Edmonton Oilers prospect William Lagesson and Team Sweden will face their biggest rival on enemy ice in the semifinal of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland on Monday at 7am MT.
Known as much for his strong physical play as his flowing blond hair, Lagesson will need to enforce that part of his game if the Swedes hope to slow down the most productive line in the tournament and defeat Finland to earn a spot in the gold medal game on Tuesday.
"If you play physical it brings a lot of energy to the team and I try to do that every game, every shift and I think I've done it pretty good so far this tournament and I'm just going to keep doing that," said the 6'2, 198 pound defenceman, who was selected by the Oilers in the 4th round of the 2014 NHL draft and currently plays for the University of Massachusetts.
"I just want to be consistent and focus on my game and play the way I know best and bring energy to the team and hope it helps the team win," Lagesson said. "I want to have a good first pass and block shots and even join in on the rushes up the ice too."
While he likes to contribute offensively - and he has here in Helsinki with a goal and an assist through five games - it's his defensive game that is most valuable to Team Sweden's success.
"He's a solid defenceman who plays the physical part really well. He's composed in any situation and obviously he's one of the guys we rely on for special teams, especially the penalty kill," said Swedish head coach Rikard Gronberg.
Lagesson was on last year's team as well and played in front of 19,000 strong in Toronto and is well prepared to play in front of 13,000 mostly Finnish fans during Monday's semifinal.
"It was crazy in Canada and we didn't even play them last year, but we are a lot closer to home now, so while there will definitely be a lot of fans from Finland we know we will have a lot of fans here too and - you've seen them - they can be very loud too," Lagesson said with a smile. "We love the support and hope to make them proud."
You can watch Sweden and Finland face off in the first semifinal game on Monday live on TSN at 7am MT, followed by Russia and USA at 11:30am MT. The bronze and gold medal games will be at 7am MT and 11:30am MT, respectively, on Tuesday also airing live on TSN.