ERIKSSON EK STARS AS SWEDES STUN U.S. AT U17 CHALLENGE
DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Olle Eriksson Ek stole the show on Thursday afternoon, making 31 saves to send Sweden to the semifinals at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge after a 5-4 win over the United States.
The Swedes earned their first win of the tournament while handing the Americans their first loss, and will take on the winner of the Canada White-Finland quarter-final in Friday’s final four.
Lucas Elvenes, Karl Markström and Rickard Hugg led the way for Sweden, recording a goal and an assist each.
Early on it looked as the American offence would be the dominant force it was in the preliminary round, as Max Gildon took a feed from Grant Mismash and beat Eriksson Ek from the blue-line just 87 seconds in for an early U.S. lead.
The Swedes missed a glorious opportunity to pull even, coming up empty on a 61-second two-man advantage, but the third power play of the opening frame proved to be the lucky one; Isac Lundeström found a wide-open Elvenes in front, and he made no mistake beating American goaltender Adam Scheel at 14:19.
Less than two minutes later the Swedes had their first lead, executing a three-on-two to perfection; Elevenes went cross-ice to Hugo Leufvenius, who roofed it past Scheel to make it a 2-1 game after one period.
The lead became two just past the midway point of the second period when Erik Brännström outwaited Scheel on a Swedish power play, but Sean Dhooghe got that back just under three minutes later, taking advantage of a turnover at the offensive blue-line and beating Eriksson Ek through the five-hole.
Markström restored the two-goal advantage late in the middle frame; his point shot went off Scheel, off an American defenceman and in, chasing Scheel and giving the Scandinavians a 4-2 lead after two.
Not surprisingly, the Americans refused to go away; after Markström was hurt blocking a shot, Logan Hutsko took advantage and parked himself at the top of the crease, knocking the 4-3 goal past Eriksson Ek at 10:22.
The U.S. continued to push for the equalizer but couldn’t find a way past Eriksson Ek.
Hugg added what proved to be the game-winner into an empty net with 19 seconds left, before Dhooghe’s goal with eight ticks remaining finished the scoring.
It’s the first time since 2005 the Americans won’t be part of the semifinals or take home a medal, and just the third time in that stretch that they won’t appear in the gold medal game.