Sweden 2 - Unted States 3
USA EDGES SWEDEN IN PRE-TOURNAMENT ACTION
By Lucas Aykroyd
Phil Kessel has been dubbed America’s answer to Sidney Crosby, and he didn’t disappoint in the USA’s 3-2 exhibition victory over Sweden on December 21. The University of Minnesota center scored the winning goal on the power play with 7:06 remaining in the third period.
Kessel electrified the crowd of 2,826 at Victoria’s Bear Mountain Arena as he picked up the puck from Bobby Ryan, went one-on-one with a Swedish defender, and zinged home a shot from the faceoff circle to goalie Daniel Larsson’s left.
“I don’t know if the goalie ever saw it,” said Ryan. “It was an NHL-caliber goal.”
In the first period, Rob Schremp set up Kevin Porter’s opening goal for the Americans and scored the second one unassisted.
“I thought we started off a little slow,” said Schremp. “Even though we were up 2-0, we were making a lot of mistakes. But the progress we made tonight overall was great.”
“Those were very cheap goals,” said Swedish Head Coach Torgny Bendelin. “On the other hand, I was happy with how our team came back.”
Replying for Sweden were Jonathan Granstrom and Peter Ullmann.
It was an entertaining, high-tempo game, and both teams showed good skill with the puck as well as throwing some big hits. Nate Gerbe and Erik Johnson demonstrated a physical presence for the USA, while Freddie Petterson of the Calgary Hitmen and Nicklas Backstrom, expected to go high in the 2006 NHL Draft, countered in that department for the Swedes.
Final shots favoured Sweden 34-27. Magnus Akerlund played the first half of the game in goal for Sweden before ceding place to Larsson. Cory Schneider started for the USA, and Jeff Frazee was inserted in the third period.
“It is nice to get a win, but that’s not really the objective of a game like this,” said USA Head Coach Walt Kyle. “We have a very short training camp and we have to try to build our team and get better and better with each game, each period we play. I thought for the most part we did that tonight.”
Both teams had difficulty capitalizing on the power play, with Sweden 0-for-7 and the USA 1-for-6. But as both coaches emphasized, tonight was a night for experimentation and developing team chemistry.
“I cannot play the power play in the tournament with four lines like we did today,” said Bendelin. “Maybe two and a half lines will be involved ultimately.”
“Early in the game, we had Bobby Ryan walk in off the goal line all alone with the goaltender,” said Kyle. “We had T.J. Oshie walk off the half-wall. We had Jack Johnson on a one-timer from the hole. We had some chances to score. If we keep getting that many chances on the power play, we’ll score some goals.”
Akerlund had to accept his share of responsibility for the first two USA goals. He only got a piece of Porter’s shot from the left side and it trickled into the net at 1:54 of the opening stanza. Less than five minutes later, Akerlund came out to play the puck with Schremp bursting into the clear, but handed it away to the London Knights ace, who put it into the yawning cage when the Swedish netminder sprawled in desperation.
At 7:10 of the second period, Granstrom put Sweden on the comeback trail when he got in tight and jammed home his own rebound through Schneider’s legs. Ullmann’s tying goal tipped past Frazee just 1:16 into the third period.
The USA’s second and final exhibition game is versus Norway on December 22 in Powell River, while Sweden takes on Norway on December 23 in Victoria.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications