Sweden - Czech Republic: 4-2
PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – Sweden skated into the U20 semi-finals today after earning a 4-2 win against host Czech Republic in a crucial match-up for medal round seeding.
The win propelled Sweden into first place in the A Group, giving the team a bye for the quarterfinals. The Czechs had a chance to take first place in the group with a win today, but will still play in the medal round as the third-place team against second-place Russia from the B Group.
For Sweden, it is the second consecutive year the team is in the U20 semi-final. However, it is the first time that the Swedes have earned a quarterfinal round bye since the IIHF adopted the format in 2003.
The second period was the clear key for the Swedes, who built their lead to 3-0, and then killed off five consecutive Czech power-plays. The inability to convert on virtually 10 minutes with the extra man clearly haunted the Czechs.
Oscar Moller gave Sweden the early lead, netting a goal just 4:11 into the game. It looked like the Czechs had tied the game at one late in the period, but after a video review, the goal was disallowed because the puck was kicked in the net.
The Swedes built their lead with a five-on-three goal 3:37 into the period as Patrik Berglund netted his third goal of the championship. Sweden clearly had the momentum after the Berglund goal and capitalized just 1:15 later with the 3-0 tally coming from Thomas Larsson.
It took until the first 44 seconds of the third period for the Czechs to finally convert on the power play as Antonin Boruta put an end to the extra-man frustration. But the Czech goal did little to stop the Sweden momentum as Robin Figren took over the tournament scoring lead with a goal less than a minute later to restore the three-goal lead. Figren now has four goals and two assists at this year’s championship.
The Czechs did their best to fight their way back into the game, making it a 4-2 affair at the midway mark of the third, but ultimately, the Swede lead was just too large for the Czechs to overcome.
Sweden awaits the winner of the Russia-Czech Republic quarterfinal, while USA, the Group A winners will face the winner of the Canada-Finland game.
Russia - Switzerland: 4-3
LIBEREC, Czech Republic – Russia secured second place in Group B with a 4-3 win against Switzerland on the final day of preliminary round action.
"It will be about who wants it most", Swiss captain Yannick Weber said yesteday. Today the Swiss wanted the result badly, but could not overcome Russia's slim lead throughout the game.
The Swiss were improved from last night’s game against Kazakhstan, but are still looking for their first win at this year’s U20 championship. For the Russians, the game wasn’t quite their most inspired effort, but in the end, they did what they had to for second place in the group.
It was a tough start for Swiss goaltender Lukas Flueler, who surrendered a goal just 1:31 into his first start at this year’s championship. But the Swiss regrouped after the goal and tied things up at one on their first power play chance of the game. Arnaud Jacquement injected life into the Swiss with the goal midway through the period.
Penalty trouble cost the Swiss in the opening of the second period as Russia’s Dmitri Sayustov netted the five-on-three goal to restore the Russian lead. But once again, the Swiss replied, this time with an even-strength tally from Dino Wieser. But Russia’s Artem Gordeyev had the last word, giving the Russians the 3-2 lead with just over two minutes left in the period.
The teams exchanged goals in the third period, brining the final to 4-3. Switzerland nearly evened the game at four in the last second when a shot hit the post.
Russia will face the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal in Pardubice on January 2nd. Meanwhile, Switzerland will play Slovakia to open the relegation round on the 2nd, in a key game for the Alpine nation’s survival in the top division.