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World Juniors 2015 recap: Russia takes advantage of Sweden's shaky goaltending to advance to gold medal game

Sweden won the round robin game 3-2 over the Russians, and were favoured to come out on top in the first semi-final of the day.

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Down to the final four, Sweden and Russia played a rematch of their earlier round robin game, this time with a berth in the gold medal game of the 2015 World Junior Championship on the line.

The first period was a display of defensive positioning and both teams were mindful of their neutral zone coverage to not allow the opposing offence to attack with speed. The focus on defence allowed just nine shots to find their way through to either net, with Russia having a slight five-to-four edge in that stat. Sweden forced most of those shots to be launched from perimeter areas.

That turned out not te be a bad strategy for the Russians. as Linus Soderstrom looked to be battling either nerves or possibly fatigue after playing all five previous games in the opening frame. He failed to control several fairly easy shots, giving up a few rebound chances, one of which led to a Swedish defender having to hook his check behind the net to give Russia an early (but unsuccessful) powerplay. Soderstrom had heard a shot ring off one of his goalposts earlier, and had a last-minute shot by Anatoli Golyshev go just wide of his net.

Sweden was granted an opportunity to put their absurdly-effective powerplay—operating at 50% coming into the game—to work on a dangerous hit from behind by Maxim Mamin on William Lagesson. Mamin avoided what could have been easily been a five-minute major with just a minor penalty and ten-minute misconduct for the hit. Sweden was unable to score on its man advantage, however, and the game remained scoreless after one.

Russia avoided another long penalty kill when a high stick by Sergei Tolchinski that cut a Swedish defender went undetected early in the second. A possible nine minutes worth of infractions (if you include the previous boarding call) was called for just two against the Russians. Moments afterward, a slick passing sequence on a Russian breakout ultimately led to Alexander Sharov rushing down the wing in the Swedish zone and firing a shot over Soderstrom's glove for a one-to-nothing lead just past the midway point of the game.

While on the powerplay about ninety seconds later, Ziat Paigan slapped a shot by Soderstrom from the point to increase the lead to two.

A net rush later in the period by Alexander Dergachyov knocked Soderstrom back with the puck going in off the Russian player's foot, but the goal was disallowed. With the poor quality of Soderstrom's goaltending, taking the goalie out of the game was probably not the intent.

Russia has been known to sit back on on leads late in games and hope the other team is unable to score enough goals to tie the game. That wouldn't be the case in this game as a forecheck in the offensive zone forced a Swedish defender into a turnover, which Sharov settled down in the slot and scored his second goal of the game to give the Russians a three-goal advantage.

At 11:30, Sweden finally got on the board with a goal from Lucas Wallmark, but Maxim Mamin responded just over a minute later with the final goal of the game to secure a 4-1 win and advance Russia to the final.

Sweden will take in the loser of tonight's other semi-final between Canada and Slovakia in the bronze medal game late Monday afternoon, while Russia will do battle with the victor for gold tomorrow night.