Team Sweden lost 4-0 to the United States on New Year’s Eve, giving them defeats in two games in a row. Sweden’s 54-game win streak in the preliminary round at the World Junior Championships (WJC) ended against the Russians in overtime on Wednesday.
Drew Helleson and Trevor Zegras scored in the first period to give the USA a 2-0 lead. Zegras scored his sixth goal of the tournament and later assisted Alex Turcotte’s goal in the second period. Ryan Johnson also scored in the second period for the USA.
Hugo Alnefelt Struggled
Sweden’s struggles started in net against the U.S. as Hugo Alnefelt allowed two quick goals in the first four minutes. Both goals came from bad angles and took the momentum out of Sweden early. The team had come off an intense game against Russia the night before and needed Alnefelt to be at his best. After the fourth goal, Jesper Wallstedt replaced him.
Alnefelt has likely lost the starting job to Wallstedt moving forward. He had a great tournament last year, as he helped Sweden win bronze. Alnefelt had a .924 save percentage (SV%), a 2.12 goals-against average (GAA), and a shutout at the 2020 WJC. Before the game against the USA, he had a .50 GAA, a .968 SV% and a shutout in two games. The 6’3″ goalie finished the game against the U.S with a .800 SV%.
Jesper Wallstedt’s Time
Wallstedt played well in relief of Alnefelt against Team USA. He is eligible for the 2021 NHL draft and is ranked 14th overall by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Wallstedt showed why he is ranked so high in the third period on Thursday night, as he stopped all 10 shots he faced.
The goaltender should’ve replaced Alnefelt earlier in the game, after the two goals he allowed early on. Wallstedt played against Russia on Wednesday. He made 31 saves, allowed four goals and finished with a .880 SV%. Aside from the stats, Wallstedt had a great game against the Russians, as he tracked the puck well all night. The change in goal could be the spark that pushes Sweden forward.
Sweden Couldn’t Crack Knight
Spencer Knight shut the Swedes out on Thursday night, as he stopped all 26 shots he faced. Knight hasn’t had the best tournament so far, as he had a 2.61 GAA and a .882 SV% heading into the matchup against Sweden.
Knight stepped up at the perfect time for Team USA, as they secured first place in Group B. Sweden had a tough time capitalizing on their chances against a goalie who was having a tough tournament entering the game. They had multiple chances to keep themselves alive but did not finish. Down 3-0, Arvid Costmar drew a penalty shot in the second period, taken by Victor Soderstrom. Soderstrom lost control of the puck, sending it to the corner. The choice to have a defenceman take the penalty shot is questionable, based on the result.
Terror Twins Couldn’t Score
Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond have not performed well in the preliminary round. They have been creating all tournament long but have been unable to convert on their chances. They finished with a combined two goals on 42 shots in four games. The Terror Twins finished with three points each in the preliminary round. Compared to other top players, they underperformed in the opening round of the 2021 WJC.
The two are the best players on Sweden and will need to produce moving forward. Sweden lost four players before the 2021 WJC because they tested positive for Covid-19, which increased the need for the Terror Twins to perform. Raymond and Holtz still have an opportunity to carry their team to gold, starting in the next round against Finland.
Sweden Takes on Finland Next
Sweden will face off against Finland, the team they defeated for bronze at the 2020 WJC. Finland finished the preliminary round with a 3-0-0-1 record. They suffered their only loss to Canada, 4-1 on Thursday. The two teams will play on Saturday, January 2nd, at 12:30 PM (PT).
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Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.