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Sweden blanks Finland to end U.S. camp on high note

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Rikard Gronborg, head coach of the Sweden National Junior Team, certainly liked what he saw from his players this week during United States National Junior Evaluation Camp at Lake Placid Olympic Center's 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.

Sweden won three of four exhibition games, including the last two against the United States on Thursday and Finland on Friday. Goaltender Erik Kallgren, a seventh-round pick (No. 183) of the Arizona Coyotes at the 2015 NHL Draft, made 26 saves to earn a 2-0 victory against Finland. It marked the first complete-game shutout by any goalie at the camp.

"It was a nice effort from the team and it felt great for me," Kallgren (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) said. "I think we played really good as a team. The guys blocked shots and helped me back there."

Kallgren was especially sharp late in the third period when Finland pulled its goalie for an extra attacker. The pressure didn't seem to faze the hybrid-style goaltender, who finished 5-2 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in seven playoff games for Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League last season.

"I don't think that much about individual players out there," Kallgren said. "I'm taking it for the situation and not thinking about the guy with the puck. Obviously, they have skilled guys out there, so you have to be on top of every second."

Kallgren signed a two-year contract with Linkoping but was loaned to Oskarshamn, which plays in the second-best league in Sweden.

Minnesota Wild prospects Joel Eriksson Ek and Gustav Bouramman scored for Sweden in the first period.

Sweden will travel to Russia in two weeks to continue its evaluation process for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland, to be held Dec. 26, 2015, through Jan. 5, 2016.

"With the exception of the actual World Junior Championship, the camp in Lake Placid is the high point of the year for these guys," Gronborg said. "We had a great training camp in Montreal before coming here and put a lot of pressure on the kids by working on systems to get ready. The biggest thing for us was the last two games. We really stepped up after an embarrassing loss to the United States [on Monday]. Overall, we're pretty happy with three wins out of four games against competition."

When asked for players who impressed, Gronborg mentioned the play of forward Fredrik Olofsson (Chicago Blackhawks), defensemen Sebastian Aho (2016 draft eligible), William Lagesson (Edmonton Oilers) and Andreas Englund (Ottawa Senators), and goaltenders Kallgren and Felix Sandstrom (Philadelphia Flyers).

"I didn't really know much about Olofsson and he hasn't really played that much on different national teams, but he had a strong showing here," Gronborg said. "Our goaltenders had good games. Sebastian Aho had a great camp. I'm still surprised he wasn't drafted [in 2015]. There might be a reason for that, but he's a leader on the team.

"Lagesson and Englund [against Finland] showed why we need them, as they are big strong guys who can take care of the front of the net."

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