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Sweden, USA win groups at World Junior Championship

Asplund and Nylander contribute for Sweden, Fitzgerald steady again for US

by Kris Baker @SabresProspects /

Rasmus Asplund (2016, second round) connected for a goal and an assist, and Alexander Nylander (2016, first round) added a pair of helpers as Sweden closed out the Czech Republic 5-2 on Saturday at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal.

The victory gives the Swedes a perfect 4-0 record in the group stage for the 10th consecutive tournament.

Nylander enters the quarterfinal round as the tournament's leading point-getter with nine points (4+5). Meanwhile, Asplund has one goal and two assists through the four games while ranking second among all skaters by winning 70 percent of his faceoffs.

Sweden had first place in Group A locked up prior to the contest, but they clearly weren't going to sit back and take it easy before the quarterfinal, as evidenced by Asplund's first goal of the tournament at the 37-second mark.

Asplund skated the puck into the zone and dished it over to Filip Ahl (OTT), who unloaded a low shot off the goaltender's pads with Asplund right there to bury the rebound and give the Swedes the early 1-0 advantage.

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: Some excellent teamwork leads to a Sweden goal less than a minute in. @CanadianTire #BigPlay #WorldJuniors

Asplund continued to make an early mark minutes later with a huge hit on David Kase (PHI) in the neutral zone, driving right through the body and sending a couple bodies scattering to the ice as a result.

Sweden continued to pressure the Czechs with a power-play goal at 8:56 that saw both Nylander and Asplund earn credit on a gorgeous passing play. 

Nylander started it off high in the zone, making a beautiful cross-ice pass to Asplund in the opposite corner. Asplund knew exactly what he wanted to do, hitting Jonathan Dahlen (OTT) with a quick feed at the far post for the lamplighter to make it a 2-0 game.

The Swedes got a lucky bounce on their third goal with Jens Looke (ARI) tossing the puck to the low slot, where it caromed off the goaltender and then the stick of a backchecking Lukas Jasek (VAN) before ending up in the net at 16:46. 

Jonathan Dahlen added to Sweden's lead at 17:09 of the middle frame, taking a headman pass from Fredrik Karlstrom (DAL) in all alone and scoring with a backhand. 

The Swedes kept coming in the third, starting with Dahlen's hat trick goal to increase the lead to 5-0.
Asplund, much like has in the previous three tilts, won an offensive zone draw. Nylander got a touch on the play before Dahlen finished it off, giving Nylander his second point of the afternoon and ninth of the tournament to equal his team-leading total from a season ago.

With 6:51 remaining in the third period, the Czechs finally put one on the board when Kase jammed at a rebound and snuck the puck inside the post to break the goose egg.

The Czechs weren't done, though, as Filip Hronek (DET) made it a 5-2 game at 17:28 with a long point shot that deflected past Swedish netminder Filip Gustavsson (PIT) for his second goal of the tournament.

The Czech Republic added Sabres defensive prospect Vojtech Budik (2016, fifth round) to the roster for the tilt against Sweden. Budik, who was among the final cuts prior to the start of the tournament but was re-added due to injury, played 9:56 in the defeat.

In a clash of the titans in Toronto, Casey Fitzgerald (2016, third round) saw his three-game point streak end while turning in a strong defensive effort as the United States defeated Canada 3-1 to claim the top spot in Group B.

Jordan Greenway (MIN) notched a goal and two assists to pace the American attack. Colin White (OTT) and Jeremy Bracco (TOR) added singles.

Fitzgerald was dialed in on his first shift, stepping up in his defensive posture and meeting the rush with a nice check in open ice to thwart the Canadian attack. He'd continue to use his body throughout the contest, launching into collisions, smartly canceling out checks beneath the goal line, and defending the goal while delivering crisp outlet passes. He'd finish with a plus-1 rating in 17:53 of work.

The U.S. took advantage of a pair of early power plays to bust the game open with two quick tallies. First up was White, who buried a short Greenway feed on the power play at 4:31 to open the scoring.

Greenway was next, getting one of his own when he took a Keller pass at the goal line and made a power move to the front of the net to tuck one home and give the Americans the early 2-0 advantage. The goal at 6:04 proved to be the game winner.

Canada finally struck at 8:12 of the second period as Thomas Chabot (OTT) beat Joseph Woll (TOR) from the left side while on a two-man advantage, but Canada failed to build off it the rest of the way.

The Americans settled back down once they returned to full strength and immediately connected to restore their two-goal lead as Bracco hopped on a loose puck and deposited it behind Connor Ingram (TBL) at 13:08.

 The teams would go back and forth in the third period without a goal as the U.S., who has yet to trail in any of its four games, posted its first preliminary round win over Canada since 1998.

The next opponents for both Sweden and the United States will be determined after the close of group play later Saturday evening.


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, visit

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