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2023 World Juniors: Canada vs. Sweden recap — Matching history

Canada wrapped up second place in Group A, and Connor Bedard hit another national milestone.

Canada v Finland: Gold Medal Game - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Andy Devlin/ Getty Images

A win from Czechia in the second game played on New Year’s Eve guaranteed that that nation would finish above Team Canada in the Group A standings, so that incentive wasn’t on the line for the Canadians in their final group-stage match. However, the could prevent Sweden from going undefeated in the round-robin, and claim second place for themselves the best seeding left available for the quarter-finals.

Despite not having the ultimate prize from the preliminary round as motivation, it was clear that a chance to finish second was enough to get Canada amped up to start versus Team Sweden. Just fifty-seven seconds in, Canada had the opening goal, coming off the stick of Joshua Roy. The goal was set up by Connor Bedard, the 15th point of his tournament.

Canada got a chance to work on the power play when (the other) Elias Pettersson was called for roughing moments later. It took 20 second for Brennan Othmann to find the net, with assists coming from his original linemates to open the tournament: Shane Wright and Bedard.

The Swedes were trying to get some zone time of their own, but any of their attempts at a goal went awry. It wasn’t until 9:37 of the first period that their first shot on goal was registered.

Meanwhile, Canada’s prolific trio went back to work on offence. In a head-spinning display of puck movement, Roy picked up the puck along the boards, dropped it back to Bedard who was monitoring how the situation was unfolding in the zone and quickly fired it across the zone to Logan Stankoven. Stankoven touched the puck to the middle, and onrushing defenceman Tyson Hinds finished off the play to make it 3-0. Despite Roy touching the puck about two seconds before it went in the net, he hadn’t been one of the last three players to it to earn a point on the goal.

Canada’s dominance was brought to a halt when Zach Ostapchuk was too exuberant on a forecheck and ended up kneeing a Swedish player at the offensive goal line, getting assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct. On the power play, defenceman Ludvig Jansson scored his third goal of the tournament, walking to the middle of the ice with plenty of space and whipping the puck behind Canadian goaltender Thomas Milic.

The second period began with a power play for Canada, but it generated only one shot on net as the Swedes had tightened up defensively. Special teams and the Swedes settling into the game highlighted the middle frame. The Canadians weren’t getting the great chances they enjoyed in the first period, and all the penalties prevented either team from holding momentum for extended periods.

Canada’s aggressive attempts to break through Sweden structure, with defenceman Olen Zellweger the most guilty party, was allowing the Swedes to launch some counter-attacks, and that forced Milic to come up with some big saves. None was bigger than a stop on a three-on-two with five minutes to go in the frame that he made by sliding across the ice with his leg raised off the ice to make a toe save.

The final five minutes brought a tough test for the host team as two quick penalties put them in a three-on-five situation. The penalty-killers managed to get the job done, and Nathan Gaucher even nearly had a goal while two men down, knocking down a pass from goaltender Carl Lindbom but being unable to corral the puck and deposit it in the vacated cage.

Needing a big final period, Sweden was immediate struck by misfortune when Adam Engström crashed into the boards after getting his feet tangled up, releasing all the pressure on a Canadian cycle along the boards. Canada enjoyed an extended stint of zone time working the puck around, and it ended with Othmann’s second goal of the night.

Canada took control of the game following that quick tally, not allowing Sweden to get hold of the puck. The shots piled up for the hosts as their opponent just tried to survive the barrage.

During one of the few offensive-zone presences for Sweden, Canada saw a tough injury for Colton Dach. He went hard into his check along the boards, and immediately crumpled to the ice, screaming in pain as he crawled to the bench, and was helped to the dressing room. It seems that the forward’s tournament may have come to an end before he had a chance to play in an elimination game, but we will have to wait for official word on his status.

On Canada’s 40th shot of the game (versus Sweden’s 19), they found a back-breaking goal off the stick of Kevin Korchinski, who walked low along the boards and beat Lindbom as the goaltender seemed to be leaning toward a pass. Bedard picked up a point by sending Korchinski the puck, his fourth of the game, 18th of the tournament, and 31st all-time World Juniors points to tie Eric Lindros.

With no chance of coming back from the four-goal deficit, Sweden accepted defeat for the first time in the tournament, and the final minutes ticked off the clock in a 5-1 win for Canada.