Team USA outshot Sweden, and controlled big portions of the game, but they didn’t have Alexander Nylander or Linus Söderström. Nylander scored the game winning goal off a breakaway in the second period, and Söderström made 46 saves en route to a shutout.
“Guys followed our instructions, the only thing we couldn’t do was find the net. We had plenty of opportunities, but give their goalie credit, he was sensational,” Team USA head coach Ron Wilson said.
“I got to make a lot of saves early on and got in the game. It was a fun game to play,” said Linus Söderström who got the nod from head coach Rikard Grönborg this morning.
“It was important to get three points, we obviously want to win the group.”
One streak was bound to come to an end tonight. Last time Sweden had beaten the U.S. at the World Juniors was in 1996, 20 years ago, and had twelve straight losses to the Americans. On the other hand, they also hadn’t lost a WJC preliminary round game since the 2007 tournament when they lost 3-2 (OT) to the US on home ice in Leksand.
Swedes got a poor start to the game when William Lagesson took a cross-checking minor just 22 seconds into the game, but just as they had killed it, it was the U.S. that had to kill back-to-back penalties. And then, thanks to two Swedish penalties in the second half of the first period, the momentum shifted back to the Americans but the first period ended in a scoreless tie.
The Swedes broke the tie early in the second period when Gabriel Carlsson and Dmytro Timashov opened up the U.S. defence with two quick passes that sent Alexander Nylander on a breakaway from the offensive blueline. He came with great speed, waited for Alex Nedeljkovic to commit, and then roofed the puck with a quick backhander at 2:41 into the period, a move he says his father, the former NHLer and Tre Kronor player Michael Nylander, encourages him to use.
“We got caught in the middle of the net and our defenceman didn’t realize he was open. It was a nice goal,” Wilson said.
Again, both teams ran into some penalty trouble, but the Swedes dug a deeper hole when Andreas Englund shoved Matthew Tkachuk into the boards when Timashov was already in the penalty box for high sticking.
USA got an extended two-man advantage but despite peppering the Swedish net with shots, they couldn’t get any of them in. Linus Söderström in Sweden’s goal was outstanding, as he turned away 39 shots in the first two periods. Sweden had 15 shots on goal.
Team USA got their sixth power-play opportunity 49 seconds into the third period, but again, Sweden killed the penalty. Not even the Americans’ seventh power play got them the result they wanted.
“Our powerplay was successful, we were handling the puck well, and should have had four or five goals tonight. Sometimes you face a goalie with a hot hand,” Wilson said.
Team USA did push Sweden to their heels in the first half of the period and with eight minutes to go, Sweden had had just one shot on goal.
“I think we were a little on our heels there, but overall, I think it was a close game, we just too many penalties. I thought we played well, and our defence made sure I could focus on the first shot,” Soderstrom said.
The Swedes’ second shot of the period was Carl Grundström’s great wrister from the slot but it ended up in Nedeljkovic’s glove.
With 93 seconds to go, Team USA intended to pull the goalie, but due to miscommunication between Nedeljkovic and the bench, USA received a too many men on the ice penalty instead and Sweden could defend their lead all the way to the end.
Their streak is still alive.
IHLC: With the win, Sweden retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship, their record 31st title, which they won to kick off the World Championships with a win over Switzerland. The win marks the first meeting between Sweden and the Americans since a 10-5 beatdown of Sweden just prior to last year’s World Championships; the win improves Sweden’s all-time IHLC record to 6-6-2. The Juniorkronorna next faces Denmark for the IHLC in group play.
00:22 – PEN – Lagesson, cross checking
02:39 – PEN – Schmaltz, tripping
04:36 – PEN – White, hooking
12:31 – PEN – Pettersson, slashing
16:10 – PEN – Englund, slashing
22:41 – GOAL – Nylander (Timashov, Carlsson)
26:16 – PEN – Pettersson, interference
29:31 – PEN – Schmaltz, hooking
32:23 – PEN – Timashov, high sticking
33:11 – PEN – Englund, boarding
38:33 – PEN – Matthews, high sticking
40:49 – PEN – Kempe, holding
44:38 – PEN – Ollas-Mattson, interference
58:27 – PEN – team, too many players
59:04 – PEN – Tkachuk, high sticking
W: Söderström (46-46)
L: Nedeljkovic (22-23)
SHOTS ON GOAL
8+8+7 = 23
17+22+7 = 46
Goaltenders: Felix Sandström, Linus Söderström. Defence: Gabriel Carlsson, Andreas Englund (C), Gustav Forsling, William Lagesson, Jacob Larsson, Adam Ollas-Mattsson, Marcus Pettersson. Forwards: Rasmus Asplund, Christoffer Ehn, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Carl Grundström, Axel Holmström (A), Anton Karlsson, Adrian Kempe, Oskar Lindblom, Jens Lööke, Alexander Nylander, Dmytro Timashov.
Goaltenders: Brandon Halverson, Alex Nedeljkovic. Defence: Louis Belpedio (A), Will Borgen, Brandon Carlo, Brandon Fortunato, Chad Krys, Charlie McAvoy, Zach Werenski (C). Forwards: Anders Bjork, Brock Boeser, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Donato, Christian Dvorak, Scott Eansor, Ryan Hitchcock, Ryan MacInnis, Auston Matthews (A), Sonny Milano, Nick Schmaltz, Matthew Tkachuk, Colin White.