BostonBruins.com – With Sweden leading 4-3 over a Latvian team that has consistently been putting up a fight in Sochi, Loui Eriksson was wide open at the goal mouth.
The winger fired a one-timer, point-blank, off a feed from Daniel Sedin through the crease, for his best chance yet. But Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis made it across, robbing him of his first goal of the tournament.
Sweden would go on to win 5-3 over Latvia, and though it wasn’t a dominating performance, it kept them undefeated.
Eriksson and his squad finished the preliminary round 3-0 at the top of Group C with nine points, above Switzerland (6), the Czech Republic (3) and Latvia (0). The win gave them a bye to the quarterfinals, which take place on Wednesday, February 19.
In the win, Eriksson fired three shots on goal, logging 18:20 in ice time, serving yet again as one of the most utilized forwards in all situations, along with Daniel Sedin and Daniel Alfredsson. He logged the most ice-time of all forwards in the first period (7:13).
Eriksson has no doubt assumed a larger role for the Swedes, given the fact that they are now without Henrik Zetterberg (sidelined by injury after the first game), and started the Olympics without Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen.
He began the game again on a line with Daniel Sedin and Nicklas Backstrom, and combined with Sedin for opportunities, predominantly off of tips and positioning himself in the blue paint, especially on the power play. He finished the game playing in a top line role with Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund.
Sweden put up four power-play goals in the 5-3 win. Early in the second, with Latvia taking a 2-1 lead, Eriksson provided traffic in front as defenseman Erik Karlsson tied it up, 2-2.
On yet another man-advantage later in the period, the winger positioned himself in the blue paint, just as Alfredsson let off a one-timer. He was pushed into the Latvia netminder in the process, but the goal stood, and Sweden took a 3-2 lead.
Earlier in the power play, a two-on-one had developed with Eriksson that led to a prime opportunity but, nonetheless, the Swedes still took their one-goal lead with the extra man.
Latvia, with only one NHL player on its roster (20-year-old Zemgus Girgensons), kept pushing and bringing a fiery physicality.
While Eriksson was thwarted on his chance with Sweden leading 4-3, Alexander Edler would get them the two-goal cushion for the eventual 5-3 win.
“We know Lativa is a good team and if you make mistakes, they can come fast at you," Eriksson told IIHF.com. "It's been three games in four days, so we will take all the positives we can from the three wins and bring them to the quarterfinal."