MALMÖ – Let the good times roll. Sweden topped Slovakia 6-0 on Thursday, making the semi-finals versus Russia. Filip Forsberg and Elias Lindholm had four points apiece.
Sweden has won five straight games in regulation, and will play for a medal for the eighth straight year. Most recently, it’s won gold (2012) and silver (2013).
"It feels good," said defenceman Gustav Olofsson. "We’re getting closer – two games away. It feels more exciting and more fun to play when you get closer to gold."
Coach Rikard Grönborg’s troops edged Russia 3-2 in round-robin play, and it’ll likely be another tight battle in the semi-finals at the Malmö Arena.
"They do have a lot of skill," said Swedish goalie Oscar Dansk of Russia. "When they get a lot of room, they like that. So we have to put a lot of pressure on them and just play our game."
Last year, Sweden beat Russia 3-2 in a semi-final shootout in Ufa, with Sebastian Collberg tallying twice in the game-winning shots competition.
The Swedes took nine minor penalties in the quarter-final, and will want to cut down on that against the Russians, who scored twice on two-man advantages in their 5-3 quarter-final win over the U.S. The yellow-and-blue team got sloppy at times after staking a big lead.
"We have to stay out of the penalty box a little more," admitted Forsberg. "[The Slovaks] had a lot of power plays. They’re pretty dangerous and it’s going to be even more dangerous against Russia. That’s something we have to work on."
Defensively, Sweden shut down the top Slovak line of David Griger, Milan Kolena, and Martin Reway, who had combined for 28 points coming into the quarter-finals.
Dansk earned his first shutout of the World Juniors, outdoing Slovakia’s Richard Sabol. Shots on goal favoured Tre Kronor 40-18.
"I was pretty happy with the way I played," said Dansk. "I played pretty solid, but I thought the guys made it pretty easy for me and kept the shots mostly to the outside. They played really well."
Forsberg had two goals and two assists, and Lindholm had a goal and three assists. Lucas Wallmark scored two goals, and Jacob de la Rose added a single.
Slovakia’s World Junior medal drought endures. Its only medal came in 1999, a bronze in Winnipeg, Canada. The Slovaks haven’t made the semi-finals since 2009 in Ottawa.
"We wanted to play at 0-0 for a longer time and then score some goals on the power play," said Slovakia's Marko Dano. "But we didn’t. You can’t play like this against a team like Sweden."
The Swedes thought they’d scored first at 6:27, but instead Sebastian Collberg was sent off for interference on the play. Dansk stoned Dano from close range on the power play. When Collberg returned to action after the penalty expired, he was hobbled by a Tomas Rusina slap shot off his skate.
André Burakowsky got the partisan crowd of 10,857 oohing when he came down the left side and rang one off the post.
Moments later, at 11:58, Tre Kronor caught a break when the Slovak defence got crossed up in their zone. Wallmark burst through the opening and made it 1-0, showcasing some Pavel Datsyuk-ian hands as he deked Sabol before roofing it short side on the forehand.
On the power play, Lindholm gave Sweden a 2-0 lead with 1:21 left in the first period, accepting a nifty Forsberg pass on the goal line and stepping out quickly to wrap the puck past Sabol’s left skate.
At 1:10 of the second period, Forsberg scored Sweden’s 3-0 goal on an NHL-calibre one-timer off the rush from the left faceoff circle, putting it high over the hapless Sabol.
"He’s an amazing player and I just try to be open," Forsberg said of playing with Lindholm. "He always seems to find me when I want it."
Despite not capitalizing on a mid-period two-man advantage, the Swedes kept coming. Wallmark tallied his second of the night with 6:39 remaining in the middle frame. Nick Sorensen cut to the net off left wing and lost the puck on his backhand, but it conveniently landed on Wallmark’s stick and he whipped it into the open side.
The Swedes got undisciplined at the end of the second period, as Sorensen, Jesper Pettersson, and Linus Arnesson took overlapping minor penalties. Yet even with a lengthy two-man advantage, the Slovaks couldn’t spoil Dansk’s shutout bid.
The penalty parade continued in the third period for both sides, but the final outcome had already been ordained.
With the teams playing four a side, Forsberg made it 5-0 with a glove side wrister from the right faceoff circle at 13:58 of the third. Jacob de la Rose added another one, converting a rebound with 4:41 remaining.
"We [achieved] our goal: we made it to the quarter-finals," said Slovakia's Peter Cehlarik. "We tried to surprise, but it wasn’t enough."
This was Sweden’s eighth straight World Junior victory over Slovakia, dating back to December 30, 2004.