Canada 4 - Sweden 1
CANADA NATIONAL JUNIOR TEAM ANSWERS SWEDISH CHALLENGE IN 4-1 EXHIBITION WIN
TORONTO – Having survived a stiff challenge from a fast and aggressive Swedish squad Tuesday, Canada's national junior team now has plenty to mull over.
Without a stellar 29-save performance from goaltender Olivier Roy, the Canadians would certainly not have emerged from their second exhibition contest in two nights with a 4-1 victory.
Their power play is in desperate need work after a dismal 1-for-8 showing, and they can't count on their physical play alone to wear down the opposition, as Sweden was game hit for hit, slash for slash, and punch for punch.
"I don't think anybody thought we were going to win every game 8-0," head coach Dave Cameron said gruffly, referencing Monday night's cakewalk over Switzerland. "There's a lot of good hockey teams here and Sweden is one of them, it's a real challenge to beat them and they pushed us and we found a way.
"It was a real good test. That's how you get better."
Brayden Schenn, Zack Kassian, Ryan Johansen and Cody Eakin scored to help send a patriotic and proud crowd at the Air Canada Centre home happy, but the Canadians were left knowing they still have plenty of work to do.
They have one more warmup game remaining – on Thursday against Finland in Kitchener, Ont. – before opening the world junior hockey championship in Buffalo, N.Y., on Boxing Day against Russia, and the win over Sweden may have provided as many questions as it did answers.
Cameron said he wasn't sure if Roy or Mark Visentin would get the call against the Finns. He also must find a way to coax more out of a power play that could only convert while up 5-on-3, and later squandered a second two-man advantage.
"I thought our power play was like our game – sluggish and sloppy," said Cameron.
Max Friberg scored midway through the third period for Sweden to make it a 2-1 game, but Johansen picked up a loose puck in front of the net and fired it home at 15:55 to settle things down. Eakin then put it away by scoring into an empty net with 46.1 seconds left.
The nervous finish came in stark contrast to Canada's dismantling of a soft Swiss squad in Oshawa, Ont.,asthe Canadians were put on their heels by the darting yellow jerseys of a Sweden team that didn't back down an inch.
"Obviously when we were playing Switzerland, it was little bit of a blowout but this game really put our team to the test and showed what kind of character we have," said Kassian. "We're only going to get better from here."
The Swedes arrived in Toronto missing 10 bags of equipment, and only practised Monday after Hockey Canada sent them on a shopping spree for some replacement gear. But they got their stuff about three hours before game time and found their legs immediately, using their speed to take away time and space from the Canadians.
Despite thundering hits early on from Schenn, Kassian and Marcus Foligno, it was Roy who kept Sweden from running away with it in the first with a series of big stops. It took 6:11 for Canada to register its first shot of the game.
Then, against the run of play, Schenn opened the scoring when he took a clever bank pass from a falling Quinton Howden and broke in on a 2-on-1, cut in front of the goal, and fired a shot past goaltender Robin Lehner's outstretched glove at 7:32.
"I think it was a killer for their team," said Roy.
Outshot 15-5 in the first, Canada came out stronger in the second and some undisciplined play from Sweden led to a string of penalties.
Kassian capitalized during a two-man advantage at 6:43, picking up a loose puck at the side of the net after Lehner stopped Johansen's point shot and slotting it home for a 2-0 edge.
Sweden took four straight penalties during the period, and five of six during the frame.
"We have put this team together to have the best chance to beat (Canada) on a small rink," said Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg. "My guys, they were competing well but we have to learn the lesson to compete under pressure and not go over the edge and drawing those penalties."
Canadian captain Ryan Ellis later saved a goal by diving into the net to prevent Patrick Cehlin from depositing puck into the empty side. Ellis hit the post during a two-man advantage in the third and shortly after the Swedes managed to kill that off, Friberg picked up a loose puck, charged up the right wing and fired a wrist shot over Roy's shoulder at 9:17.
The Canadians had some nervous moments until Johansen pounced on a loose puck in front – helped by a Swedish defenceman's stick breaking – and fired a shot off backup goalie Fredrik Petterson Wentzel that just trickled in.
Eakin made it 4-1 at 19:13 when he fired a loose puck into the empty net from centre ice.
"We knew Sweden was a great team," said Roy. "They are probably one of the favourites in the tournament.They got good defence, good goalies and they're quick in front. I was expecting pretty much what happened."
Notes: The Swedes came in with an average height of nearly six-foot-one, and weight of 189 pounds, more than two inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter than the Canadians. ... Mark Visentin faced 20 shots in the shutout win over Switzerland. It's unclear who will start for Canada on Thursday. ... One of the best hits of the night came during a Swedish power play in the second, when Sweden teammates Jesper Fast and Calle Jarnkrok slammed into one another, allowing Canada to clear the puck. ... Swedish defenceman Tim Erixon threw his stick down in frustration during the middle frame when it was broken by a Canadian slash. No penalty was called.
|Arena||Air Canada Centre||City, Country||Toronto, Ont.|
|Month / Day / Year||12/21/2010||Time||07:30 PM ET|
07:32 CAN 10 Brayden Schenn (12 Quinton Howden, 8 Jaden Schwartz)
06:43 CAN 9 Zack Kassian (19 Ryan Johansen, 8 Jaden Schwartz) PP
09:17 SWE 14 Max Friberg (25 Jonas Brodin, 13 Johan Sundström)
15:55 CAN 19 Ryan Johansen (12 Quinton Howden)
19:14 CAN 21 Cody Eakin (17 Marcus Foligno) EN
|Shots on Goal||1||2||3||Total|