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Sweden tops Finland in semifinal shootout

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY – Sweden's not finished yet.

Max Friberg saved his best for last -- twice -- as he scored the tying goal with just 1:44 remaining in regulation before adding the shootout winner to lead the Swedes to a 3-2 victory against Finland at Scotiabank Saddledome.

"This team has good character," Friberg said. "We never stop until we're the winners. We never give up. We knew we could do it. It's confidence in the team."

With the victory, Sweden has advanced to the gold-medal game of the World Junior Championship on Thursday against either Canada or Russia.

The loss pushes Finland into the bronze-medal match.

"Right now, I can't even think about that," Finnish captain Mikael Granlund said. "It was a big disappointment for us and I can't say anything about that game. We wanted to do something special but now it went that way and that's all."

Friberg beat Finnish goalie Sami Aittokallio through the legs and Mikael Granlund fumbled the puck before getting to goaltender Johan Gustafsson to give Sweden the win in the shootout.
"My thought was from the beginning to shoot between his legs," Friberg said. “Of course I looked at my opportunities, but I figured it was the best and it was."

Granlund wasn't so fortunate.

"I was trying to score," Granlund said. "I had something but puck went away and that was it. Now it happened that way and that's all."
His tournament-leading eighth goal put Friberg in the position to be the hero with time ticking down.

After Aittokallio tried to clear the puck around the glass behind the net, New York Islanders prospect Johan Sundstrom knocked the puck down in the corner and fed Friberg in the slot, who put it into the empty net to tie the game 2-2.

"(The puck) was wobbling a little bit and I had the time to think, 'Don't miss this. … Don't miss this,'" Friberg said. "It ended up well."

The goal came after Sweden clawed their way back into the game with a marker early in a third period that it dominated.

With Simo-Pekka Riikola in the penalty box for hooking, William Karlsson put Sweden on the board. Driving to the net, the puck squeezed through the legs of Aittokallio after the Finnish goalie couldn't handle Johan Larsson's initial shot at 3:11.

After that, the push was on. Sweden directed 15 third period shots in the direction of Aittokallio and Swedes came close before Friberg's game-tying tally.

Sliding through two Finnish forwards in the offensive zone, John Klingberg found Max Friberg parked to the side of the net with just over two minutes remaining. Friberg fired, but Aittokallio denied the Swede. Friberg ended up with the last word, though.

With a come-from-behind victory on New Year’s Eve against Russia, Sweden knew they could do it again in the third against the Finns.

"We came back against Russia," Mika Zibanejad said. "It shows how hard we work as a team and we really believe in what we do. We knew we could do it. We battled so hard today and I really enjoy how we played today. We never stopped fighting."

The first period played out much like the third. Outshot 14-6 by Sweden over the opening 20 minutes, Finland was the lone team to score.

Off a faceoff to the left of the Swedish goalie just a minute into the game, Joonas Donskoi let go a quick shot that Gustafsson handled.
Gustafsson was equally as sharp late in the period. After Jonas Brodin turned the puck over to Mikael Granlund, the tournament's leading scorer, fed Teemu Pulkkinen at the side of the net. Gustafsson managed to get his pad down in time to make the save with just over three minutes remaining.

Finland finally broke through with 1:31 left in the period. Breaking wide around a Swedish defender, Miro Aaltonen threw the puck into the slot before curling behind the net. The pass found Alexander Ruutu's stick, who put it over the glove of Gustafsson to give the Finns a 1-0 lead.

Trailing heading into the second period, Sweden stepped up their offensive efforts, firing 20 shots at Aittokallio.
None were more dangerous than when Sweden received the game's first power play midway through the second. Taking a Sebastian Collberg point shot off the mask, Aittokallio had little time to respond to Sundstrom's rebound attempt seconds later.

He had even less time to respond to Zibanejad -- an Ottawa Senators prospect -- after botching Victor Rask's long shoot-in attempt. The puck skipped away from Aitookallio and onto Zibanejad's stick, but the goalie was able to get a pad on the Swedish sniper’s shot with 7:41 remaining in the period.

The save was timely. Just over two minutes later, Joel Armia struck on just Finland's ninth shot of the game. Stripping the puck off the stick of Joakim Nordstrom, Armia went in 1-on-1 with Gustafsson and put a shot off the post and in for his fifth of the tournament and a 2-0 lead.
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