USA shutout by Sweden 1-0


In the second game of the preliminary round, Team USA was shutout by Sweden 1-0 at the U-20 World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.

Two days after beating Canada 4-2 in the opener, the Americans were unable to beat Swedish goalie Linus Soderstrom. The Islanders 2014 fourth round pick stopped all 46 shots including 39 in the first two periods to lead Sweden to its second straight win. In two starts, Soderstrom has stopped 61 of 64 shots.

The difference was an Alexander Nylander goal in the second period. The younger brother of Leafs prospect William, who missed the game due to an injury, scored at 22:41 of the contest. He took advantage of a USA turnover at the Sweden blueline. Breaking in on American starter Alex Nedeljkovic, he went to the backhand off a nice deke for the game’s only goal from Dmytro Timashov and Gabriel Carlsson.

Team USA was unable to score on eight power plays. They lost 2016 Draft eligible forward Alex DeBrincat to a head injury early in the contest when he fell awkwardly and took a accidental knee from a Swedish player into the boards. The diminutive 5-7, 160 pound forward has 33 goals in 30 games for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League. He’s projected as a first round pick.

Defenseman Zach Werenski led USA with six shots and was named Player of the Game. Soderstrom obviously earned the honor for Sweden with 46 stops.

After giving up a lot of chances the first two periods, his team played better defensively in the third period allowing seven shots. They used their size well and kept the Americans to the outside including projected first overall pick Auston Matthews (4 shots). He scored against Canada as did Werenski and team captain Colin White.

Even though he didn’t as much action, Nedeljkovic stopped 22 of 23 shots. He was good in the third keeping USA within reach despite some sloppy turnovers. The Canes 2014 second round pick has started both games over Rangers’ prospect Brandon Halverson.

With USA pressing for the equalizer late, they lost their discipline taking some bad penalties. First, they were caught for too many men with Nedeljkovic unable to get off with the extra skater already on. Then, Matthew Tkachuk who ran around the prior shift was nabbed for high sticking erasing any hopes to give Sweden a 5-on-3 in the final minute.

Coach Ron Wilson’s team showed frustration. Matthews also knocked down a Swedish player away from the puck prior to the bench minor. But the refs missed it. Following the loss, Wilson told NHL Network he didn’t feel he had to make any changes. Instead, he praised Soderstrom’s performance.

After two games, USA is 1-1-0. They’ll get a day off before facing Switzerland on Wednesday. The preliminary round concludes on New Year’s Eve with the Americans facing Denmark. The Danes got their first ever win at Helsinki Ice Hall defeating the Swiss 2-1 Sunday touching off a post locker room celebration. They have to face Canada at 1 PM today. Good luck.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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