NIAGARA – Last year’s bronze-medal winner Sweden had a smooth start into the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship. They won the opening game at Dwyer Arena 7-1 against newly-promoted Norway.
It might have been the dream of any player from Norway to put an exclamation mark in the first game, and of all opponents against their Swedish neighbours.
The dream, however, was shattered only after a few minutes of play as Sweden clearly had the better start and showed more skill in this all-Scandinavian clash.
The yellow-blue team dominated the beginning of the uneven match-up in any aspect. And being three centimetres taller and four kilos heavier on average, the players of last year’s bronze-medal winner made use of their physical strength with several board-banging hits.
“We really thought about how we could beat Sweden, but we made too many mistakes and we allowed them to score goals too easily at the beginning, which broke us down,” said Norway captain Andreas Stene.
Sweden opened the scoring already with its first shot 57 seconds into the game through John Klingberg.
At 5:29 the “Juniorkronor” doubled the score when Oscar Lindberg cracked the opposing defence that showed little resistance. One minute later the Swedes seemed to score the third goal, but the referees showed no goal following the video review.
On the other side, the Norwegians had the first power play of the game, but they didn’t make use of this opportunity. A 2-0 lead and 14-3 in shots on goal were the clear facts of the first period.
A shot from the blueline from Anton Lander came back from the end boards and Patrick Cehlin scored at 4:09 to make it 3-0.
After being stopped on a breakaway coming from the penalty box, Cehlin had the chance to score his second goal of the period with a penalty shot at 17:41, but his attempt to circle the puck around Norwegian netminder Lars Volden ended on Volden’s pads.
Cehlin redeemed himself with 16.9 seconds left in the period when the 19-year-old Djurgården forward finished off a nice passing play.
“We had a very good game, even if some of us were nervous in the beginning,” Cehlin said. “I’m really happy about today’s game, even if the penalty shot didn’t go in.”
Sweden made it even more lopsided in the last stanza. Tim Erixon scored 49 seconds into the third period, Gabriel Landeskog made it 6:0 at 2:01.
Eirik Børresen made the crowd of some 1,500 fans in the half-full Dwyer Arena explode when he scored Norway’s consolation goal with eight minutes left, but Carl Klingberg restored the six-goal lead for the final score of 7-1 with 2:44 left.
After the rough start, Norway will face the Czech Republic tomorrow, which played in the relegation round last year. “Our goal is to stay in the top division, so it will certainly be an important game for us,” Stene said.”
Sweden will play Russia in two days in what is expected to become the most spectacular game at this venue.
“We want to win the gold and we have to fight hard for it. We know we will have a tougher challenge in two days against Russia and we have to play as well as possible,” Cehlin said.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)