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Sweden beats Finland in OT, advances to WJC final

The Canadian Press

1/3/2012 9:18:56 PM

CALGARY -- Max Friberg did it again.

Sweden's breakout star had a goal and an assist in the third period and then scored the winner in a shootout to lead Sweden to a 3-2 win over Finland in semifinal action at the men's world junior hockey championship on Tuesday.

Friberg also scored the game-tying goal and set up the winner in Sweden's 4-3 overtime win over Russia on Saturday.

"It's good TV in Sweden," said Friberg when asked about his propensity to lead Sweden to thrilling come-from-behind wins.

With the win, the Swedes advanced to Thursday's gold-medal game against the winner of the other semifinal clash between Canada and Russia.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a gold medal at the world juniors, so of course I'm excited," said Friberg, a fifth-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks.

With his team trailing 2-1, Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg called a timeout with 2:38 left in the final period and the strategy worked as Friberg scored to force overtime.

"He's a hard-working kid," Ronnberg said. "He has the best character of any guy that I've ever coached."

Johan Sundstrom intercepted a clearing attempt by Finnish goalie Sami Aittokallio and threw the puck out front to Friberg, who tapped it into an empty net.

"(The puck) was wobbling a little bit," Friberg said. "I had a type of thought like 'Don't miss this. Don't miss this.' It ended up well."

After a scoreless overtime period, Sebastien Collberg scored for Sweden in the shootout before Joel Armia replied for Finland.

Friberg then took centre stage and wired a shot through Aittokallio's legs for the eventual game-winner.

"My thought was to shoot between his legs," Friberg said. "I looked at my opportunities, but I figured it was the best and it was."

William Karlsson also had a goal for Sweden, which finished 1-for-3 on the power play.

Alexander Ruuttu and Armia scored in regulation for Finland, which didn't have a single power play in the game.

"It's amazing that they didn't get any penalties," said Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen. "I can't understand that."

Johan Gustafsson made 22 saves to record the win in the Swedish net, while Aittokallio stopped 55-of-57 shots he faced for Finland at the other end of the ice.

"He played a great game," Finnish coach Raimo Helminen said of Aittokallio. "We didn't have as much energy as we probably had some games, but the guys played good. All the way they played really good. I'm really proud of them."

Finland will play for bronze on Thursday afternoon against the loser of the Canada-Russia game.

"We were so close but we didn't win today," Pulkkinen said. "This is a very disappointing day for us, but we have to move on."

Earlier Tuesday, the United States downed Latvia 12-2 in a relegation game.

Sweden opened the tournament with a 9-4 win over Latvia before squeaking past Switzerland 4-3 in a shootout. After a 9-1 win over Slovakia, Sweden earned top spot in Pool A and a bye into the semifinal by virtue of a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win over Russia.

After opening the tournament with an 8-1 loss to Canada, Finland beat the United States 4-1, trounced Denmark 10-1 and blanked the Czech Republic 4-0.

The Finns then downed Slovakia 8-5 in quarter-final action on Monday and vowed to play better defensively in their sudden-death showdown against the Swedes.

Early in the first period, Gustaffson made a nice chest save to stop a shot from Finnish forward Joonas Donskoi.

At the other end of the ice, Aittokallio stood his ground to deny a scoring attempt by Sweden's Rickard Rakell.

Aittokallio then kicked out his left pad to stop a shot that was tipped in the slot by Karlsson.

Not to be outdone, Gustaffson made a nice pad save to thwart a great scoring attempt by Finland's Teemu Pulkkinen, who one-timed a pass from Mikael Granlund on net.

Despite being outshot 14-6 in the first period, Finland emerged with a 1-0 lead on a late goal by Ruuttu.

On the play, Miro Aaltonen skated down the left wing into the Swedish zone and around both Mattias Backman and Rickard Rakell before sending a perfect pass into the slot to Ruuttu, who snapped a quick shot past Gustaffson.

Sweden continued to pour on the pressure in the second period and came close to scoring when Mika Zibanejad fired a heavy shot off the right post behind Aittokallio, who later turned aside back-to-back shots by Victor Rask and Zibanejad.

Finland then took a 2-0 lead at 15:30 of the second when Armia stripped the puck from Sweden's Joakim Nordstrom before firing a shot over Gustafsson's glove hand and into the top corner.

The Swedes then cut the deficit to one at 3:11 of the third period with a power-play goal by Karlsson. Aittokallio stopped the initial shot by Swedish captain Johan Larsson, but the puck bounced in off of Karlsson, who was driving hard to the net.

Aittokallio made six saves in overtime, while Gustafsson stopped all three shots he faced in the extra session.