PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – Move over Russia, there’s a new U20 finalist in town. Sweden ended Russia’s three-year streak in the gold medal game with a dramatic 2-1 overtime win.
Mikael Backlund jammed the puck between the legs of Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky 6:18 into overtime to lift Sweden to the win, sending the Swedes jumping off the bench in celebration while the Russians could only look on with disbelief.
"Scoring such a goal at the World Juniors is always going to be one of the biggest goals of your career,” said Backlund. "When I picked up the puck in the offensive zone I wanted to take the shortest route to the goal. I was lucky it got it."
Sweden forced the overtime with 9:10 left in the game when Robin Figren scored his fifth goal of the tournament on the power play slipping the puck behind Bobrovsky. Until that point, the Swedes had played a solid hockey game, but were held scoreless by Bobrovsky.
Sweden was the better team in the first period, but came away empty handed. Russia’s best chance came when Nikita Filatov missed from point blank about six minutes into the game. Other than that chance, the Swedes played solid hockey and rarely let the Russians pressure the net in the 0-0 deadlocked first period.
"Once again our first period was not good,” said Filatov. “It has been the case all tournament as we never were able to take the lead. Tonight it happened again, I have no idea why."
Russia turned it up a notch in the second period and Filatov again had a few good chances, as he missed again from in front and a tip-in chance. But his frustrations came to an end with 1:33 left in the period when he gave Russia the 1-0 lead with a breakaway goal while streaking in from the left wing.
"I'm very excited about the win especially since I let in a soft goal,” said Swedish goaltender Jhonas Enroth. “I expected the player - Filatov- to pass to Cherepanov, but instead he went for himself and it slipped through my legs.”
It looked like the 1-0 edge just might make it through until the end of the game, but then Sweden’s potent power play, which ranks first among all teams at the tournament, was given a chance midway through the third period when Figren struck. Both teams had good chances in the overtime period including a point-blank shot by Russia’s Yakov Seleznev, but it was Backlund’s goal that ended the game.
"We can't think too long about today's game,” said Figren. “We're aiming for gold so tonight after having some food we're going to watch the USA-Canada game and then go to bed."
It will be the first gold medal game appearance for the Swedes since 1996, when they took silver. Sweden has won one gold medal in the history of U20’s, which came in 1981.