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World Junior Championships Recap: USA fights off Sweden, takes Bronze 4-2

Team USA celebrates after defeating Sweden for the bronze medals at the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Team USA celebrates after defeating Sweden for the bronze medals at the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

Team USA lost a heart-breaking game to the Canadians, forcing them to fight for the bronze medal: win or go home empty-handed. After their poor showing against Team Canada, USA veteran Chris Kreider called his team out; he said the Canadians played like men - they didn’t. It worked because the Americans came out strong and remained so for the full 60 minutes despite a solid opponent in Sweden.

Nerves seemed to be getting the best of both teams as the first period started; USA was controlling the puck but weren’t able to go tape to tape. Sweden was getting in the right positions but couldn’t get their stick on the puck to create the turnover. Within the first minute, however, the Swedes did force the penalty, and Drew Shore was called for hooking.

Sweden was able to get the puck moving on the power play, but the US kept them to the outside. Throughout the kill, the Americans got into passing lanes and cleared the puck easily, allowing Sweden only one shot on net which goaltender Jack Campell handled well.

Shortly thereafter, Sweden took a penalty of their own - slashing on Calle Jarnkrok - giving the United States their first power play of the game. Just as Team USA did to Sweden, Sweden kept the Americans to the outside and limited the angles. Swedish goalie Fredrik Petersson Wentzel had to make saves on three very good opportunities, but he did so with ease; penalty killed.

Power play advantage shifted again as Mitch Callahan slashed at a Swedish player and got two in the penalty box. Again, the Swedes were kept to the outside, but this time, they got some strong shots on net. Campbell had some trouble controlling his rebounds, but his defensemen were there to clean up and clear the crease.

As would happen all night, the teams generated a lot of back and forth play; both groups operated with a run-and-gun style, which resulted in fast transitions and exciting plays. Each team was also great on defense, forcing turnovers and getting sticks in the way of passes and rebounds. Neither team was hitting hard, but both were finishing their checks well.

On one turnover, the US got a bunch of chances in front of Petersson, causing all 5 Swedish skaters to collapse down low. This resulted in a fair amount of blocked shots and no goals for the Americans. At one point, the United states had the goalie beat but hit the side of the net, just barely missing a point on the board. Yet, they took another penalty, this time it was Ryan Bourque for hooking. Just as they’d been doing all night, Sweden answered back with a penalty of their own: Oscar Lindberg, tripping. For the final 1:45, the teams engaged in 4-on-4 hockey with neither team scoring. End of first: tied at 0.

After being dominated in shots (13-5), scoring chances (6-2), and face offs (66%), Sweden started the second on fire. They got a short-handed chance and easily killed the 14 second US power play that carried over from the first. Team USA responded by taking away the middle and preventing the Swedes from even entering the offensive zone. The Swedish team didn’t let that deter them, though, and they forced their way past the Americans. Putting pressure on, Campbell had to make some big saves to keep the score at zero.

Creating a turnover, Jason Zucker got a breakaway and skated all alone into the slot. Petersson stood tall, took up the whole net, and forced Zucker to shoot wide. His team caught up and crowded the crease, trying to catch a rebound just right. On the ensuing face off, Sweden broke the pattern and took the first penalty of the second period by slamming Brock Nelson into the boards from behind. Boarding on Lindberg with just over 12 minutes left.

Team USA couldn’t get anything going as Sweden took away the middle and forced the play into the Americans’ zone. Easily killed, the Swedes took the momentum and broke out on a two-on-one. Justin Faulk hustled back to join the play and took away the pass option, allowing Campbell to take on the shooter. He saw the puck all the way.

But the stand off didn’t make it to the end of the second as Lindberg backhanded a rebound over a sprawling Campbell. 1-0 Sweden. Sweden remained undisciplined, and Fredrik Styrman tripped up a US player. While trying to keep the puck in Team USA’s zone, Sweden coughed up a turnover, giving Brown and Kreider a two on one. They got a nice tic-tac-toe passing play going, but the first shot was denied. Then Chris Brown passed the puck from behind the net to Kreider, who was waiting at the hashmarks. His wrister found the back of the net to knot it up at one.

The US continued their pressure into the third and scored 52 seconds in. Faulk sent one in from the blueline which Shore - with his back to the net - deflected in between his own legs. It was a highlight reel shot from the University of Denver player. USA continued to get chances with traffic in front of the net, but Petersson denied them, keeping the score at 2-1 USA.

A scrum broke out behind the net, and the teams received matching minors. With five-on-five hockey continuing, Sweden got their own chances by clogging up the crease in front of Campbell. Just like his counterpart, Campbell stopped all he faced. Folks got heated up again and more pushing, shoving, and words were exchanged behind the American’s net.

Both teams continued to work hard, creating chances, but getting nothing on the scoreboard. The United States broke out on yet another two-on-one chance, but Zucker went for the pass instead of shooting, and the Swedish defenseman got his stick on it. Still, the US maintained control. The puck ended up on Nick Leddy’s stick, and he wristed one on net. Nick Bjugstad tipped it in between a teammate’s legs for a 3-1 US lead.

Sweden answered with a goal of their own that was a result of hard work keeping the puck in the zone. A puck sent off the sideboard deflected on net, but Campbell’s rebound went right to Jesper Fasth to bring the Swedes within one with just over 5 minutes left. Team Sweden kept the USA in their own zone as they could see a tie was just that one shot away. The Americans were scrambling to clear the puck. In doing so, Kreider intercepted a pass and carried the puck through center ice with Kyle Palmeri flanking him for one more two-on-one. Kreider sent the puck to Palmeri, who brought it into the zone and then passed it back to Kerider as he skated into the slot. With two minutes left, the United States went up 4-2.

For the remainder of the game, Team USA held the Swedish team at the blueline and kept their 4-2 lead intact to win the bronze medal.

Players of the Game:
Sweden - Fredrik Petersson Wentzel (40 saves)
USA - Chris Kreider (2 goals)

Stars of the Tournament:
Sweden - Patrick Cehlin, Johan Larsson, and Tim Erixon
USA - Jon Merrill, Charlie Coyle, and Jack Campbell