Sweden kept their impressive World Juniors rolling as they faced their Scandinavian neighbors, Finland, in the Quarter Finals.
After cruising through Group B with four straight wins, scoring 18 goals on their way to a perfect record, they faced the reigning champions, in a rematch from last year’s finals, where Finland ran out as gold medal winners.
The difference this time? Sweden are hot and Finland, much like the country at this time of year, are cold.
Neither team could break the deadlock in the opening frame, some good chances by both sides, the best coming from Otto Rauhala on a turnover by Sweden, but Swedens Linus Soderstrom and Finland’s Ville Husso held firm keeping it scoreless after 20.
It didn’t take long though in the second period for the scoring to begin. A breakaway from Jusso Ikonen lead to the game’s opening goal as he fired his shot past Soderstrom at 21:44 to make it 1 – 0 to the Finns.
Coming back just minutes later, the dangerous Swedish powerplay went to work, a brilliant feed from William Nylander to Gustav Forsling, and Forsling fired in a one timer that beat Husso in the Finnish net, tying the game at 1 – 1 on a 5 on 3 goal.
Less than a minute later and the Swedes were at it again. Still up a man after the 5 on 3 goal, this time Sebastian Aho with the perfect pass to Lucas Wallmark who calmly fired his shot into the back of the net, erasing the Finnish lead to go up 2 – 1.
Fast forward four minutes and there was another up on the board, and another shot from distance by the Swedes. Their passing had been perfect all tournament, and it was Robin Norell with the feed this time for Adam Brodecki to fire a rocket into the back of the net and with over half the game still to play it was 3 – 1 Sweden.
Down but not out, Finland wasted no time in responding, a fantastic cross ice pass from Jusso Ikonen found Mikko Rantanen who delayed on his shot, buying time to fire a wicked wrist shot past Soderstrom to make it a 1 goal game.
The Finns kept pressing and with time running out, Kasperi Kapanen tied the game, after Soderstrom stopped the initial shot, Kapanen jumped past his defender onto the loose puck and didn’t waste his gifted opportunity, firing the game tying goal, leaving it all to play for in the third period with the score at 3 – 3.
Despite their best efforts, the Finns just couldn’t match the Swedes, and their poor powerplay didn’t help. Coming into the game with not even one powerplay goal, the Finns didn’t change their habits when it mattered most.
Early in the final period, Adrian Kempe put Sweden ahead with another Swedish 5 on 3 goal, and then it was Sweden to the penalty kill giving Finland a chance to get back in the game.
First Anton Karlsson went to the box for tripping but the Swedes killed that off, and then Leon Bristedt went on a double minor high sticking call, and even with four minutes of powerplay time, Finland’s poor powerplay couldn’t find an answer.
Time was running out for Finland, and at 53:52 their uphill battle got steeper, Oskar Lindblom picked up the puck after a great pass from William Nylander and fired his shot in, his fourth of the tournament, making it 5 – 3 with little time remaining.
The final nail in the coffin came with the Finns up a man again, Ville Husso was on the bench to give Finland an extra attacker, but four seconds remaining, Lucas Wallmark fired the puck the length of the ice making it 6 – 3 to Sweden, and putting them safely into the Semi-finals for the eighth tournament running, a trend that started in 2007 with a 4 – 2 loss to Russia in the semi-finals.
Finland now watch from the sidelines to see who they’ll give their gold medal up to, and with the Swedes showing no signs of stopping, they could be celebrating gold but Russia stand in their way in the Semis, and then they could face the mighty Canadians if they beat Slovakia in the other semi-final.