Sweden avoided a devastating loss to Team Finland to secure a bronze medal at the 2020 World Junior Championship.
Expectations were set high after yet another undefeated preliminary round by the Swedes. Although they didn’t get an opportunity to win their first gold medal since 2012, the fact that they were still able to medal is enormous for Sweden hockey after missing the podium in 2019.
Things started shaky for the Swedes, with Hugo Alnefelt letting in a weak goal by Carolina Hurricanes prospect Patrick Puistola, as the Fins leading point-getter opened the scoring of the bronze-medal matchup.
Both teams were able to get on the scoreboard early though, as Sweden’s powerplay connected with a laser from the point by Rasmus Sandin beating Justus Annunen to tie the game up at one apiece.
Finland regained the lead off a terrible turnover by Nils Hoglander that sent Arizona Coyotes prospect Matias Maccelli on a clear breakaway against Alnefelt. Many Swedish fans were worried that what was to follow would be a flustered team heading into the second period that mirrored the same result that lost to the Russians in the semi-final.
The goal by Finland to take the lead very easily could have been the turning point of the game. However, the Swedes were able to remain calm, and big guns came in clutch to secure the climb-back win.
It started with Samuel Fagemo and Nils Hoglander teaming up to bring the game back to even. The Swede’s top two offensive players needed to be contributors in this game, and they did precisely that by connecting for the tying goal halfway through the second period.
Then it was time for an unsung hero to emerge. For Sweden, it was Linus Oberg, who scored on what was just his second point of the tournament. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the undrafted 19-year-old, as his late second-period goal would stand as the game-winner that won Sweden its 7th World Junior Bronze medal in the nation’s history at the tournament.
It truly was a roller coaster of a tournament for Team Sweden. From emerging as the favourites to reach the finals from Group A after recording their historic 52nd straight win in the preliminary rounds — to being faced with a heartbreaking overtime loss in the semi-finals to Team Russia and having to bounce right back and perform against the defending 2019 gold medalist in order to avoid another devastating fourth-place finish.
This Team Sweden had it all at the 2020 World Juniors, from two of the most potent offensive threats in Fagemo and Hoglander, along with two of the most highly touted 2020 NHL Draft prospects in Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. Of course, we can’t forget about the bolstered defense group that rostered five former first-round picks, including the Tournament Directorate’s awards best defencemen — Rasmus Sandin.
While this was a group that had its sights set much higher than a bronze medal, they should be proud of how they finished the tournament and the push they made to be one of the most dominant teams at the World Juniors. The Swedes have a strong group of returning players and will have the opportunity to fight for gold at the 2021 World Junior Championship.
Thanks for following my World Junior coverage of Team Sweden on 12 oz Sports!
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Photo Credit – Edmonton Oilers (Twitter)