As expected, Sweden hammered winless Kazakhstan 6-2 to maintain its grip on first place in Group A on Monday.
For the second straight game, Samuel Fagemo got the first two goals for Sweden. Nils Hoglander had a goal and an assist, while Linus Oberg, Jonatan Berggren, and Lucas Raymond also scored. Rasmus Sandin and Nils Lundkvist added a pair of assists apiece.
"I think we have a good feeling," said Fagemo. "We scored six goals and we had some good goals on the power play. We created a lot of scoring chances. It was a fun game."
Despite some defensive lapses, it was another good performance for the Juniorkronorna, who are seeking their first gold since 2012 and first medal since silver in 2018.
Asked to define what differentiates this year's team from the 2019 group that fell 2-0 to Switzerland in the quarter-finals, Sweden's Nikola Pasic said: "Probably I think we're a little bit tighter as a group than last year. We're [spending time] with everyone."
Oleg Boiko and Maxim Musorov replied for Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs showed impressive fighting spirit to stay close in their first two defeats against Switzerland (5-3) and Slovakia (3-1), but were exposed against the top Nordic countries.
Swedish backup goalie Jesper Eliasson made his World Junior debut, and the 2018 third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings had 17 saves for the win. Vladislav Nurek made 29 stops for Kazakhstan, still awaiting the identity of its relegation round opponent from an ultra-tight Group B.
Fagemo drew first blood with 4:48 left in the first period. Hoglander powered out of the corner to the net, and his linemate slammed the loose puck past a helpless Nurek. Fagemo, a Los Angeles Kings prospect who plays for Frolunda, has been on fire so far.
In the middle frame, coach Tomas Monten’s troops blew the game wide open.
On a power play, Sandin found Fagemo for a one-timer goal – his fifth of the tournament – from the left faceoff circle at 2:37. Asked afterwards what it means to be leading the World Juniors in goals, Fagemo said: "Not that much, actually. But it's fun. I think we have good chemistry on our line and I just try to find the open spots."
At 4:08, Oberg notched his first goal, converting a Linus Nassen centering pass from behind the net.
Hoglander stretched Sweden’s lead to 4-0 with the man advantage at 7:40. (There was no “lacrosse move” involved, which hopefully will not disappoint any ardent Vancouver Canucks fans.) On the rush, the Rogle Angelholm winger simply took a David Gustafsson pass and unleashed a fierce wrister from the left faceoff dot for his third of these World Juniors.
On another Swedish power play, Nurek had little chance after Alexander Holtz winged the puck off the post and Berggren put it into a wide open net at 10:57
Eliasson had foiled Musorov, Kazakhstan’s top goal-scorer on a breakaway, but Boiko spoiled the goalie's shutout bid on another solo jaunt 41 seconds after the Berggren goal. In the Kazakh zone, the Snezhnye Barsy Astana forward stole the puck from a falling Philip Broberg just inside the blue and sped off to zap one by the goalie.
Defenceman Tobias Bjornfot liked what he saw from Eliasson overall: "He's a great goaltender and a great person too. I think he had a good game."
In the third period, Raymond made it 6-1 at 11:13 off a sweet centering pass from Karl Henriksson. They're playing together on a five-man unit that consists entirely of players from the golden 2019 U18 Worlds, including Holtz, Broberg, and Bjornfot.
Bjornfot and Eliasson failed to corral a loose puck in front of the net, leading to Musorov's fourth goal of the tournament at 13:57. Kazakhstan would get no closer than that.
"We need to play a better defensive game and shoot the puck more," Bjornfot said. "I think we can play a better game."
The Swedes have now earned 51 straight preliminary-round wins dating back to the 2007 World Juniors in Sweden. Also, they have won all seven of their World Junior games against Kazakhstan, with a combined goal difference of 53-11.
There is one more tune-up remaining against Slovakia on New Year's Eve, and then the true test begins for Sweden.
Of facing the Slovaks, Pasic said: "I heard it's a full arena. We want to win, so we're going to show the fans what Sweden can bring. We'll play our best game and probably get the win."