Sweden-Japan 2-1 (0-0, 2-0, 0-1)
CHICAGO – Sweden advanced to a semi-finals date with the United States this afternoon by beating a determined but tired Japanese team, 2-1. The Swedes will now face the two-time champions on Good Friday at 7:30pm local time while the Japanese go home in either fifth or sixth place at their first ever WW U18 Championship.
Lina Wester and Lisa Hedengren got goals in the second period while goalie Sofia Carlstrom made several big saves in the scoreless first victory to key the victory.
The Japanese were by far the stronger team in the first period and had the only four power plays of the opening 20 minutes thanks to superior skating. They controlled the puck and moved it well inside the Sweden end with the extra player, but goalie Sofia Carlstrom kept her team in the game by making some fine saves, notably a right pad stop on an in-close chance from Fuka Ishiura.
Nevertheless, the Swedes looked unimpressive by comparison as the Japanese kept moving their feet and had territorial advantage. “I think we were a bit tired from yesterday when we played against Canada, and I think we were surprised by how well Japan played,” Carlstrom admitted.
Such was not the case in the second period. Coach Niclas Hogberg had some harsh words for his team, and they came out flying in the second. Lina Wester scored at just 1:34 after Astrid Lilja came around from behind the goal and tried to stuff the puck in. Shizuka Takahashi made the save, but Wester got the rebound.
“He asked us if we wanted to play in the semi-finals, or if we wanted to go home,” Carlstrom said of Hogberg’s dressing-room speech to his players. “That’s it.”
The rest of the period was dominated by the Swedes, and Lisa Hedengren made it 2-0 on a short-handed situation. She got the puck inside the Japanese blue line and fired a quick wrist shot that fooled Takahashi, who was screened on the play.
Although the Swedes dominated again in the third, they couldn’t put the game out of reach, and this made for an exciting finish. Coach Yuji Iizuka pulled Takahashi with 2:02 remaining, and with 46 seconds to go the strategy paid off. Ishiura made a great pass in front to Naho Terashima who one-timed the puck past Carlstrom.
Final shots were 59-18 for the Swedes, but it will be a different story on Friday. If Carlstrom gets the start, it will be her first career game against the U.S. “I am going to be nervous, but I’m also excited if I get the chance to play,” she said.