The goals seemed to come easily for Sweden. Power-play dominance here, a good screen there, a fortuitous bounce or two and it felt like just another day at the rink for the Swedes.
While they had to fend off a late second-period charge by the Czech Republic, Sweden won its third straight game in the IIHF World Junior Championship with a 6-3 decision at Dwyer Arena on Thursday afternoon.
The win brings Sweden into a tie with Canada for the lead in Group B, setting up a showdown when the two teams meet at 4 today in HSBC Arena in the final preliminary-round game.
"We're all prepared and looking forward to it," goaltender Robin Lehner said. "I don't think a lot about who it is we're playing. Canada is a great team, but we just come to play each game."
Lehner, who plays for Binghamton in the American Hockey League, enjoyed this win from the bench, getting Thursday's game off after shutting out Russia on Tuesday. He expects a slightly different game from Canada today -- one that more closely resembles what he's used to in the AHL.
"They tend to shoot more in the AHL [than in international play]," Lehner said. "Russia really liked to pass the puck and hold on to it. In the AHL shots come from everywhere and I'm expecting Canada to be like that."
Meanwhile, Lehner has watched his team succeed with solid special teams play.
"We have a strong box," Lehner said. "Guys are getting in front of the puck and doing a good job standing up in the box. On our power play, our philosophy is to get into the offensive zone and be creative, be free with the puck and free with plays."
Special teams were part of the action from the start as the Czech Republic took a 1-0 lead when Michal Hlinka tipped in a bouncing puck to the right of Sweden starting goalie Fredrik Petersson Wentzel on the power play. The Czechs played even with Sweden for a large part of the period, before finding themselves in the penalty box one too many times.
Sweden went 2 for 3 on the power play in the opening period and a puck thrown on net by Jesper Fasth while on even strength took an odd bounce, giving the Swedes a 3-1 lead and plenty of momentum.
The lead grew to 5-1 early in the second period with Fasth scoring his second of the game.
"I think we had good work the whole game and we got good speed on the puck," Fasth said. "We helped each other out talking a lot. And the power play was good today. I think that was key."
The Swedes seemed to lose a bit of focus with the four-goal lead. It started when Martin Frk had a blast inside the blue line to cut the lead to 5-2. Sweden then found itself taking a series of penalties. With back-to-back power plays, a blue-line blast from Frk made it 5-3 to keep the Czechs in the game.
The Czech Republic had some good scoring opportunities early in the third, but a goal by Calle Jarnkrok put Sweden up, 6-3, and sealed the win.