(BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

(BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Sweden hangs on to top Russia to open 2022 World Juniors in Red Deer

Sweden 6 Russia 3

Russia made it interesting, as they always do.

In the opening game of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Red Deer, there was no lack of drama in a front of solid and engaged Peavey Mart Centrium crowd.

Through 40 minutes, Sweden was in the driver’s seat up 4-1 and ready to cruise to a Game 1 victory.

But again, Russia.

When they seemed down and out, like they did in their lone pre-tournament game against Canada, potential 2023 first overall NHL Draft pick Matvei Michkov showed why he may well earn that honour in a few years’ time. He made a deke that only a few players in the tournament could make off the rush, before crashing into the net along with the puck. The goal wasn’t called on the ice, but after a review was called a good goal.

Less than a minute later, the 17-year-old was at it again, with another next-level goal. He flipped a backhand from behind the net, and banked it in off the Jesper Wallstedt, to get Russia within one.

Sweden righted the ship after that tally, Theodor Niederbach ripped a shot past off the rush past Yegor Guskov, who replaced starter Yaroslav Askrov in the third period. Daniel Ljungman added an empty-net goal with 50 seconds left to close out the 6-4 victory.

“I think we played well. We had a good mindset and played the game well. Most of the game was upside down, every hockey game is like that. We’re strong on defence and strong playing in front too, I think we did a really good job,” said Sweden defenceman Simon Edvinsson, a Detroit Red Wings first round pick.

Jesper Wallstedt, the 20th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft outduelled Askarov, the 11th overall pick in the draft one year prior. Wallstedt finished the night with 27 saves, while Askarov, the Nashville Predators prospect was pulled at the end of the second period, after allowing three goals on 16 shots.

The Swedish special teams were also a difference-maker, converting twice on a pair of two-man advantages and adding a shorthanded marker for good measure.

We got off to a good start with the first one, pretty quick. We made some hard plays in the second period on the power play. We tried to force pucks through and we talked about moving the puck on the outside, taking what we get,” said Sweden head coach Tomas Moten.

“We got a little bit too sloppy with the puck but a lot of the time we played pretty well.”

The start of the night belonged to Sweden, as just 10 seconds into a tripping minor early in the first, Oskar Olausson made good on the man advantage. The winger wired a wrist shot past Askarov to open the scoring.

William Eklund almost made it 2-o early on a partial breakaway later in the period but the Russian defender swept the puck off the goal line just in time to prevent a goal.

Sweden kept rolling from there when Edvinsson took advantage of a Russian mishap while the Swedes were short-handed early in the second. He chipped a puck past a pinching defender and beat Askarov glove side on a breakaway to open up a 2-0 lead.

It went from bad to worse midway through the second after Russian captain, Marat Khusnutdinov took a penalty while down a man and Sweden grabbed a 3-0 lead. Swedish captain Emil Andrae ripped a wrister from the point through a crowd on the 5-on-3.

Russia managed to capture a little momentum late in the second when Fyodor Svechkov punched in a rebound.

Only, that momentum was short-lived after the Russians went two men early in the third. This time, New Jersey Devils first rounder Alexander Holtz made them pay, blasting a one-timer five-hole on Yegor Guskov.



byron.hackett@reddeeradvocate.com

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