SPISSKA NOVA VES, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 18: USA's Dylan St. Cyr #1 makes the save against Sweden's Fabian Zetterland #26 while Tyler Inamoto #13 defends and Logan Cockerill #9 along with David Gustaffson #13 look on during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
With loss, Swedes’ placement depends on CZE-RUS
Team USA claimed first place in Group B with a 5-1 win over Sweden in the last group stage game for both teams. Sweden will finish either third or fourth.
The game was not as one-sided as the score indicated, however.
“I don’t think it was really like a 5-1 game, but we missed on our opportunities and they scored on theirs,” said defenceman Filip Westerlund, the only Swedish player to beat U.S. goalie Dylan St. Cyr, despite a 36-29 shots advantage. “Our forwards need to get more desperate in front of the net, and our defencemen need to get more pucks to that area.”
Needing only a single point to secure top spot, the Americans took a stranglehold on the game by taking a 2-0 first period lead. They then traded goals in the second period, despite being outshot 21-6, with St. Cyr making 20 saves.
“Getting the top seed in a very tough pool is special for us,” St. Cyr said after the game. “We know we’re getting better every game, so we just have to keep moving forward, but it’s a big confidence boost for us.”
“You have to capitalize on your chances and we didn’t do that tonight,” said Swedish head coach Torgny Bendelin. “Despite having more shots and more chances, I still think they controlled the game pretty well.”
Sean Dhooghe opened the scoring at the 8:40 mark, putting in a rebound after Adam Ahman had stopped Michael Pastujov’s initial shot. They made it 2-0 in the last minute of the period when Oliver Wahlstrom got his own rebound below the goal line and banked a shot in off Ahman.
“I saw bodies in front and I just tried throwing it into that area there, because I knew the goalie was away from the post,” the 16-year-old Wahlstrom described. “I knew my linemates were going to the net, so I was just trying to put it into that area and it went in.”
When Joel Farabee made it 3-0 on a penalty shot early in the second period, it looked like the Americans were home and cool, but the Swedes didn’t give up.
Knowing they needed a regulation win to get top spot in the group, the Sweden came out with everything they had in the middle 20, peppering St. Cyr with shots.
“I think we came out better in the second period,” Bendelin felt. “But as I said, you have to score on your chances.”
“Those are kinda fun,” St. Cyr said of busy stretches of play. “You keep busy and stay active the whole time. Not much thinking or sitting around, just focusing on every shot - that’s the key part for me.”
The U.S. goalie didn’t get beaten until the last minute of the middle period. On the power play, Westerlund got the puck in the corner, cut out in front, and beat St. Cyr with a low backhander to give his team some hope heading into the final period.
“I got a pass from [Lukas] Elvenes, tried to protect the puck, turned and the D was gone, so I took the opportunity,” Westerlund described. “I think it gave us more confidence going into the third period, but we didn’t really get anything going after that.”
The Americans played a lot stronger defensively in the final period, however. And when Ryan Poehling one-timed Dhooghe’s centring pass home with 9:15 on the clock to restore their three-goal lead, they were able to breathe a bit of a sigh of relief.
“Yeah, I got on the scoresheet but it was mainly a good play by Sean,” Poehling said after his third goal of the tournament, which ties him for the team lead.
Wahlstrom's second of the game with 1:55 left made it a 5-1 final.
“We’ve still got another gear, maybe two gears,” Wahlstrom figures. “We’re still taking too many penalties, but the next game will be better.”
With six points, Sweden can finish either third or fourth in Group B, depending on the outcome of the nightcap in Spisska Nova Ves involving Russia and the Czech Republic.