The final game of the preliminary round at this year's World Juniors didn't mean a hill of beans to either Canada or Sweden, with both countries already heading to the medal round. But today's game was an intense one in which Islanders goaltending prospect Linus Söderström led the Swedes to a 5-2 win and a date with Slovakia in the quarterfinals.
Söderström and Sweden lost to Slovakia in last year's bronze medal, so they'll be looking for some revenge which, like Swedish smoked salmon, is best served cold.
Our sister blog Eyes on the Prize has a full recap of what was a physical game featuring more than a few penalties. One was taken by Anthony Beauvillier, another Islanders prospect, and led to Sweden taking a 2-0 lead in the first period. Neither Beauvillier not Mathew Barzal figured in the scoring for Canada, which got goals from Mitch Marner and Mitchell Stevens.
Söderström made 22 saves (I think. The box score doesn't exactly say) for Sweden, which outshot Canada 32-24. The victory was his third of the tournament, including a 1-0 shutout over Team USA last week. Back-up Felix Sandstrom relieved Söderström today with about four minutes left.
The teams get New Year's Day off before returning to action on Saturday for the quarters. Sweden-Slovakia will be played in the afternoon, Helsinki time (7 am New York time), with Canada-Finland and USA-Czech Republic happening that evening. Winners will move on to the semifinals, to be played on Monday.