MONTREAL â€” It’s not just that Sweden’s got a high-powered offence at the world junior hockey championship. It’s that the scoring can come from anyone.
Tim Soderlund and Joel Eriksson Ek each scored twice as the Swedes defeated Slovakia 8-3 in the quarter-final on Monday for their fifth consecutive victory at the international tournament. Sweden will face Canada in the semifinal on Wednesday.
“We have a really good offensive group,” said Swedish defenceman Oliver Kylington. “We’re a threat all the time, every four lines. It’s a good thing to have in a group.”
The Swedes have hardly been challenged so far at this under-20 tournament. They won all four games in the preliminary round and have now outscored their opponents 26-9. Sweden has only trailed once in the tournament.
Sweden did face some adversity against the Slovaks on Monday.
After Sweden took a 5-0 lead, Slovakia made things interesting with three consecutive goals from Martin Bodak, Miroslav Struska and Adam Ruzicka. But that’s all the Slovaks would get as Sweden buckled down and replied with three unanswered of their own in the third period.
“We were a bit shaky when they scored their goals but we have a really calm group,” said Kylington. “We talked a lot on the bench and there wasn’t any panic or anything. We handled it pretty well.”
Carl Grundstrom, Alexander Nylander, Fredrik Karlstrom and Lias Andersson also scored as Sweden outshot Slovakia 50-18.
Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom made 15 saves for his fourth win of the tournament.
Slovakia’s Adam Huska stopped 42-of-50 shots in defeat.
The Swedes, who finished top of Group A, continued their dominance at the tournament after scoring 18 goals in the preliminary round.
“The most important thing was to try to get our speed going and try to put pressure on the opponent and create scoring chances, put pucks on the net and we really did that,” said Swedish head coach Tomas Monten. “We played to our identity and how we wanted to look.”
Eriksson Ek scored just 1:08 into the game to put Sweden ahead 1-0 while playing with the man advantage.
Soderlund drove hard to the net, holding off a defenceman to make it 2-0 at 16:28 of the first, and Grundstrom scored 33 seconds later from the face-off dot to increase Sweden’s lead.
It was more of the same in the second period as Buffalo Sabres prospect Nylander poked the puck under goalie Huska’s pad to make it 4-0 at 6:17. Nylander also had two assists on Monday and now leads the under-20 tournament with 12 points.
Karlstrom added a fifth for the Swedes at 13:07 after being left alone in front of the net.
“We had a good start,” said Eriksson Ek. “We let them back in the game but we realized what we did wrong. We finished the game strong. We worked as a team. We have four big lines. That’s the biggest key.”
Bodak and Struska scored back-to-back goals within 66 seconds of each other at the end of the second period for Slovakia before Ruzicka added a third to start the third period.
But that’s as close as Slovakia would get, as Sweden got a second goal from Soderlund and a power-play marker from Andersson five minutes into the third.
Eriksson Ek added his second goal with three minutes remaining in the game.
“We couldn’t keep up with the Swedish team,” said Slovak head coach Ernest Bokros. “They were much stronger on the puck. There was maybe 10 minutes where we were able to keep up with them. Hence the shots on net.”
Defenceman Gabriel Carlsson was back in the lineup after missing Sweden’s last game with an injury.
Sweden beat Slovakia 6-0 in last year’s quarter-final before losing to Finland 2-1 in the semifinal. The team’s last gold medal was in 2012.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press