Sweden joins Canada in the WJC semi-finals

EDMONTON, AB – In International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship action Saturday Sweden staged a dramatic comeback and beat Russia in overtime 4-3 to claim the Group A bye into the Semi-Finals Round. Canada had previous earned the other Semi-Finals bye from Group B. Slovakia also parlayed a comeback to send Switzerland tumbling out of the medal round 6-4. In Group B games Finland shutout the Czech Republic 4-0 although both teams had previously qualified for the medal round. Meanwhile Canada finished the Preliminary Round with a perfect 4-0 record edging Team USA 3-2.
Play in both the Medal and Relegation Rounds will start Monday January, 2 and will be skated in Calgary at the Saddledome. In the Quarter-Finals matchups Finland draws Slovakia while Russia plays the Czech Republic. Canada will then play either Russia or the Czechs while Sweden will play the winner of the Finnish-Slovakian match. The Semi-Finals are scheduled for January, 3. Relegation Round action also begins Monday as Switzerland plays Denmark and the USA hits the ice versus Latvia. Saturday night’s game action highlights follow:
Group A
Sweden-4, Russia-3
Joakim Nordstrom scored at 2:16 in overtime to give Sweden a comeback win and a bye into the Semi-Finals before 16,643 fans in Calgary. A pass by Max Friberg set up a shot by Patrick Nemeth from the point which was tipped by Nordstrom past Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski. The celebration couldn’t start immediately however as game officials went to video review before the goal was awarded. It was a tough loss for the young Russian net minder as he faced 55 shots in the game and played well. It was also a tough night for the whole Russian squad as they jumped out to a first period 3-0 lead before conceding the next four goals to the comeback Swedes. Ignat Zemchenko, Yaroslav Kosov and Ivan Telegin had first period goals for the defending gold medal team. The Russian onslaught started early with Zemchenko scoring on a beautiful set pass up by Nail Yakupov at 2:09. Next up Kosov hit the back of the net just seven seconds later at 2:16. The Swedes then regrouped a bit and appeared to have scored themselves at 6:20 but the goal was disallowed for being kicked into the net. The last Russian goal of the evening came as Telegin beat Johan Gustafsson at the 13:33 mark with a shorthanded goal. The second period featured lots of hitting and an upbeat offensive effort by the Swedes but no goals. The Swedes persistence finally paid off 3:17 into the third period. Defenseman Oscar Klembom’s shot from the point brought the crowd and Swedish team back into the game at 3-1. Next up at 12:19 the Swedes pulled within 3-2 on a shot by Rickard Rakell that deflected off a Russian player into the goal. The comeback was competed with just 40 seconds left in regulation time. Gustafsson was off the ice for the extra attacker when Friberg got his seventh goal of the tournament to send the game into OT and the eventual win by Sweden.
Slovakia-6, Switzerland-4
In another battle with medal round implications Slovakia advanced to the Quarter-Finals while Switzerland must try and survive the Relegation Round. The Slovaks erupted for four straight goals within a five minute time span stunning the Swiss and erasing what was a 4-2 deficit. Slovakian forward Matus Chovan chose the right time to break out of a scoring slump. Held pointless in all three of the previous Preliminary Round games he registered a hat trick to lead the comeback. His third goal of the night 8:15 into the third period was the game winner. The Slovak comeback didn’t start auspiciously. First off early in the third period the Swiss extended their lead to 4-2 under a minute into the period as Tanner Richard added a goal to his previous two assists in the game. Earlier the Swiss got goals from Joel Vermin who scored twice and Sven Andrighetto. Switzerland’s euphoria and 4-2 lead lasted a little over four minutes. First Tomas Mattousek cut the margin to a single goal at 4-3 at 5:14. Less than a minute later the Slovaks struck again. This time Martin Marincin used a wrist shot from near the blue line that eluded Lukas Meili in the Swiss goal to tie the game 4-4. The goal came at 6:05. Chovan then got his hat trick goal and game winner a bit over two minutes later. That brought Tom Wolf off the bench and into the game in relief of Meili. However, Martin Gernatt collected a power play insurance strike at 9:43 to seal the 6-4 win as the Swiss could not find the net at the other end in the final period to recapture momentum.
Group B
Canada-3, USA-2
The United States fell to Canada 3-2 in a game that did not affect the standings. The Americans were simply overwhelmed in the opening period and trailed 3-0 at the first intermission. A hard hitting but scoreless second stanza set the stage for a bit of a USA comeback effort that fell short in the final stanza. The Canadians used the game as a bit of a sendoff as the now depart Edmonton and move on to Calgary for subsequent tournament action. They saluted the 16,647 fans most of whom rooted for the tournament’s host nation. The game in one sense became a tune-up for Canada as the Americans had been eliminated from the game medal competition on Friday. It is the first time the United States has had to play in the relegation round in U20 competition. Mark Stone (7g-2a-9p) points is one of the WJC scoring leaders after picking up a two points including a goal. Jaden Schwartz and Brett Connolly also lit the goal lamp for Canada. USA players Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker got third period goals midway in the final stanza to narrow the gap but the effort proved too little and too late. Jack Campbell got the start in goal for Team USA and absorbed the loss. Scott Wedgewood who seems to have emerged as Canada’s starter in goal made 30 saves in winning his second tournament contest. The loss meant that the Americans registered just one win in four Preliminary Round games.
Finland-4, Czech Republic-0
The Czechs most likely suffered from a bit of a hangover from their big Friday night win against the Americans. Petr Mrazek suffered the loss in goal for the Czech but no doubt was still in a partial celebratory mood after his performance versus the USA. Meanwhile his counterpart in goal for Finland Sami Aittokallio made 36 saves and with the shutout holds first place among WJC goalies at New Year’s Day tournament break. In 120 minutes the Finnish net minder has a goals against average of 0.50, a save percentage of .986 and a 2-0 record. On offense the Finns got two scores from Alexander Ruuttu and Miro Aaitonen in the first period and single goals from Joonas Donskoi in the middle period and Teemu Pulkkinen in the final twenty minutes for the comfortable win.
  Contact the author at Phil.Brand@prohockeynews.com

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