Russia beats Sweden to advance to WJC finals

By Simon Richard

For the third year in a row and the sixth time in nine years, it will be a Canada-Russia final at the World Junior Championships.

Team Russia won 4-2 over Sweden in the second semi-final of the day in Leksand, Sweden. Sweden took the lead in the first and had a few great scoring chances later in the period, but could not convert these opportunities, hitting three goal posts.

Overall, the Russians dominated the game and deserved the victory. The key players for Sweden, Niklas Backstrom (WAS) and Niclas Bergfors (NJ), especially the latter, didn’t lead their team in the tournament as it was expected.

To the satisfaction of the enthusiastic Swedish fans in the crowd, Jonas Junland (STL) opened the score for Sweden at 9:00 of the first period when he deflected a blast by Backstrom.

Backstrom was close to give a 2-0 lead in the 12th minute with his team shorthanded, hitting the post on a breakaway.

At 16:49, Andrei Zubarev (ATL) sent Igor Makarov (CHI) on a breakaway. The latter beat Jhonas Enroth (BUF) to tie the game 1-1.

Two minutes later, the young phenom Alexei Cherepanov (2007) gave the lead 2-1 to Russia on a power play. He fought hard to get the puck in a brawl in front of the net and reached the top of the net. Alexander Bumagin (EDM) and Vyacheslav Buravchikov (BUF) assisted on the play.

Russia took a 3-1 lead at 4:16 of the second period. Enroth tried to clear the puck of behind the net, Makarov stopped the puck along the boards and set up teammate Artem Anisimov (NYR) who drove to the net and put the puck behind Enroth.

The Swedish goaltender truly looked shaken after that goal. That was enough for Sweden coach Torgny Bendelin, who sent out Joel Gistedt between the pipes instead. The latter made a few key saves in the following minutes that helped to keep his team in the game.

Overall, Team Russia largely led the second period, with shots 10-2 in their favor.

The Russians didn’t lose much time increasing their lead to 4-1 at the beginning of the third period. Alexander Vasyunov (NJ) scored on a power play with a wrist shot, assisted by Makarov, who earned his third point on the play.

Niklas Hjalmarsson (CHI) scored on a Sweden power play at 10:54 of the third period to make the score 4-2, assisted by Backstrom.

The drum rolled hard in the stands for Sweden which indeed got a great support from their fans. But at the end, it couldn’t help the team, who will play for the bronze medal on Friday.

After the game, goaltender Semen Varlamov (WAS) said that it was a dream to face Canada again in the finals. “I hope that we will have our revenge,” he commented.

“I am pleased with the result tonight but we are just halfway done,’’ observed Ilya Zubov (OTT), referring to the next game against Canada.

“We didn’t start very well in the first period after a two days without playing but then we did regroup and played very well,’’ stated the Russian coach Evgeni Popikhin. Asked if he was surprised by his team’s performance in the tournament, Popikhin said he wasn’t.

“The players are working very hard, we will now meet the best team of the tournament and try to beat them.”

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.