Russia knocks Sweden out of World Juniors
After roaring through the preliminary round and whipping Finland in the quarterfinals, the Swedish junior national hockey team simply ran out of steam, losing in the semifinals to Russia before dropping a 4-2 decision to Slovakia Jan. 5 in the bronze-medal game.
The Tre Kronor entered the tournament as one of the favorites to win the gold, thanks in large part to a power play that seemed unstoppable. That same power play, however, was also Sweden’s Achilles heel. Over a combined 13 games at the previous two tournaments, Sweden scored an astonishing 26 power play goals and had a totally insane 36.1 power play percentage over that span.
Sweden nearly doubled that total in just five games as the Tre Kronor knocked off the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark and Russia in the preliminary round scoring 10 times on the power play. Sweden then took on Finland in the quarters, and thanks to a pair of power-play goals, beat their Nordic rivals 6-3.
The power-play goal tally stood at an astonishing 12 and it seemed that nothing could slow down the Tre Kronor. Oskar Lindbom, William Nylander, Adrian Kempe, and Gustav Forsling all went into the semi with at least seven points each. Sweden had already played and defeated Russia once in the tournament and had faced Russia in each of the past four semifinals.
When the two teams took the ice Jan. 4 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Sweden’s high-flying power play was suddenly powerless. The Russians allowed Sweden just three chances with a man advantage. Russia had seven power-play chances and scored twice.
The Russians played a physical game, driving to the net to produce goals. Alexander Sharov scored twice against Sweden and went into the final against Canada with four goals and one assist. Sharov went undrafted last June, but remains eligible this year.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Nylander, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect. “We — myself included — didn’t come out and play the way we did the past couple games. It’s too bad.
“They were good, but we were nowhere near our capabilities.”
The loss snapped Sweden’s six-game winning streak against Russia and dropped the Tre Kronor into the bronze-medal game, where it met Slovakia on Jan. 5 in Toronto. Once again, the power play deserted the Swedes, who looked lackluster as they skated to a 4-2 loss, finishing without a medal for the first time since 2011.
The result is a huge disappointment for Sweden, which nowadays expects to at least make the World Junior gold medal game. Leading up to Toronto, the Swedes had appeared in three straight finals.
"We have no excuses for losing this game," said Swedish captain Jacob de la Rose. "We didn’t play our best hockey. That’s reality."
"It feels terrible right now," said Swedish blueliner Gustav Forsling. "If we played our best hockey, we’d beat them every day of the week. So it’s not good."

Rebuilding Malmö
It looks like Malmö FF head coach Age Hareide is going to have a long winter. That’s because the theme of the January transfer season appears to be, “Break up Malmö!”
European teams have targeted five MFF starters, and with the loss of Magnus Erikssson to Shanghai in China, Hareide could face the prospect of having to completely rebuild his team as Malmö looks to defend its Swedish championship and repeat its feat of reaching the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
According to published reports, the entire Malmö midfield is at risk. Austrian club Salzburg and German side Leipzig both covet midfielder Emil Forsberg. Greek side Olympiakos, which Malmö played twice in the 2014 Champions League, is ready to pursue midfielder Filip Helander while a number of Dutch and Danish teams have expressed interest in Markus Halsti.
Striker Erik Johansson is currently in talks with Shanghai in the Chinese league, where he could partner with Magnus Eriksson.
The biggest loss, however, could be goalkeeper Robin Olsen. The 24-year-old took the Champions League by storm and has been the top domestic goalkeeper for three years. Clubs in Italy, Germany and France are reportedly interested in Olsen, who becomes a free agent in July.
Despite the rumors, Malmö may not be in as dire straits as some reports would suggest. The two-time defending Swedish champions reaped millions in their 2014 Champions League campaign and could potentially bid against European poachers of its players.
Malmö isn’t alone in trying to defend its players. IFK Göteborg is in negotiations to hang onto last year’s Allsvenskan leading scorer Lasse Vibe. The Dane is reportedly the target of several English Premier League clubs. British newspapers have linked Liverpool with a bid for AIK centerback Alexander Milosevic, who is also reportedly the subject of German transfer bids. AIK winger Nabil Bahoui is also the target of an English side in Southampton. French clubs have also shown interest in the speedy forward. Orebro faces the prospect of playing the 2015 season without its leading scorer from 2014, Alhassan A Kamara. The 21-year-old Sierra Leone striker had 14 goals in 19 games for ÖSK in 2014 and is the subject of intense interest from clubs in Denmark, France and Holland.