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Sweden claims Group B in close match with Russia

The last time Sweden faced Russia, the score line wasn’t the biggest story – Sweden won 2 – 1 in the Semi-finals – but it was the post-game brawl that the game will be remembered for.

In the first meeting since, Sweden and Russia went head-to-head at Air Canada Centre, Toronto with Sweden looking to continue their group stage win streak that dates back to 2006, – The last time Russia beat Sweden in the group stage was a 5 – 1 win on Boxing Day in 2006.

Coming into the fixture, both teams had 10 goals each in two games, but Sweden sat atop of Group B with six points over Russia’s five after they dropped a point after surviving a scare from Denmark, relying on a shootout to avoid an upset and take a 3 – 2 win.

Russia began the game as the stronger team as they weren’t getting many shots but were forcing the Swedes to play in their own zone a lot, drawing the first penalty of the game just three minutes in, but Sweden woke up in time to deal with the Russian man advantage.

After a Russian dominated five minutes went unrewarded for the team in red, Sweden took control with William Nylander and Lucas Wallmark really trying to put their stamp on the game but the best chance fell to Oskar Lindblom who’s up close shot was beautifully gloved by Russian goalie Ilya Sorokin.

Moments later, Sorokin was called on again, as Sweden continued to threat the Russian net, Adam Brodecki’s effort was met with the glove of Sorokin who looked on fine form after he sat out the Russians 7 – 0 win over Switzerland the day before.

With the pressure mounting, Russia took a penalty with Rushan Rafikov going to the box for hooking, allowing the dangerous Swedish powerplay to go to work.

It took a while but at 10:38 in the first, Sweden broke the deadlock.

Gustav Forsling fired his shot from the point, through a screen and into the back of the net after some neat passing by Sweden, and after Sorokin had held firm for the first 10 shots, it was the 11th that beat him and gave Sweden a 1 – 0 lead.

The game began to even out after the goal, but despite both teams’ best efforts the goaltenders held firm, with the best chance coming on a Russian two-on-one which was dealt with by Swedish goalie Linus Söderström who stopped all 9 shots he faced in the opening 20.

Tempers flared slightly with a lot of verbal exchanges as the teams headed to their dressing rooms and it continued into the second period as the tempo stepped up all over the ice.

Something must’ve been said in the Russia dressing room after the first, in the second they were taking no prisoners with the team making their physical presence known, especially after whistles.

The passion was evident in the first half of the second but the goal scoring opportunities were not with three shots each in the first 8 minutes of play, Russia however were beginning to threaten the Swedish cage.

After Russia killed a penalty they wasted no time getting back on the front foot, some great work by Ivan Barbashev to enter the zone, he dished the puck into the slot to Ziat Pagin who’s shot was stopped by Söderström but the Swedish goalie could do nothing about a wide open Vyacheslav Leshenko tucking in the rebound to make it a 1 – 1 game after a poor change by the Swedish forwards left a 5 on 3 in the zone.

With even more Russian pressure, Söderström stayed strong to keep it a 1 – 1 game when the horn sounded to end the second period, with Sweden lucky to not have fallen behind after a disappointing  period that left it all to play for in the final frame.

The physicality was highlighted early in the third; Russia’s Sergei Tolchinski sped down the wing only to be met by the rear end of Christoffer Ehn who delivered a crushing hip check on the young Russian.

Continuing on their second period dominance, Russia pressed on and was rewarded early.

A shot Pavel Buchnevich from was stopped by Söderström who then calmly followed the puck only for Vyacheslav Leshenko to jump on the rebound and rip a backhander into the back of the net making it 2 – 1.

After Leshenko grabbed his second, Gustav Forsling showed he could do the same.

With Sweden on the man advantage, the Swedes moved the puck around the zone before William Nylander set up Forsling with a beautiful one timer to tie the game at two.

Tempers flared once more, the Russians stormed down the ice before Ivan Barbashev fired a shot at Söderström who made a brilliant pad save, but the puck landed on his pad and rolled back, with the young goalie having to reach back to stop the puck crossing the line.

Russia thought they scored and some celebrated but the call on the ice was no-goal, which led to a few individual battles between players – with Sweden’s Anton Karlsson and Russia’s Rushan Rafikov being sent to the box – before the referees calmed things down and were able to confirm the puck had not crossed the line after a lengthy review, keeping the score at 2 – 2 with 12:54 remaining, much to the anger of Russian coach Valeri Bragin who felt his team had been robbed.

With 9:06 to go, Sweden made their way down the ice before some nice play and a good hold up in front by Oskar Lindblom gave him time to find an open Axel Holmstrom who had nothing but net to shoot at to give Sweden a 3 – 2 lead.

Down a goal you’d imagine Russia wouldn’t take stupid penalties, but after sneaking a sixth skater on the ice (accidentally of course) Russia were called for too many men, giving the dangerous Swedish powerplay another chance with less than five minutes to play.

Russia survived despite Gustav Forsling and his booming one timer searching for his hat trick, but they had two minutes less to tie the game and Sweden was on form after the man advantage.

The seconds ticked away and when Russia could finally pull Sorokin after being held in their own zone it was too little, too late, Sweden had come back to take a 3 – 2 victory which secured their place at the top of Group B.

Already through to the next round as Group winners, Sweden can relax when they face Switzerland tomorrow, but Russia will have to pull out a win over the Czech Republic to keep their hopes of a second place finish alive.

Oliver Hampson
Oliver is a 22-year old Student Journalist from Wales, United Kingdom. A hockey fan since before he's old enough to remember, his passion for playing took a turn for the worse following an injury in juniors and in his teenage years he focused his attention on sports writing rather than playing. Covering the EIHL and Champions Hockey League, Oliver brings an across the pond look at hockey.
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