International Ice Hockey Federation

Swedes take down U.S.

Swedes take down U.S.

Wernblom pots two goals plus assist in win

Published 22.04.2018 18:45 GMT+5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Swedes take down U.S.
MAGNITOGORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 22: Sweden's David Lilja #12 is congratulated by teammates after scoring against team USA during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Lukas Wernblom scored twice, including the late third-period winner, and had an assist as Sweden topped the U.S. 3-1 on Sunday.

The Swedes had the better of the play for most of the third period. With under four minutes left in regulation, they got a great chance with Jonathan Gruden off for holding. Wernblom celebrated when he zipped it into the top stick-side corner from the right faceoff circle with 1:34 left. The goal was video-reviewed and ruled good.

"I didn’t know if the puck was in or not," Wernblom admitted. "It was great. We didn’t start the game so good. The first two periods were pretty bad, but then the third was pretty good."

This was a change of pace in the U18 rivalry between these two countries, which has been lopsided in the U.S.'s favor. The U.S., who are currently the defending champions, beat Sweden in three straight gold medal games from 2010 to 2012. This was just the third all-time Swedish win over the U.S., with 14 losses.

David Lilja also scored for the Swedes, and Oscar Back had two assists. The Swedes, who have won all three of their games, will take on Canada in a showdown for first place in Group A on Tuesday.

"Canada has a really good team here," said Swedish coach Torgny Bendelin. "They have maybe most of their best players in this age group. I watched their game against the U.S. and I think Canada was the better team. It’s going to be a challenge for us."

Oliver Wahlstrom replied for the Americans, and tournament scoring leader Jack Hughes had an assist. Compared to its usual pace, the U.S. has stumbled in this tournament, also losing to Canada 6-4 in its opener.

"It's a tough, tough loss," said U.S. defenceman Adam Samuelsson, the son of ex-NHLer Ulf Samuelsson. "But we need to regroup and focus on the next game now. Of course it was a special game for me, as both my parents are from Sweden."

In goal, Spencer Knight got his second straight start after allowing five goals on 19 shots in the 8-5 American win over Switzerland. Olof Lindbom returned between the pipes for Sweden after winning the 3-1 opener over the Swiss. The Swedes outshot the U.S. 41-37.

"I’m really happy and proud of the players," said Bendelin. "Our gentleman back in the net did great. We had four lines going and three defensive pairings. All the players worked hard. It was a team win."

The Swedes last medalled in 2016 (silver) and have never won U18 gold. But they're enjoying the vibe at the Arena Metallurg.

"It’s fantastic to have almost 6,000 spectators," said Bendelin. "I’ve been to this tournament three years now, and I’ve never seen anything like it. And they’re not just sitting. They’re chanting and having fun."

After allowing 11 goals in their first two games, the Americans continued to struggle with turnovers, even though this game was low-scoring.

In the first period, the teams traded power play goals during too-many-men penalties. At 2:35, Wahlstrom made it 1-0 U.S. with his tournament-leading fourth power play goal, banking it in off Lindbom from behind the goal line. He equalled his total of four goals for last year’s gold medal team.

"I was a little bit off there on their first goal," said Lindbom. "I think I lost balance a little bit. But other than that, it was pretty solid, and the guys were good in front of me also."

Sweden soon had a reply. At 10:51 with the man advantage, Wernblom fed Lilja in the slot and he got two cracks at it, putting the second one past Knight to tie it up.

U.S. captain Mattias Samuelsson had a rough end to the first period. After exiting the penalty box for a holding call, he went right back in after colliding with a Swedish attacker.

Early in the second period, Lindbom came up big to foil Hughes when he shot from the slot on the rush.

The middle frame devolved into a festival of turnovers and interference penalties, with both goalies shining. Defenceman Ty Emberson creamed Sweden’s Nikola Pasic in the neutral zone and received a two-minute minor and 10-misconduct for checking to the head.

"It was a good hockey game," said U.S. coach Seth Appert. "Both teams played great and both goalkeepers were fantastic. At the end it was just one bounce that went for them."

In the third period, Wernblom, after scoring the winner, added an empty-netter with four seconds left. The U.S. will now turn its attention to winless Belarus, its final group opponent on Tuesday.

 

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