Ostrava/Trinec - Team Russia is playing for gold at the 2020 IIHF Junior World Championship. On Saturday the Russians defeated Team Sweden 5-4 in overtime in the semifinals. Russia will face Team Canada in the gold medal game while the Swedes will take on Team Finland in the quest for bronze.
New York Rangers prospect Nils Lundkvist, who had one goal and one assist for Sweden, was of course disappointed after the overtime loss.
The semifinals match between the Swedes and the Russians was an eventful one, with five goals and a game misconduct only in the first 20 minutes.
It took Sweden 16 seconds to score the first goal of the game when Rasmus Sandin found the back of the net right off a draw in the offensive zone. The lead, however, didn't last long. Before the first period was over, the Russians had scored three times. Two of them came on the power play. Ivan Morozov tied it 1-1 while Alexander Holtz was in the penalty box. Then Nils Hoglander got a five-minute major plus agame miscounduct for a check to the head, giving the Russians another man advantage. This time, Alexander Khovanov scored.
"I think we started really good, scoring on the first shift," Lundkvist said. "Then we get that penalty, but I haven't seen the situation yet. That happens. We managed to turned it around later on. I think we battled and played good the whole game."
"It's unlucky and not intentional," Sweden Head Coach Tomas Monten said of Hoglander's hit.
The Russians had the momentum, and Yegor Sokolov made it 3-1 at 12:05. But before the first period ended, Sweden answered. Samuel Fagemo made it 3-2 when he converted on a power play. Lundkvist showed his hockey sense and hands finding Fagemo with a cross ice pass. The assist was Lundkvist's sixth in the tournament in as many games. The Swedes also almost tied the game before the first intermission, but Tobias Bjornfot's coast-to-coast-attempt ended with a Russian players stopping the puck on the goal line.
After the whirlwind first period, the second settled the game and the pace a bit. Team Sweden got on the board when Sandin scored his second of the game after just 1:02 on a slap shot, making it 3-3. The Russians then were close to taking the lead when Kirill Marchenko had a wide open net. But Hugo Alnefelt made a highlight-reel stick save, preventing the Russians from taking the lead.
In the third, Lundkvist made it 4-3 with his first goal of the tournament. On a power play, the defenseman found an opening on Russian goaltender Yaroslav Yaskarov.
"I just got it and shot it toward the far side," Lundqvist said. "Linus [Nässen] did a nice job in front and it went in. Right there it was a really nice feeling, but now it's just tough."
The Russians answered to the Swedes' lead. Sokolov scored his second of the game, making it 4-4 at 8:35 into the third. After a scoreless last 11:25 minutes, the game went to a 3-on-3 overtime. Morozov then needed 3:24 before scoring the game-winning goal, sending the Russians to the gold medal game and the Swedes to the bronze medal game.
"It's a big disappointment," Montén said. "I'm really proud of my players and the way they played tonight. I think we had to fight the whole game. We managed to rally in the third, but we play a really really good team."
For Lundkvist and the rest of Team Sweden, there is still one game left in the tournament and a chance to win a medal against their rivals, Team Finland. The Finns lost 5-0 against Canada in Saturday's second semifinal.
"We are going to try to refocus here as quick as possible, but it might take a while," Lundkvist said.
The bronze medal game will be played Sunday at 9 AM ET, while the gold medal game starts at 1 PM ET.