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Asplund picks up 4 assists as Sweden advances

Nylander records 2 points, Fitzgerald and Team USA move on as well

by Kris Baker @SabresProspects /

Alexander Nylander (2016, first round) scored a goal and an assist Monday, and Rasmus Asplund (2016, second round) recorded four helpers as Sweden advanced to the semifinal of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship with an 8-3 blowout of Slovakia.

Nylander has scored at least two points in each of Sweden's five games to take the tournament lead with 11 (5+6). Asplund's big game vaults him to seven points (1+6), which is tied for second in team scoring.

Asplund made an impact just 1:08 in with an assist on a power-play tally from Joel Eriksson Ek (MIN). 
Asplund, who entered the game with a 70 percent success rate at the faceoff circle, took the offensive zone draw and got it back from Oliver Kylington (CGY) before making a feed to a waiting Eriksson Ek in space to make it a 1-0 game. 

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: Joel Eriksson Ek gets creative and puts Sweden up early on the power play. @CanadianTire #BigPlay #WorldJuniors

Tim Soderlund gave the Swedes a 2-0 lead when he darted down the right side and made a strong cut to the front of the net for the finish.

Just 33 seconds later, Nylander got on the score sheet by making a short pass to Carl Grundstrom (TOR) from the right-wing wall to draw the primary helper on the wrist-shot goal.

The Swedes held a 20-5 shots-on-goal advantage at the first intermission, and the second period brought much of the same until late in the frame.

Nylander extended the lead to 4-0 with his fifth goal of the tournament by jamming a second chance over the line from the left post at 6:17. Asplund notched his second assist of the game on the play, but he wasn't done collecting points.

Nearly seven minutes after Nylander's marker, Asplund made a touch pass in the neutral zone to send Filip Ahl in (OTT) with Fredrik Karlstrom (DAL) on a 2-on-1 break. Ahl moved the puck to Karlstrom, who went upstairs.

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: Fredrik Karlstr��m and Filip Ahl team up to put the Swedes up 5-0. @CanadianTire #BigPlay #WorldJuniors

Slovakia potted two goals 66 seconds apart late in the second period off the sticks of Martin Bodak and Miroslav Struska, and they'd get another to start the third period when highly-rated 2017 draft prospect Adam Ruzicka intercepted a puck down low and converted to cut the deficit to 5-3 in the game's 43rd minute.

Right on cue Sweden answered the bell with two goals, starting with Soderlund's second of the game at 2:36 and then a Lias Andersson tally at 4:27. 

Asplund picked up his fourth assist on the power play with 2:56 left in the game, firing a shot that hit Eriksson Ek in front before the rebound was swatted into the net.

Sweden moves on to face Canada, who got past the Czech Republic 5-3 in fourth quarterfinal. Sabres defensive prospect Vojtech Budik (2016, fifth round) saw just two shifts for 1:36 of work for the Czechs in the loss.


Defenseman Casey Fitzgerald (2016, third round) produced one shot on goal in 19:26 of action as the United States escaped with a 3-2 victory over Switzerland to move on to the semifinal round.
The victory sets up a date with Russia on Wednesday for the right to play for a gold medal. The Russians advanced by virtue of a 4-0 win over Denmark in the day's first quarterfinal.

The U.S. received early goals from Jeremy Bracco (TOR) and Luke Kunin (MIN) to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, but the Swiss kept taking away the Americans' time and space to eventually battle back thanks to the effort of 2017 draft star Nico Hischier. 

With Fitzgerald in the penalty box for a cross-checking minor, Switzerland capitalized on a second-period power play with a beautiful goal from Hischier at 10:47 to halve the Americans lead to 2-1.

The seemingly flat American squad was getting outplayed, and the confident Hischier made them pay with another power-play marker at 6:00 of the third period by stuffing in a wraparound through a maze of bodies at the crease to make it a 2-2 game.

Just 18 seconds after Hischier's second of the night, Jordan Greenway (MIN) used his long reach at the doorstep to connect on the power play and give the Americans the only breathing room they could manage as they held off the Swiss attack the rest of the way.

Fitzgerald, whose workload included 8:07 in the final stanza, has recorded three assists, five shots on goal and a plus-3 rating through five tournament contests.

For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.

Buffalo wil host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. For more information including ticket packages that guarantee you a seat for the outdoor game between the U.S. and Canada at New Era Field, visit

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