Staff and wire reports
OTTAWA – Sweden took two strides closer to an automatic berth in the semifinals of the World Junior Hockey Championships as it hammered Slovakia and Latvia by a combined score of 13-2.
Sweden beat Latvia 10-1 Dec. 29 and knocked off Slovakia 3-1 Dec. 28.
Sweden played Russia on New Year’s Eve with a semifinal berth at stake. Both teams went into the game with 3-0-0 records. The winner would take the group and its automatic semifinal berth. The loser would advance to the quarterfinals. The second- and third-place teams from each group meet in the quarters to determine the other two semifinalists.
Against Latvia, Sweden simply dominated from start to finish.
Sweden has met all expectations so far at the world junior hockey championship, and now it's time to see if they can continue to excel as things get tougher.
Magnus Svensson Pääjarvi scored two goals and had two assists while Nicklas Lasu also had two goals for the “Baby Kronor.”
"This was a pretty easy game. We did what we had to do and we won I think we're going to win the next game," said Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson, who, along with Simon Hjalmarsson and Joakim Andersson, had a goal and two assists for Sweden.
Andre Petersson, David Ullström and Mattias Tedenby each added a goal.
Mark Owuya was pretty relaxed in the Swedish goal as he faced just 11 shots. Sweden outshot Latvia 61-11.
Roberts Jekimovs had the only goal for the Latvians, who are 0-3-0 and close out their preliminary round against Finland (0-2-0) on Tuesday night.
The Latvians managed to keep the score relatively respectable for two periods, trailing 6-1 after 40 minutes, but as was the case in their previous two games at the tournament, they just ran out of gas.
They were outscored 4-0 in the third and were unable to beat Owuya during a two-man advantage for the final 26 seconds of the game, despite getting three shots.
"It doesn't (matter) if you get 40 shots or 10 shots, you have to focus on the next one. Of course I'd rather have 40 shots than 10," Owuya said, joking about the late barrage of shots by Latvia.
"I was thinking of my (save) percentage. It was just below 90 so I need two more shots. Luckily they were easy ones although I lost my balance on the last one."
Andersson scored at 33 seconds of the final frame and Karlsson gave Sweden an 8-1 lead exactly a minute later. Ullström scored a power-play goal at 8:31 and Lasu closed out the scoring with his second of the game at 9:18.
Hjalmarsson had the only goal in the second period and it gave Sweden a 6-1 lead.
Sweden completely dominated the first period outshooting Latvia 26-1 and outscoring the Balts 5-1.
Tedenby opened the scoring at 2:13 on the power play and Svensson Pääjarvi scored the first of his two goals at 9:15 to put Sweden up 2-0.
Petersson scored at 13:42 for a 3-0 Swedish lead and an early exit for Latvian goaltender Raimonds Ermics. Nauris Enkuzens came on to replace Ermics and allowed goals by Svensson Pääjarvi at 17:39 and Lasu at 19:10.
On Dec. 28, Erik Karlsson and Mikael Backlund each had a goal and an assist as Sweden defeated Slovakia. Simon Hjalmarsson also scored for Sweden (2-0), while Los Angeles Kings rookie Oscar Möller and highly-touted draft prospect Victor Hedman added assists.