Joakim Nordstrom knew it was going to be a close call.
Nordstrom scored at 2:44 of overtime to lead Sweden to a wild 4-3 win over Russia in the final preliminary-round game of the world junior hockey championship Saturday.
“Max Friberg passes the puck up to (Patrik) Nemeth on the blue-line and he fires the shot and he almost hit me in the face,” said Nordstrom when asked to describe his game-winning goal. “I just let it hit my stick instead of my face and it went under the crossbar and in.”
After a short review, the goal was upheld to secure Sweden (4-0) first place in Pool A and a bye into the semifinals.
“I was just waiting for the call,” said Nordstrom, who breathed a sigh of relief when the referee signalled a good goal. “That puck took us straight to the semifinal now.”
Trailing 3-0 after two periods, Sweden rallied on goals by Oscar Klefbom, Rickard Rakell and Max Friberg to send the game into the extra time.
“I think the two last periods we played good hockey in a hard situation in a hard game against a really good team, Russia,” said Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg. “I’m impressed with the character of the team.”
Ignat Zemchenko, Yaroslav Kosov and Ivan Telegin scored for Russia (3-1), which will now face off against the Czech Republic (2-2) in quarter-final action in Calgary on Monday.
“This loss means we have to go a more difficult road to the medal round,” said Russian coach Valeri Bragin through an interpreter.
“It’s difficult to say right now how we;re going to win. (The Czechs) have a really good goalie. They play an aggressive style. This year the Czech team is not looking like it was last year or years before. It’s a good opponent.”
Finland will play Slovakia in the other quarter-final.
In other action, Canada edged the United States 3-2, Slovakia rallied to beat Switzerland 6-4, and Finland shut out the Czechs 4-0.
At Calgary, Johan Gustafsson made 23 saves in the Swedish net to record the win. Vasilevski stopped 51-of-54 shots in the Russian net.
Vasilevski recorded shutouts in the two previous games he played in the preliminary round. The 17-year-old netminder stopped 40 shots in a 4-0 win over Switzerland on Boxing Day followed by 30 saves in a 14-0 whitewash of Latvia three nights later.
“I think he’s one of the best goalies in this tournament,” Russian captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov said through an interpreter. “He made a lot of saves.”
Zemchenko scored at 2:09 of the first period to give Russia an early 1-0 lead. Nail Yakupov did a great job to keep the puck in at the blue-line before skating towards the Swedish net and backhanding a perfect pass to Zemchenko, who one-timed the puck past Gustafsson.
Just seven seconds later Kosov put Russia up 2-0 when he skated down the left wing and wired a wrist shot past Gustafsson.
Russia had several chances to build on its lead, but Gustafsson made a nice glove save to thwart a scoring attempt by Yakupov before the Swedish netminder also stopped a pair of shots off the stick of Nikita Gusev with his right pad.
Sweden appeared to pull within a goal at 6:20 of the first period when Petter Granberg stuck out his right leg to re-direct a pass from Rickard Rakell past Vasilevski. After a short video review, the goal was disallowed.
Russia then took a three-goal lead when Telegin scored on a short-handed breakaway.
Telegin intercepted the puck at Sweden’s blue-line from defenceman John Klingberg and skated the length of the ice before snapping a shot through Gustafsson’s legs and into the net.
Sweden outshot Russia 17-8 in the second but couldn’t find a way to score. Vasilevski kept his shutout bid alive with a nice pad save on a shot by Sweden’s William Karlsson in the dying seconds of the second period.
Klefbom finally managed to solve Vasilevski when his booming point shot through traffic found its way into the top corner at 4:17 of the third. Up to that point, Vasilevski had stopped all 103 shots he had faced in the tournament.
Sweden then pulled to within one on a strange goal by Rakell at 12:19 of the third. Vasilevski made the initial save on Rakell’s shot, but the puck ended up behind him after taking a strange bounce off of Russian defenceman Zakhar Arzamastsev.
Late in the game, Gustafsson made a great pad save to stop a short-handed breakaway by Russia’s Yevgeni Kuznetsov.
“It was a good feeling when I heard the whistle and I saw the puck underneath me,” Gustafsson said.
With 1:42 left in the game, Swedish coach Richard Ronnberg replaced Gustafsson in net with Anton Forsberg only to summon him to the bench for an extra attacker just seconds later.
The move paid off as Friberg tipped a Jonas Brodin point shot past Vasilevski to force overtime and set up Nordstrom’s heroics.
Slovakia 6 Switzerland 4
At Calgary, Matus Chovan had a hat trick as Slovakia scored four unanswered goals to stun Switzerland 6-4 and move into the quarter-finals.
Chovan, Tomas Matousek, Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat each scored in a five-minute span to rally Slovakia back from a 4-2 deficit in the third period. The victory means Slovakia (2-2) will face Finland in the quarter-final today, while the Swiss (1-3) drop into the relegation round.
Chovan’s big game came after he had failed to collect a single point in the team’s first three games. He capped the comeback with the game winner at 8:15 in the third on a backhander from close range.
Joel Vermin had two goals for Switzerland, while Sven Andrighetto and Tanner Richard added singles. Juraj Simboch made 24 saves for Slovakia, while Lukas Meili allowed five goals on 28 shots for the Swiss before being replaced by Tim Wolf, who gave up one goal on three shots.
Finland 4 Czech Republic 0
At Edmonton, Sami Aittokallio made 36 saves as Finland moved into the quarter-finals with a victory over the Czech Republic.
Teemu Pulkkinen, Joonas Donskoi, Alexander Ruuttu and Miro Aaltonen scored for the Finns (3-1), who play Slovakia in the quarters.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek stopped 24 shots for the Czechs (2-2), one day after his spectacular 52-save performance in a win over the United States.
The Czechs had already secured a berth in the quarters, and will play Russia today.