CIVIC CENTRE - Sweden secured a bye to the January 3 semifinals with a convincing 5-0 win over Russia on Wednesday that gave it first place in Group B.
Sweden - Russia 5-0 (4-0, 0-0, 1-0)
The Swedes will face the winner of the January 2 quarterfinal between the second-place team in Group A against the third-place team in Group B. Meanwhile, Russia takes on the Czech Republic in the first quarterfinal that day.
Andre Petersson paced the Swedish assault with two goals, while Mikael Backlund had a goal and an assist. Simon Hjalmarsson and Marcus Johansson also scored.
"The first period was brilliant. We took command of the game and we didn't give them anything," said Swedish head coach Par Marts.
Sweden's Jacob Markstrom recorded his first shutout of the tournament. Starting Russian goalie Danila Alistratov allowed four goals on 12 shots before getting pulled. Sweden outshot Russia 38-31.
"It was difficult to understand," said Russian captain Nikita Filatov. "We had a really bad start. But their goalie played really well and made a lot of good saves."
"We skated and hit and did everything we needed to do," said Markstrom. "We got some pucks in, too."
It was the biggest-ever margin of victory for Sweden over Russia at the World Juniors. The previous biggest was a 5-1 win at the 1993 tournament in Sweden. That Tre Kronor silver-medal squad included the likes of Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, and Kenny Jonsson.
Puck movement, speed, and scoring chances marked the game’s opening moments--just what the Civic Centre crowd of 9,675 hoped to see from two of hockey’s top finesse nations. But it didn’t take long for the Swedes to turn the tide in their favour.
Just past the five-minute mark, Petersson opened the scoring for Sweden, taking a pass from Mattias Tedenby, busting past the Russian defence at the blueline and zipping the puck through Alistratov’s five-hole.
Ten minutes in, Sweden’s “Frolunda Connection” clicked when Joakim Andersson picked up the puck behind the Russian net and centered it to Simon Hjalmarsson, who golfed it home on the glove side for a 2-0 lead.
The Swedish power play clicked as the Russian defence ran into penalty trouble. On the third Tre Kronor goal, Petersson took a Backlund pass in the right faceoff circle and beat Alistratov with a quick release with 3:10 left in the opening stanza.
Just 41 seconds later, it was Backlund’s turn to light the red lamp, as he got the puck in nearly the same spot from Oscar Moller and fired it home with traffic in front.
At that point, Russian coach Sergei Nemchinov yanked Alistratov in favour of Vadim Zhelobnyuk. But even though the backup netminder was flawless in the middle frame, his teammates couldn’t generate the offence they desperately needed.
Moller, the Swedish captain, left the game with a shoulder injury midway through the game.
"Everyone did a good job in his absence, and especially Andre Pettersson on the power play," said Marts. "Of course, Oscar is a very important guy on this team, but you have to play with the guys you have."
The Russians had a golden opportunity to get on the board halfway through the second period when the Swedish defence evaporated and Sergei Korostin and Evgeni Grachev stormed in on a two-on-zero break. But Grachev couldn’t convert the pass across from Korostin with his quick, low shot.
With just over a minute left in the second, Korostin dashed down the left side and sent another fine feed to Alexander Komaristy in the slot, who did a half-spinnerama and backhanded the puck off Markstrom’s pads.
The Swedes padded their lead in the third period as Johansson stickhandled his way off the right wall, cut to the middle, and wristed a shot over Zhelobnyuk’s glove to make it 5-0 at 13:55.
Russia’s Nikita Klyukin got a breakaway a couple of minutes later, but backhanded the puck wide on his deke.
The rest of the third period turned into a penalty parade for Russia, completely dooming any hopes of a miracle comeback.
Asked to look ahead to the semi-finals, Markstrom simply replied: "It doesn't matter which team we meet in the semi-final. If you want to win gold, you have to beat them all."