International Ice Hockey Federation

Goals aplenty

USA tops Sweden 6-4 in high-scoring affair

Published 19.04.2015 20:11 GMT+2 | Author Chapin Landvogt
Goals aplenty
LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19: USA's Colin White #27 and Jeremy Bracco #17 celebrate after a second period goal against Sweden during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
When Sweden and the USA faced off today at 5 pm CET, both teams were entering the contest with one win and one loss under their belts.

In fact, both teams had lost their opening day contests somewhat unexpectedly and by scores of 3-1.

Each team checked back into the win column in their second games, which saw the USA blow out Slovakia 10-0 while Sweden won handedly over Germany by a score of 7-1. Anxiously awaiting the opportunity to garner second place in the group, both teams kicked off the game with lots of hustle and several hits to set the tone.

A shot from the point by Jacob Larsson went right on the US goal, where Carl Grundstrom was parked and immediately knocked in the rebound at the 15:12 mark. The team celebrated frantically, clearly having achieved the team’s goal not to get behind early.

But only forty seconds later, the US crashed the Swedish net and tied things up on a goal by Clayton Keller, who simply rifled a shot at goaltender Felix Sandstrom, who somehow struggled with the puck and saw it trickle quickly behind him.

The US earned the game’s first power play around the 13 minute mark, when Filip Ahl was sent out for checking to the head, for which he was awarded a 2+10 penalty. Despite several solid just-miss opportunities by the US, Sweden managed to kill off the two minutes unscathed.

Still the US created a number of offensive chances and a two-on-one break featuring Jeremy Bracco and Brian White looked like it had led to the second goal for the US, but an amazing leg-stretching pad save by Sandstrom kept the puck out of the net as a swarm of attackers continued pouncing on the rebound. Again, somehow the puck didn’t find its way into the net with a clump of Swedish defenders throwing themselves into the goalmouth pile up.

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Sandstrom was required to make a boatload of saves throughout the next 5 minutes as the US attacked relentlessly. A counterattack opportunity forced US goalie Luke Opilka to make a strong save.

The remainder of the period saw the US carry the play and pepper Sandstrom with a boatload of shots from all angles. The Swedish defense had its hands full trying to wave off a constant wave of US attack.

Which they did successfully, lucky to see the period end with a 1-1 stand.

Sweden came out in the second period with a bit more enthusiasm and earned a power play at the 17:30 mark, however it was the US that razzled and dazzled around the Swedish zone shorthanded, giving Swedish defenders fits while eating up a good 30 seconds of power play time.

The chess match continued throughout the first eight minutes of the second period until the US got a power play at the 12:45 mark. Despite a plethora of chances and puck possession time, it became more and more difficult for the US to find a way to solve Sandstrom, who was now comfortably in the zone.

At the seven minute mark, some rough forechecking saw the hulking Gabriel Carlsson ward off an attacker with a check to the head. Just three seconds later, the US got the goal their hard work had long since earned, when defenseman Johnny McAvoy took a pass right from the faceoff and wristed a deceptive shot past Sandstrom on his stick side.
The pressure kept coming until the US took an offensive zone penalty, giving Sweden a power play with 3:50 to play. A failed clearing attempt saw Joel Eriksson Ek gobble up the puck, come around the left side of the net, and wrist one over Opilka’s right shoulder. With that, the game was tied at two.

Not satisfied with the result, the US quickly made a four pass play to get out of the zone, charge into the Swedish zone, and wrist one right by Sandstrom on the same lower stick side as goal number two. Colin White was the sharpshooter on the play, giving the US a 3-2 lead.

Looking like the period would end with the US lead, some miscommunication allowed Sweden another counterattack and a nifty pass from Jacob Larsson gave Jonathan Dahlen an opportunity to wrist one home and he did just that with only 38 seconds left in the second period. Suddenly it was 3-3.

The USA began the third period on the power play and once again showered the Swedes with a number of dangerous shots, bringing even more bodies to the goal to go with the pucks, but there was nothing cooking as Sandstrom continued to hold tight.

At the 16:15 mark, a well-executed rush was topped by an even more well-executed move by Clayton Keller, who faked a forehand shot and slipped one by Sandstrom on the backhand, giving the US a renewed lead, this time 4-3.

The teams exchanged scoreless power play opportunities and action in both ends until a somewhat broken attack saw Farjestad SHL winger Rasmus Asplund snipe a quick wrist shot by Opilka to the far side, tying the game once again, this time at four a piece.

But as the laws of the game would predict, the next goalmouth scramble led to a niftily tucked in puck from Auston Matthews to give the US yet another one goal lead, 5-4. The goal was assisted by Casey Fitzgerald and Matthew Tkachuk. Another lead, this time with roughly eight and a half minutes left in the game.

What definitely changed at that point was the crowd. What had been a neutral and somewhat quiet group turned into a slew of “USA, USA, USA” chants, as if the crowd was trying to let the team know that this was one lead they didn’t want to see the team give up.

Sweden responded!

The blue and gold picked up the pace and created some of their best chances in the game, suddenly taking more control of the puck in the US zone while dishing out several big checks in the process, especially when Sebastian Olsson stood up to Caleb Jones, dropping him awkwardly.

And again the US answered by bringing a new barrage of shots to Sandstrom, most of them at ice level. Matthews appeared to have put an excellent pass from Tkachuk into the net, but it somehow hit the outside of the net instead.

With 50 seconds left in the game, the Swedes pulled their goalie, but couldn’t create any sustained pressure.

With one second left in the game, Christian Fischer slid a lovely pass to Chad Krys, who shoveled the puck over the sliding Swedish defender to end it 6-4 in favor of the US.

Much like against the Russians in the tournament’s first game, the USA outshot Sweden 53 to 18.

"We lost against a better team today. They were very very good and we knew they would be. They outshot us by something like 53 to 18 and yes, we tried hard, and even played our best game yet, but lost to a better opponent," explained Swedish coach Jim Brithen.

For the US, the nature of the game was just another step in the learning curve. "This was a very exciting game for fans, but not so much so for coaches due to the back and forth nature of the game. Time will tell, but it was a good game for gaining a lot of experience, because of the emotion in it, the trading of goals, our inability to score on chances we thought we had. We had to battle and focus through some frustration, and potential frustration. I feel there are a lot of positives to take from this game other than the win that will help us to prepare better for the next match," stated US coach Don Granato.

On Tuesday, April 21st, Sweden will conclude group play against Russia while the US will face Germany.