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WJSS Notes: Wings prospect Eliasson learning a lot in tournament

Forwards Berggren and Kivenmaki both pick up assists in Friday's games

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

PLYMOUTH -- Detroit Red Wings prospect Jesper Eliasson was on a bit of a high after development camp at the end of June.

He backstopped Team Delvecchio to victory in the 3-on-3 tournament and then played in Team Lindsay's shootout victory over Team Howe in the Red and White Game.

This week, Eliasson is one of three goaltenders playing for Team Sweden in the World Junior Summer Showcase at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich.

Eliasson started the first game of the tournament, a 4-2 loss to Team USA Blue.

In that one, Eliasson had a slow start, allowing three goals in the first period, before shutting out the Americans the rest of the way. He finished with 20 saves.

It was a similar situation Friday when Eliasson allowed two goals in the first period en route to a 5-2 Team Canada win. He finished with 19 saves.

"For me, the result wasn't good for me, I let a lot of goals in," Eliasson said. "But of course it's a good experience as well. To start the season like this, it's good games, a lot of practices."

Team Sweden head coach Tomas Montén said the loss was a team effort, not just Eliasson's fault.

"I think he was good," Montén said. "He got a bad start today. I think the first three goals, we can't give up those goals. If we're going to beat Canada, we can't give them up, not in those areas in front of our net. We know how they're going to play, we know how it's going to end up. I think we didn't do a good enough job.

"I think we got better in the second and we had some scoring chances and I think he came up big for us a couple times. But then he felt like the last half of the game, he didn't have much to do. For him, too, it's a good experience, tough games to take away but know he's going to be there for us."

Eliasson also had to come into the game for the final period Wednesday after Olof Lindbom was hit in the head against Team USA.

"He's a lot better," Montén said of Lindbom. "He feels good, he hasn't felt anything from the hit. He's up and running but we're just going to hold him off. He got a little bit in the neck but no concussions. It was good news. He had some issues with that last year and we wanted to be really certain."

In that third period, Montén said the team fell apart in front of Eliasson. But Eliasson said he can't worry about that.

"Of course it depends on the team. I'm just focused on myself, doing the best I can," Eliasson said. "It's hard sometimes to play alone with a lot of breakaways and stuff like that. Of course I just have to focus on myself. I cannot control the team, just play my own game."

Because the Swedes will hold Lindbom out, Eliasson will serve as the backup for Erik Portillo when Team Sweden faces Team Finland Saturday in the rivalry game.

"It's like a neighbor. All the time it's tough games," Eliasson said. "I played them twice, real fun experience to play against them."

Eliasson said no matter what the results were at the World Junior Summer Showcase, he will take those lessons with him when he returns to Sweden for his upcoming season in the Allsvenskan, Sweden's second highest hockey league.

Tweet from @vaxjolakers: H��lsning fr��n V��xj�� Lakers Joel R��nnmark, Jesper Eliasson och Filip Cederqvist som just nu ��r p�� plats i Plymouth med Juniorkronorna. Idag st��lls dem mot USA - Vi ��nskar s��klart varmt lycka till ���🇸🇪#vaxjolakers #shl #trekronor

"Just get better at everything, the work," Eliasson said. "Just work on the edge and everything, quickness. It's good teams here. It will be in Sweden as well. Just take the games with me and take the things that I can improve."

BERGGREN SETTLES IN A BIT: Swedish forward Jonatan Berggren, who struggled a bit in Sweden's 6-0 loss to Team USA Wednesday, appeared to play more within himself in Friday's game.

Berggren had the first assist on Team Sweden's second goal, scored by David Gustafsson. He also had two shots and finished even.

Tweet from @StevenEllisTHN: David Gustafsson gets a late one, 5-2. #WJSS

"I think we played much better this game than the last games," Berggren said.

In Wednesday's game, Berggren had a turnover that led to a Team USA goal. On Friday, he did not try to force plays.

"We did a little better decisions with the puck and I think our forwards were better," Montén said. "Unfortunately, our D didn't do their homework straight through this game. But he created some scoring chances, had a nice assist on a goal. As I said, he hasn't played since November. I think we just want him in the game and get him into situations and just try to play him as much as we can."

The only question now is whether Berggren will play Saturday against Finland.

Earlier in the week, Montén said they might not play Berggren in back-to-back games because of the back injury he dealt with most of last season.

"I think I'll be able to go tomorrow, but it's a coach's call," Berggren said. "We'll see."

Berggren said that he felt just fine after Friday's game. "I'll talk to my doc. He feels good," Montén said. "We just want to be sure that we don't do anything that could jeopardize him coming back. If he says he's feeling good and feeling strong, we will definitely play him tomorrow."

KIVENMAKI WITH ANOTHER POINT: Finnish forward Otto Kivenmaki played in his fourth game of the tournament Friday and said he was feeling the effects.

"Most of all tired," Kivenmaki said. "But I don't know, just happy to be playing again but most of all tired. It's a lot tougher at the beginning, You have to start somewhere and it's easier, game to game."

Kivenmaki assisted on Team Finland's fifth goal, scored by Elias Laitamaki, in the 6-5 victory over Team USA. He had one shot and finished even.

"Pretty good, I guess," Kivenmaki said. "There was a couple of chances but I played a little bit simple but it's pretty good overall, I think."

Kivenmaki, who admitted earlier in the week that he was having a hard time with face-offs, has won some of them since then.

"The first two games I didn't win any at all," Kivenmaki said. "Now I've won a few so there's progress, I guess."

GUARANTEED: In the time-honored tradition of rivalry games, there is always a little trash-talking.

Berggren, who is still not sure if he will play against Finland, was happy to participate.

"Of course. We will win," Berggren said confidently.

Kivenmaki, who is more the reserved Finn type, also obliged.

"Yes, we will win," Kivenmaki said with a smile.

Of course, one day the two could be teammates so they did have some nice things to say about each other.

"It's hard to say but he's like me, small forward, but he's good with the puck," Berggren said of Kivenmaki. "He's a good player."

"I think he's a good skater, and fast, has a good set of hands," Kivenmaki said of Berggren. "I think his hockey IQ is very high."

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