Team USA threw everything at Linus Soderstrom, but the 19-year-old Swedish netminder was the difference Monday at the World Junior Championship as the American squad fell 1-0 at the hands of Sweden.
The only marker of the game came less than three minutes into the second period when Alexander Nylander scored a beautiful breakaway tally. Alone on American netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, Nylander made a quick forehand fake before tucking a backhand shot underneath the crossbar.
For long stretches of play, the American club absolutely dominated the game. In the second frame alone, USA outshot Sweden 22-8, but Soderstrom was the story of the game and the clear cut best player on the ice for the Swedes. However, as much as Soderstrom was the story, so, too, was USA’s inability to capitalize on the power play. The American squad went 0-for-8 with the man advantage, including a nearly minute-long 5-on-3 in the second frame.
The closest the Americans came to a goal in the contest came late in the third period when a shot from the blueline went in but was ruled no goal due to a crease violation.
With time winding down, USA took a tough too many men penalty when Nedeljkovic and the American bench got crossed up on when the netminder was supposed to leave the ice. That all but killed USA’s attempted comeback, and it was further squashed when Matthew Tkachuk took a high sticking minor with 56 seconds remaining.
There’s some cause for concern for the American team outside of failing to score with the man advantage, though. With time winding down in the second period, Alex DeBrincat went hard into the boards behind the Swedish goal and took an accidental knee to the head from Swedish blueliner Adam Ollas Mattsson:
DeBrincat was bloodied after taking the hit to the head, but the biggest concern about his health doesn’t appear to be a head injury. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, DeBrincat was seen wearing a sling post-game and could be out with a shoulder injury.
Because of USA’s loss to Sweden, Group A is almost entirely up for grabs and could come down to the New Year’s Eve game between Canada and Sweden. The Swedes improved to 2-0-0, but their first victory came over the Swiss on the tournament’s opening day. That game could decide who wins the division, and a Canadian victory could even mean USA clinches Group A.