Do you feel you have competition for the starting goalie job from the other goalies at camp?

There's a lot of competition. Both Mathias and Lasse are really good goalies who want to play just as much as I want to. I have to fight to get the starting job.


NHL Team: Montreal Canadiens
Childhood Idol: Yevgeni Nabokov
Video Game: Counter-strike: Global Offensive
Movie: Gladiator
TV Show: Sons of Anarchy
Pump-Up Song: Best day of my life (Gazzo remix)
Home-cooked meal: Frikadeller (Danish)
Activity Away From the Rink: Friends, Video Games, Sports


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