Left wing William Nylander-Altelius, considered one of the top-five European prospects available in the 2014 NHL Draft, scored the decisive goal early in the third period to help lead the Swedish Under-18 Select Team to a 4-3 victory over Canada in preliminary-round action at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka on Tuesday in Breclav, Czech Republic.
The victory moves Sweden into a tie with Canada (one win apiece, three points) in Group A. Canada will resume action on Wednesday against Switzerland at 9:30 a.m. ET on the final day of preliminary-round action, while Sweden battles Czech Republic at 1 p.m. ET.
"We didn't come out well and got down 3-1," Canada coach Dale Hunter told TSN.com. "Against good teams like Sweden, if you get down 3-1 it's tough to come back. But we didn't quit. We had good scoring chances to tie it up, but couldn't get one by the goalie."
Canada pared the deficit to 3-2 on a power-play goal by Sam Bennett of the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs just 3:54 into the third. Bennett, who had 18 goals and 40 points in 60 games in 2012-13, is regarded as one of several Kingston prospects high on everyone's board for the 2014 draft. The 6-foot, 178-pound left-handed shot was named Canada's player of the game.
The Swedes answered right back with a power-play goal of their own when Nylander-Altelius, the son of former NHL center Michael Nylander, converted a wrist shot at the 6:09 mark.
Less than a minute later, a collision in front of Sweden's net left starting goalie Jesper Eriksson in serious pain. The 5-foot-11, 172-pounder, who was named the team's most valuable player for the game, was eventually taken off the ice via a stretcher and replaced by Linus Soderstrom. According to TSN.com, Eriksson was taken to a hospital with a suspected broken leg.
Swedish defenseman Gustav Forsling was whistled for tripping on the play, giving Canada a man advantage. The Canadians then pulled to within 4-3 when Kingston's Spencer Watson connected on the power play just 1:10 after the penalty. It was the first shot taken on Soderstrom.
But the Swedish goalie would settle down to make a few big saves down the stretch. Eriksson and Soderstrom combined for 33 saves in the victory. Watson would later be issued a major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing Sweden's Gustav Franzen with just 1:13 remaining in regulation. The penalty gave Sweden a man advantage, but Canada pulled its goalie to create a 5-on-5 situation in an attempt to even the game. The Swedes wouldn't be denied their first win of the tournament, however.
After spotting Canada a 1-0 lead early in the first period, Sweden connected for three straight goals. Kevin Elgestal's second of the game just 1:01 into the second off a scramble in front gave the Swedes a 3-1 lead. Elgestal, a 6-foot, 172-pound right wing, was identified on NHL Central Scouting's Futures List as a potential first-, second- or third-round candidate for the 2014 draft. He currently stars for Frolunda HC in Sweden.
Sweden, desperate for a win after suffering a 3-2 regulation loss to Switzerland on Monday, pulled into a 1-1 tie 6:17 into the first when forward Robin Kovacs beat starting goalie Mason McDonald on a wrist shot from the right circle. Elgestal gave Sweden a 2-1 lead off a scramble in the slot at the 8:07 mark. Following the Elgestal goal, Canada coach Dale Hunter replaced McDonald with Julio Billia.
Billia, who made 13 saves in earning a 4-0 victory over the Czech Republic on Monday, would make several big stops to keep Canada within striking distance.
The Canadians had taken a 1-0 lead 3:14 into the first when Jared McCann of the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds took a feed in the slot before backhanding a shot past Eriksson.
"In our first two games we cycled the puck well and got pucks to the net," Hunter said. "We had our chances, we just have to bury them. We gave up four goals [against Sweden] and have to tighten up defensively."
The top two teams from Group A and Group B will cross over for the semifinals on Friday before the gold-medal and bronze-medal games scheduled Saturday.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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