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Sweden's leaders step up in 6-2 defeat of USA Blue

by Adam Kimelman

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said he challenged a few of his leaders to step up their play, and Jacob de la Rose, Robert Hagg and Lucas Wallmark played big roles in a 6-2 defeat of USA Blue on Monday.

De la Rose (Montreal Canadiens), the team captain, had two assists; Wallmark (Carolina Hurricanes), an alternate captain who joined de la Rose on the top line, had a goal and an assist. Hagg (Philadelphia Flyers), also an alternate captain, didn't have a point but displayed a hard, accurate shot at even strength and on the power play and controlled the pace of the game from his defense spot.

"They are the core of the team," Gronborg said. "I'll go out and say that pretty easily. I challenged them a little bit today. Wallmark was good in both games, the other two I challenged a little bit and they stepped up. I know they're character players so you know you can do that. They played excellent [Monday]. That shows a bit of the character of those players."

Sweden's Adrian Kempe (Los Angeles Kings) and USA Blue's Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) exchanged goals in the first period, before Sweden took over with Kempe's strong drive to the net leading to Leon Bristedt's goal 2:04 into the second. Then de la Rose set up Olofsson for a goal off the rush that ended up the game-winner.

"He wasn't happy with his game," Gronborg said of de la Rose. "His game is a power game. He needs to finish checks, he needs to move his legs, which fits our way of playing perfectly. … We talked about it, and I challenged him, pointed things out to him and he agreed totally. He said if [he doesn't] have a good game offensively he needs to do his job defensively, and that line was minus in scoring chances [Sunday against USA White]. For a premier line you can't do that, and today they were good."

Alex Tuch (Minnesota Wild) cut the deficit to one when he scored for USA Blue, but de la Rose fed Wallmark, and his floater from the right circle dipped under the glove of goalie Brandon Halverson to make it 4-2 at 15:32 of the second.

Anton Blidh (Boston Bruins) and Adam Brodecki scored in the final 1:32 of the third for the final margin.

The best line for USA Blue featured Tuch and Jack Eichel, a top 2015 NHL Draft prospect. Eichel was especially strong in close, and also showed his great speed and puckhandling ability in tight.

It's the reunion of a line that starred for the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team last season.

"I played 80 percent of the games with him last year," Tuch said. "It was me, Eichel and [Sonny] Milano. He [Eichel] brings that all-around speed, skill kind of player, really top-end, high-end player. I'm a big guy that digs out in the corner, goes to the net, hits guys and makes room for them. We've been able to produce off that."

Tuch said he's sure that chemistry will be able to help in games as the week goes on.

"I think we played them hard, but I think we had a few too many turnovers," he said. "We weren't really conscientious with the puck. I think we could have taken it into their end and held on to the puck a little more and got a few more shots on net with more traffic. I thought we played them hard, and later in the week we'll be able to play them even harder and take it to them."


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