The United States’ hopes of repeating as World Junior champions have been dashed, as the Americans were bested 4-2 by Sweden in the semifinals Thursday afternoon. A three-goal third period by Sweden, including two shorthanded goals in 38 seconds, sealed the victory.
Brady Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows scored Team USA’s only goals in garbage time in the last eight minutes of the team’s semifinal defeat.
While the United States outshot Sweden, 31-20, netminder Filip Gustavsson was the difference maker for the Swedes as opportunities came fast and furious within the final minutes of the game.
Adding insult to injury, Edmonton Oilers prospect Kailer Yamamoto was injured in the waning moments of the contest.
Kailer Yamamoto helped off the ice after being chopped in the back of the leg pic.twitter.com/O5xHqIRMfK— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 4, 2018
The United States came out sharp in the first period, as they outshot Sweden 8-5 in a scoreless first frame. However, the biggest moment early on came from Joseph Woll on a Swedish power play. Alexander Nylander’s shot seemed destined for the back of the net, but Woll slid across and closed the pads before the puck could cross the goal line.
One too many penalties came back to bite the United States in the second period, as Elias Pettersson finally got past Woll on the power play. A sustained cycle and extra room gave Pettersson the opportunity to move to the top of the left circle, where he fired the puck top shelf over Woll for the 1-0 score.
While the second period ended in Sweden’s favor, the United States had its chances. A rare 3-on-0 rush on a power play late in the second period was stopped by Gustavsson, and the remainder of the man-advantage was negated after an ill-timed penalty.
The third was where things started to fall apart for Team USA. After killing a Swedish power play, a counter-rush up the ice ended in a gorgeous give-and-go that saw Lias Andersson pot the goal to double the Swedish lead 2-0.
Moments later, the United States got a much-needed power play, but allowed two shorthanded tallies in 38 seconds to give Sweden the 4-0 lead in almost no time. The first goal, and eventual game winner, came off the stick of Oskar Steen on a 2-on-1 rush where the forward opted to shoot high on Woll.
Then, Axel Jonsson Fjällby finished the Swedish scoring with another high tally that bested Woll top shelf on the glove side shorthanded. Woll was pulled from the game after the goal, as Jake Oettinger took over the remaining half of the period.
The United States did fight back, as they scored two goals in the final eight minutes of the game. Bellows’ seventh goal of the tournament came when the Americans finally cashed in on the power play, as his in-tight move helped get a potential comeback started.
Kieffer Bellows gets USA on the board with a nice goal pic.twitter.com/edbm5TcoTE— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 4, 2018
However, one more goal from Brady Tkachuk was all they would get as the United States was only able to beat netminder Gustavsson just twice on 31 shots.
The United States will play for World Junior bronze on Friday against the loser of the Czech Republic vs. Canada semifinal match.