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WJC: Sweden claims top spot in Group A

by Travis Knee / Edmonton Oilers

Calgary, AB - Sweden didn't quit, now they have a bye to the semi-finals.

Sweden would heavily outshoot the Russians before Joakim Nordström scored on their 55th shot at 2:16 of overtime to give Sweden the 4-3 win and the much coveted quarter-final bye.

The final round-robin game of the 2011-2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships was a highly entertaining affair that ended off the first week of hockey on a high note.

16,643 filled the Saddledome and largely cheered for Sweden as they fought back from 3-0 down in the third period to hand Russia its first loss.

Ignat Zemchenko, Yaroslav Kosov, and Ivan Telegin scored for Russia all in the first period and it looked like they may be cruising to a 4-0 record in Group A.

The Russians came into this game undefeated, having outscored their opponents 20 to 1. They also came in sporting the tournament’s best power play and penalty kill. Neither of these were enough to hold off Sweden on this night. The Russians failed to match the intensity of their opponent and were outshot 55-26 overall.

Russian netminder Andrei Vasilevski was sensational for the Russians through most of the night. He kept his team in the lead for 40 minutes before finally cracking under Sweden's pressure.

After a quick start for the Russians produced a 2-0 lead, Swedish head coach Roger Ronnberg called an early first period time-out to re-focus his troops. The moved seemed to work as the Swedes definitely outplayed the Russians despite waiting so long to be rewarded for it.

"The two last periods we played good hockey," said Rönnberg. "In a hard situation, in a hard game against a really good team in Russia. I'm impressed with the character of the team."

It was Oilers prospect Oscar Klefbom that got the ball rolling for Sweden in this one. Klefbom's high point shot would beat Vasilevski in the third period to cut the lead to 3-1. This was exactly the momentum the Swedes needed as Rickard Rakell would eventually pull Sweden to within one.

That set the stage for the team's leading goal scorer Max Friberg to tie the game 3-3 with under a minute left in regulation and the goalie pulled.

"We didn't play so good the first two periods, but the last one was unbelievable," said Klefbom.

The Oilers defensive prospect is having a strong tournament, something very encouraging for Oilers management. The 2011 first-round pick, 19th overall has two points (1G,1A) in four games and is +9 so far. The experience of playing in the semi-finals of a tournament like this can help any young player develop. 

"Just glad to be in the semis," stated Klefbom. "I'll try to play my game hard in both ends; eat a lot, sleep a lot and focus on the next game, it all starts now."

The tournament now shifts to the medal-round on January 2 where Russia will meet the Czech Republic in one of two quarterfinal games.

Sweden, on the other hand, will wait for the winner of the other quater-final between Finland and Slovakia to be decided before knowing their semi-final opponent.

WJC: CAN-USA Recap recaps the action from Canada's 3-2 win over the United States.
WJC: FIN-CZE Recap recaps the action from Finland's 4-0 win over the Czech Republic.
Kristians Pelss comments on his status, Latvia's 5-3 loss to the Swiss & more.


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