REGINA - Sweden versus Russia, the game between the two top-seeded teams in Group B, was probably the most anticipated game slated for the Brandt Centre. And the Tuesday tilt lived up to its promise. Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson added the winner plus two assists and Andre Petersson had two goals as Sweden won 4-1.
Sweden – Russia (2-0, 1-1, 1-0)
The favoured Tre Kronor squad lived up to expectations, and tried to control the game from the very beginning.
However, the Russians were not badly outshot, as they were the night before in their rather lucky victory over Finland. The Sweden-Russia game had everything a great hockey game should have. Super individual efforts, a good defence, many shots (45-37 in favour of Sweden) and a certain amount of intensity between the players. The fans at Brandt Centre got their money's worth.
“We beat Russia and I scored two goals, so I’m pretty happy,” Petersson said. “It was a game with two individually strong teams and everybody wants to score. But we played better as a team."
Russia goalie Igor Bobkov, the hero of the 2-0 win versus Finland the night before, was forced to make his first save 30 seconds into the game. Three minutes later, Sweden's efforts were rewarded with Petersson’s 1-0 goal at 3:32.
The Russians managed to get out of their own end more often after Petersson’s wake-up call, and fired a couple of shots at Sweden netminder Jacob Markström while the teams were playing 4-on-4. But they couldn’t capitalize on their chances.
When a short power play sequence of 15 seconds started for the Russians, things got even worse even worse. Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson raced off on a shorthanded breakaway and beat Bobkov for the eventual winner at 7:24. He would finish with three points on the night.
No more goals were scored for a while, despite big opportunities on both sides. But midway through the game, Kirill Petrov got Russia on the board. He skated past the Swedish defence and fired the puck past Markström.
Sweden reacted, slapping down Russia's hopes. Petersson scored his second goal of the night at 18:03 with a shot from about seven metres out, which flew past two defencemen and Bobkov.
The third period didn’t begin in a promising fashion for Russia. Yevgeni Kuznetsov had to leave the rink with an injury after five minutes of play. Off the faceoff, Daniel Brodin shot the puck into the net on Bobkov’s glove side to make it 4-1.
With under eight minutes left, Anton Rodin nearly added another one when he hit the post and the puck stopped under Bobkov. But the final score of 4-1 was high enough for the Swedes.
Sweden stays in first place, and needs just one point on Thursday against Finland to qualify directly for the semi-finals. Russia faces the Czech Republic the same day.
With convincing performances in its first three games, Sweden looks poised for another medal performance. The last two years, they ended up with the silver behind Canada.
“Of course we want to be the best European team again, and it has worked out so far,” Petersson said. “And of course gold is our goal. We’re watching Canada. They're playing pretty well, but they haven’t played against good teams up to this point.”
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)