Swedes edge Canada in thriller
by Andrew Podnieks|29 DEC 2023
Noah Ostlund celebrtaes his goal that gave Sweden a 2-0 lead in the second period.
photo: Matt Zambonin/IIHF
Canada had more of the puck, but Sweden scored the timely goals, and that was the difference in a wonderful, fast-paced 2-0 win for the hosts. Sverige now remains in first place in Group A with three wins and no losses while Canada drops to 2-1. For Sweden, it was their third win by shutout and ther first U20 win over Canada since December 31, 2015 (three losses).

The game was expertly refereed by a Swede, Tobias Bjork, and a Canadian, Mark Pearce, and the game was much the better for their judicious use of the whistle. They let the players play, and in return the players didn't abuse the privilege.

The game was played to a raucous, sold-out crowd of 11,512 that was dominated by yellow, but there were several thousand red-clad fans who made the trip from Canada. They were witness to a thrilling game of high-octane junior hockey marked by sensational goaltending at both ends of the ice.

"We had a lot of nerves, but I think we handled it well. It was so much fun out there," said Swedish defender Tom Willander. "I think the Canadian fans did a good job. They weren't as many, but they were loud. It was a great atmosphere."

"It was a good game," offered Canada's Matthew Savoie. "We have a lot to work on, but it was a close game and it could have gone either way. They got a little momentum in the second and we couldn't get back on track. We're going to get over it pretty quickly and get back at it tomorrow."

Although Canada had the better of play by a significant margin in the first period, both teams had one glorious chance each to score. For Canada, it was a breakaway by Carson Rehkopf, started by a nice touch pass from Macklin Celebrini along the boards in his end. But Rehkopf tried to slide the puck between Havelid’s pads, and the goalie closed the hole quickly to make the save.

For Sweden, they had the only power play of the period, four minutes thanks to an errant high stick by Fraser Minten. Canada’s penalty killers did a sensational job, but it was goalie Mathis Rousseau who stole the show, doing the splits to make a right-pad save off a pass to Liam Ohgren to the back side. It was a sensational save that had the crowd in awe when they saw the replay on the scoreboard.

Sweden opened the scoring early in the second off a superb pass by Theo Lindstein along the boards. He found Willander alone in front, and the Vancouver Canucks draft choice beat Rousseau under the blocker at 1:53.

Teams exchanged chances, flying up and down the ice, making and taking big hits and getting back into the play. Sweden doubled their lead midway through the period when Noah Ostlund knocked in a rebound. The play looked offside (did the puck come out?), but the linesman was right there to rule the puck never left the zone, and Canada had plenty of time after the goal to challenge, and they didn’t. Good hockey goal. Sweden 2-0.

Canada could have gotten right back into it off a great steal by Matthew Savoie at his blue line. He raced the length of the ice and tried to deke Havelid, but the goalie stood tall once again.

In the third, Canada had its first two power plays, but neither helped them get on the board. Havelid was letter perfect, and his teammates in front of him blocked shots and lanes efficiently. 

"We were very disciplined for 60 minutes," Willander added. "A great goalie also helps. We wanted to play simple, and I think we did that well."

"They play well as a team," Dumais said. "They've played three games without giving up a goal, so they're playing with confidence. It's a game of bounces and it went their way today. We had a lot of chances, and we didn't get frustrated but I think we were just wishing for it to go in."

NOTES: In a pre-game ceremony, Henrik Lundqvist was honoured for his recent induction into the Swedish Hockey Hall of Fame. He was given, of course, a thunderous ovation...Canadian defender Maveric Lamoureux was a beast on the blue line, logging a game high 26:20 of ice time....Both teams have a day off before finishing the round robin on New Year's Eve. Sweden and Finland tangle in the early game followed by Canada and Germany.
Canada vs Sweden - 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship