Sweden plays tough hosts to Latvia
by Andrew Podnieks|26 DEC 2023
Anton Wahlberg tips in Sweden's opening goal against Latvia.
Elias Salomonsson incurred a boarding major and game misconduct after only 25 seconds of play, but that was little matter to Sweden which rolled to a 6-0 win over Latvia tonight at the Scandinavium.

Hugo Havelid, making his World Junior Championship debut in goal after a sensational U18 career, stopped 20 shots for the shutout. Sweden scored four goals with an extra skater, two of which came off the stick of forward Filip Bystedt. 

Sweden has now won all six meetings between the teams at the World Juniors by a cumulative score of 42-9.

"I think we played well all over the ice," said Bystedt. "We didn’t give them the puck much and played the game with our strengths. We moved the puck well on our power play and created space and scoring chances. We got people in front of the net well."

"I think we played pretty well five-on-five," offered Dans Locmelis, Latvia's captain. "We just have to fix our special teams. We’ll get prepared and be ready for tomorrow."

The hosts got two power-play goals in the first from Anton Wahlberg and Bystedt and never looked threatened. Latvia might well have taken control with that early and long power play, but they mustered few shots with the extra skater and the opportunity was lost.

"It doesn’t happen very often like that in games," Bystedt added of the quick major penalty, "but we just accepted it and knew we had a five-minute box play. The guys did a great job blocking shots and doing everything hold them off. Everyone else had to stretch their legs after whistles to keep fresh."

"I think we were not ready for that and didn’t take advantage of it the way we should have," Locmedlis admitted. "We have to be ready right from the start of the game."

Wahlberg opened the scoring at 10:09 when he tipped an Axel Sandin Pellikka shot from the point. Then later in the period they made it 2-0 off a perfectly-placed one timer from Bystedt off a pass from Mattias Havelid.

The Swedes added two more goals on the power play in the second to put the game out of reach. Their third of the night came at 12:45 when Jonathan Lekkerimaki came off the side boards unchecked and ripped a shot short side to make it 3-0. 

Less than two minutes later, they added to their total on a delayed penalty. This time it was a shot by Oskar Pettersson that Deivs Rolovs bobbled. Bystedt was right there to bang in his second of the night. The hosts notched a fifth goal midway through the third, their first at even stregnh. It resembled Wahlberg's goal but this time Theo Lindstein took the shot and Felix Unger Sorum made the delicate tip in front.

Lekkerimaki counted a sixth goal at 14:17, the first of the night that Rolovs should have stopped. Off the rush, Lekkerimaki made his way to the slot, and his low wrister snuck between the pads and under the stick of the Latvian goalie.

Sweden now has a day off before playing Germany on Thursday while Latvia’s tournament doesn’t get any easier. They face Canada tomorrow night in the late game at Scandinavium.